Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Further to my criticism the other day of Benetton and the like, Jan Moir in Friday’s Daily Mail (a paper trendies and lefties do NOT read but which we get every Friday for Film, theatre and book reviews – and Jan Moir of course) has taken to task a comedian by the name of Jimmy Carr. Having been out of the UK so many years and not having access to British television I haven’t a clue who Jimmy Carr is but, if what Miss Moir says about him is true, I have no wish to know anything about him. Evidently his latest funny ha ha is a cheap shot at Down’s syndrome children. How low can a body get? Well, I don’t know, there is already that something who goes by the name of Ricky Gervaise who’s latest funny ha ha is evidently about servicemen who have lost limbs. Oh, no, wait a minute, in his latest TV he invites viewers to laugh at a dwarf. Great going, Gervaise. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size as we used to say of school bullies? A friend once sent us a copy of “The Office” and we watched about fifteen minutes of it, if that, before deciding that Gervaise was the most objectionable greaseball ever to hit the small screen. What makes the man popular? Is it his very crudeness the great unwashed find amusing? And then there is Frankie Boyle with his unspeakable gags about Katie Price’s disabled son. What was I saying about hurting people?

The following is for the benefit of the Monster Mugabe and the Mad Mahmoud – What do the following people all have in common? Alexander the great, Richard the Lionheart, Augustus, first emperor of Rome, the Emperor Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Leonardo de Vinci, Euripides, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Juvenil, Plautus, Seneca, Donatello, Raphael, Cellini, Lord Byron, Michael Tippett, Valentino, Rachmaninov, Michelangelo, Frederick the Great, Ludwig ll, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copeland, Charles Laughton, Abraham Lincoln, Lawrence of Arabia, D.H.Lawrence, Joe Orton, Verlaine, Benjamin Britton, Peter Piers, Montgomery Clift, Cole Porter, Aristotle, Plato, Visconti, Rimbaud, Jean Cocteau, Walt Whitman, Hans Christian Anderson, Elton John, Richard Chamberlain, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Edwards, Laurence Olivier, Frankie Howerd, Somerset Maugham, Gore Vidal, Ivor Novello, Terence Rattigan, Jules Verne, Almodovar (Spanish film director) George Cukar, Herman Melville, Truman Capote, Flaubert, Thomas Mann, Caravaggio, Tennessee Williams, Igor Stravinsky, Cary Grant, Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Freddie Mercury, Larry Grayson, Andy Warhol, Sergei Eisenstein, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Botticelli, Armistead Maupin, Ang Lee, Anthony Perkins, Cary Grant, Dirk Bogarde, John Frazer, Errol Flynn, Sal Mineo, Tyrone Power, John Gielgud, Francis Bacon, Harvey Milk, Ian McKellen, Jean Genet, Nureyev, Nijinsky, Steven Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Christopher Isherwood, Alan Turing (code breaker World War 11) Lord Kitchener, General Gordon, Baden-Powell, Cecil Rhodes, and many many more, the list is virtually endless and includes at least five Popes, a number of cardinals and let us not forget the Theban Band and the Samurai of Japan. According to Mugabe they are all pigs and dogs. That’s the answer of course – they were/are all gay or bisexual. If Mugabe and Mad Mahmoud enhanced the world just an infinitive fraction of the way most of these men did, each in their own way, maybe their ignorant phobia would lesson somewhat and they would stop ranting and foaming at the mouth. Mugabe’s latest is to call Cameron a Satanist for promoting gay rights.

It is estimated that in 1928 1,200,000 men in Germany were gay including of course members of the SS, the SA, and the armed forces. Like Monster Mugabe and Mad Mahmoud, Hitler (there is some doubt about his own sexuality) thought the world would be a better place without them.

And is there not more than a little doubt about St. Paul? He certainly, gay basher that he was, seemed to have a whole heap of trouble with it. I wonder why.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I’m thinking of giving up. Have I got nothing good to say about anything? My Blogs these last few days seem to have been nothing but doom and gloom. Hardly surprising I suppose considering the state of things but I wish it could be different. I wish there was some sweetness and light. There is certainly no sweetness and light in Colombia. The government there, according to a documentary made by VBSTV, has conscripted police and soldiers to murder the homeless in the name of “social cleansing”. The homeless are forced to hide in sewers to escape the death squads but militia groups have been known to ignite the sewers with gasoline trapping and killing those hiding there. It is obvious that many of these homeless people who have been living on the streets with no support are children and adolescents. Is this called population control? The whole idea of it actually happening is so horrible it is almost beyond belief except it would seem that South American countries are constantly throwing up these “death squads.” In a few years time the world will get around to condemning Columbia for this atrocity with accusations of crimes against humanity but it will be too late for the hundreds if not thousands who will die in the meantime.

David Beckham has been offered an eighteen month football contract for almost twelve million pounds. How many of the homeless could be sheltered for twelve million pounds?

Sir Philip Green is reputedly personally worth six billion! How many could be housed if he gave away only a half of his fortune, or even a third?

Yet another black mark against the deadening (deadly?) influence of elf and safety. A woman who fell 45feet down a mineshaft wasn’t rescued because firemen were told using life-saving gear would break the rules. Fire chiefs refused to mount an immediate rescue operation because of health and safety fears. With several broken bones Alison Hume who was found by her teenage daughter was left lying in agony in the cold and dark for eight hours. A report has found she could have been brought out alive if firemen had been allowed to do their job, instead of which while the rescue operation was in progress, a certain group commander by he name of Paul Stewart, realising he was the most senior man there, took charge, ably assisted by his colleague, one William Thomson. Although one fireman had already gone down Stewart’s first move was to stop a paramedic, who was already strapped in a harness, from being lowered. He and Thomson refused to use a winch to lift the woman out because elf and safety rules state the equipment can only be used to save their own staff! Alison Hume was finally brought out alive but died of a heart attack due to hyperthermia. Moral of the story? If you are in difficulties, no matter how dreadful, don’t even think of relying on the rescue services, because of elf and safety rules they’re more concerned with saving their own skins and the fear of being sued if things go wrong. Unbelievably group commander Stewart had the gall to say the operation had a successful outcome because the casualty was ultimately brought out. He is still in the fire service and is on the waiting list for promotion to divisional commander! Pathetic.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Never mind off-putting photographs of the mad Mahmoud kissing bearded Mullahs, the Vatican has been a positive hornet’s nest of outraged sensibilities. It would appear Benetton produced an advertisement featuring a mock-up of His Holiness giving a bearded Mullah a real smackaroo; the Mullah with pursed lips and closed eyes obviously enjoying it! The Vatican threatened legal action saying the advert was “damaging to not only the dignity of the Pope and the church but also to the feelings of believers,” and, despite my own feelings regarding religion and the religious, I have to admit they’re dead to rights though there was no mention of the other side. What has happened to sense and sensibility (and sensitivity) these days or even plain good manners that people feel its funny or they can get away with discourtesy, ridicule, obscenity, insults, hurt, scurrility? Witness the witlessness of the disgusting phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross on their show and the pair seemingly stupidly unaware of the backlash it would cause. Did they believe they were so popular they were above criticism? Now evidently a transcript is available in schools for pupils to analyse, naturally causing even more outrage, and you want to tell me the world isn’t going totally apeshit? Evidently the Benetton campaign, now withdrawn, featured other political leaders as well and a spokesman said it had been aimed at “fostering tolerance.” Alessandro Benetton, the company’s executive deputy chairman said, “The images are strong but we have to send a strong message.” Indeed? Is that so? Who do they think they are, who do they think they are kidding and who on earth requested they should send out any kind of message at all let alone strong ones? There is only one reason for advertising - to drum up trade and sell more of your wares – that was the strong message it was meant to convey. I am truly surprised that some fanatical Muslims, incensed by what they see as an insult to their religion and, as is their wont, haven’t attacked the Benetton establishments in droves, or that some mad Mullah hasn’t issued a fatwa.

Here on Crete, any new business or office opening requires the services of the local papas to give it a blessing. Like all Greek ceremonies it goes on interminably and watching it the other day at the opening of a new office for the Vamos Culture Society priest and cantor moaning away with book, incense, holy water, crucifix and basil I couldn’t help feeling what a load of superstitious old moody it all was but wouldn’t dream in a thousand years of voicing that opinion.

And still on the subject of religion, in Croydon a Roman Catholic school for girls aged 11 to 18 has been taken to task for selecting pupils who, along with their parents, attend mass, help out at church, and who were baptised within six months of their birth. Evidently “faith schools” tend to do this. I can understand Jewish schools wanting to be completely Jewish and Muslim schools likewise, there really would be little if any point a non-Jew or non-Muslim wanting their child to attend though even within these religions there are schisms of course; but when there are so many varying beliefs in the Christian religion it does seem a bit cliquey to say the least. Evidently, because of the excellent academic record of faith schools there are parents prepared to change their religion in order to enrol their offspring in the school of their choice.’

Nurse: Congratulations, Mrs Christian, you have a bonny bouncy baby daughter.

Wife to husband: Quick, dear, we have just under six months to convert from Congregational to Roman Catholic, have her baptised, and enter her for the convent school.

Husband to wife: I’ll set the ball rolling at once, darling.

It’s a bit like entering your son for Harrow or Eton the moment he’s born.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Well, folks, here it is as promised – Headlined “A Tax Too Far” and illustrated with a photograph of two men holding up their tax demands towards the camera.

“ARE POLITICIANS – Greek and European – deaf, dumb and blind or just plumb crazy that they can’t see the wood for the trees?

Do members of the government not realise that the more they pile on the taxes, the less people will buy and, together with all the small businesses that have been forced to close, the tax base will be further eroded?

The property tax will more than likely be the last straw. I know that I, for one, when the time comes and living on a small UK pension, will simply not be in a position to pay it. What will happen? Will my electricity – now more expensive than ever anyway –be cut off? And if this should apply to not hundreds but thousands of people in the same boat whose income has been reduced or who have been made redundant and their electricity is cut off, what a fine old mess that is going to be.

Of course the very rich have no cause to worry, but for the ordinary working man this could very well be a tax too far, as it were.

Secondly has this nonsensical idea of obtaining shopping receipts using a swipe card been thought through? It’s fine for the big supermarkets that accept credit cards but there are thousands of small businesses that don’t. They simply won’t accept anything but cash.

And what about the itinerant peddler who sells his wares from the back of a truck? Or farmers for example? Or the baker who, apart from his shop, does a bread round in a van, a boon to the elderly? Or the stall holders in street markets? Or the sellers of plastic furniture and nurserymen selling plants, wood merchants and more? I’ve seen a fishmonger’s van, someone selling tools from the boot of his car, Chinese merchants flogging tat and even live chickens for sale. Are they all going to use swipe cards? Do me a favour.

Another point –multiple households. In this house there are three people, each with his own tax number. Now if one goes shopping on behalf of all three (which is in fact the case) can you imagine a supermarket teller’s reaction when the shopper says, ‘This purchase goes on this card, this one on the second card, and these others on the third. The whole idea is absurd.”

A short Blog today, pithy and to the point … I hope.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Letters to the editor – open letters to newspapers, what is the point? To let off steam I suppose, get something off one’s chest, tell the world how idiotic it can be. The use of open letters to newspapers with dozens of signatories has become an increasingly common form of protest of late. Fifty-three MP’s urged reform of drugs policy, 46 actors protested about cuts to regional theatre, 33 barristers opposed a British Bill of Rights. Twenty Church of England Bishops have written to condemn benefit cuts. Although addressed to the editor, the letters are obviously meant for a much wider audience, politicians in particular, sometimes to possibly open a debate on whatever subject is being aired. The array of acting talent that wrote to the Observer about arts funding, including Helen Mirren, Kenneth Branagh and Julie Walters, was stellar enough to make the news section. Likewise, when business figures have grouped together to support or attack the government's economic policies, it has invariably made a splash. Recently supported or condemned are forest privatisation, changes to the NHS, arts funding cuts, tuition fees hike, Bill of Rights, drugs policy and high-speed rail. I’m sure there must also have been letters for or against any extension to Heathrow. But do these letters really have any influence? It’s a tradition evidently that goes back to the 18th century when newspapers were taking off. The anti-slavery movement in the early 18th Century and early 19th Century used the national press like the Times, but provincial papers like the Manchester Guardian and the Leeds Mercury were even more important.

Two famous letters in history are those penned by Emile Zola and headed “J’Accuse” taking the French government to task and accusing them of anti-Semitism in the trial and imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus. The French government didn’t take too kindly to that with the result being Zola, convicted of libel, was forced to flee to England.

The other was from Martin Luther King written from jail in Birmingham, Alabama which contained the famous line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

One of the most influential letters in England was sent to the Leeds Mercury in 1830, by English labour campaigner Richard Oastler and entitled ‘Yorkshire slavery.’ It read, Thousands of our fellow-creatures and fellow-subjects, both male and female, the miserable inhabitants of a Yorkshire town, are this very moment existing in a state of slavery, more horrid than are the victims of that hellish system 'colonial' slavery.” The concern and debate it generated helped his campaign to bring about the 1833 Factory Act, which restricted the use of children in the textile industry.

What started me thinking about this is that, in all my years in England I did write a few letters to various papers, none of which was ever published whereas here in Greece, letters I have written to The Athens News have all been published. For those of you who don’t read The Athens news, in my next Blog I will print out my last letter. Now, if you can hold yourselves in anticipation and for a couple of days not get too excited, isn’t that a treat to look forward to?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It would appear, according to a review in a newspaper, that there are something like 700 biographies of Adolf Hitler. It beggars the imagination. How can there possibly be 700 books written on the life of one person, major historical figure or otherwise? Could they be solely on the life of the man or do they include wider histories of the Nazi era? I wonder. It must be a typo surely. Even 70 is pushing it somewhat. No other persons have ever had that much written about them. There are quite a few books written on various historical figures but 700? Amazon lists a hundred but even those are not all complete biographies but encompass various aspects of the time and events for example the German/Russian pact. Oops! Just out of interest went to Wikipedia and learn there are not hundreds but thousands of books on Hitler! So maybe 700 ain’t no exaggeration after all. The review in question was actually not about Hitler at all but about Eva Braun and the mention of 700 was by-the-by, in contrast to which the poor, I can’t help the feeling from seeing her home movies, rather stupid girl has only had three or four books written about her. Not surprising really. Apart from brown nosing Adolf what is there to say about her? Saw the film on Hitler’s downfall, an excellent essay and if accurate, as I presume it must have been, based partly on the memoirs of Hitler’s secretary in his last days, I’m really not surprised the man is still of so much fascinated interest.

And now we have yet another biography of Willy Shagspaw. Considering, in contrast, how little is known about him, how many more ‘I guess it must have been this way’ kind of biographies can we get? This one is called ‘Nine Lives of William Shakespeare’ by Graham Holderness. Now what does Professor (or is it Doctor?) Holderness know that we don’t know, or that hasn’t been conjectured up in previous essays into the secret life of the bard’s lost years? According to the headline of the review I have just read, our poet spent his time drinking and chasing older women. Now where did Professor Holderness get that from? That as a callow youth Willy married a lady a few years older than himself? Anne wasn’t a thirteen year old Juliet but neither was she exactly approaching middle age. Can the good professor put names to all the other older women Willy was supposed to have pursued? And what about his infatuation (if I may call it that,) with Mr. W.H. as evinced in the sonnets? “The master mistress of my heart’s passion.” As for the drinking, I am sure he quaffed his ale no more or less than any other man of the period and, if he drank to excess, where did he find the time to write the poetry and all those wonderful plays as well as rehearse and act in them? I don’t think a mind befuddled with alcohol could produce such work. Which brings us back to the conundrum of who did write them if it wasn’t Willy, and the new film out called ‘Anonymous’ pleads the cause of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. There is nothing new here. This debate has been going on for ages and will always ruffle Stratfordian feathers. I think I mentioned before that contenders in the slips are Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe. There is a lovely story about a group having an argument as to whether it was Bacon or Shakespeare who was the true author. W.S.Gilbert, he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame and a bit of a wag, sat listening to this for a while and then said, ‘Why don’t you dig them both up, lay the coffins side by side and get Beerbohm Tree to recite from Hamlet? Whichever body turns over - that’s your author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Once upon a time when I was very young I had obviously done something stupid, not unusual, for which I remember I got a good ticking off from my mother. A short while later she gave me some money and told me to go to the shops and get some common sense. Our next door neighbours were a family named de Jongh and Mister de Jongh was a shoe repairer whose work, I seem to remember, was carried out in an old converted garage. That’s what it looked like anyway and it was on the way to the shops so I popped in and asked if I could have one of his old tobacco tins which I filled with sawdust from his floor and took back to my mother with, ‘There you are.’

‘What’s this?’ she exclaimed, opening the tin.

‘Common sense,’ I said, giggling smugly. But her mirth was even louder and longer as she explained that she really did want some “Commonsense,” evidently a domestic product of some kind, I don’t remember and know not what for, a cockroach killer maybe.

The reason for my telling this little story is that I am beginning to think the commonsense of some people these days is on a par with that tin of sawdust. I am fully aware that life in the computer age grows more and more complicated and bewildering and sometimes one remembers how simple and comfortable life used to be but it would seem, with all the advances of technology, that commonsense in many cases has quite simply flown out the window.

I’m not just talking about silly children who never learn that, if they put out on the internet, Facebook, or Twitter (what a danger and a waste of time they are) the date and address of a party, they must expect to get a whole crowd of feral gatecrashers all out to make joyful boisterous mayhem and trash the joint. And I don’t mean big sabre-rattling scene stealers either making statements like “Iran is ready for war!” (It’s that Mad Mahmoud at it again) but ordinary people in every day ordinary walks of life, for example – Diane Taylor, aged 92 wanted to buy a bottle of whisky and was asked for ID, at which she promptly produced an over sixties bus pass, an OAP card and her pacemaker certificate and her purchase was refused. Why? Evidently none of these were worth diddlysquat as far as identification was concerned. No, indeedy, what she needed to produce was either a passport or a driving licence. At ninety-two she was hardly likely to have either, nevertheless a spokesperson (note that, PC, folks, spokesperson) for the shop said ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience but staff are required to ask all customers for ID. The shop has to enforce a strict policy or risk losing its licence.’

A man of 44 who was devoted to his collie dog named Beaky believed it might be getting aggressive and could attack someone so he had the animal put down and then hanged himself with the dog’s lead, leaving a note which read, ‘I’ve gone to be with Beaky.’ Questions – Had he never heard of muzzles? Such a simple commonsense solution, and why did the vet he took the dog to not try and talk some sense into him?

A lady was asked by her neighbours if she would keep a lookout on their property while they were away to which, as she was a good neighbour and on friendly terms, she readily agreed. One day, having inspected the house and finding all was well, she decided to take a stroll in the back garden, never dreaming for a moment of what lay in store. Her idyll was suddenly shattered when half a dozen burly policemen came hurtling over the garden wall and rushed at her as a prospective burglar. Talk about incipient heart attacks! They responded swiftly to the call having been tipped off by another neighbour who, knowing the family was away and seeing what she thought was a stranger in their garden, was obviously on neighbourhood watch. But was this amount of force from the intrepid boys in blue really necessary? Couldn’t a couple of them simply put their heads over the garden wall and say something like, ‘Oi, Missus! Who are you and what are you doing in this ‘ere garden wot does not belong to you?’ Or words to that effect. And chief constables complain that their forces are stretched to the limit and overworked. A little more commonsense should ease that problem but I suppose it’s too much to ask for. I’m only surprised they weren’t in riot gear, carrying weapons, or prepared to taser her just in case she proved to be violent and might hurt them. After all they have been known to refuse to climb ladders just in case.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poor George Papandreou, I feel so sorry for him. He tried so hard for so long to make it as Prime Minister of Greece only to inherit a nest of vipers and, most likely after the bullying tactics of the Merkel and that French twit, finds he is pushed aside. The financial mess that is Europe, Britain, and America at the moment seems to be a Gordian knot that needs an Alexander to unravel it with a clean blow. Not that there is anything new about it; even cities of the ancient world did at sometime or other find themselves in financial straits. Bankruptcy is hardly a new phenomenon but the multimillion dollar rats have fled and, make no mistake about it, the wolves are at the door ready to pounce and it’s the poor wot pays the price. The horny Italian has quit too. What an upheaval it has been. He can now invite as many girls as he likes to his bunga-bunga parties as long as they’re not underage.

Continuing my reasoning as to why the world is going to hell in a hand basket (apart from the financial situation that is) two footballers in Iran have been sentenced to 74 lashes each for bringing the game into disrepute after an “immoral” goal celebration on the pitch televised live; footage which shows Mohammad Nosrati pinching Sheys Rezaei, a team mate’s, bottom. The flogging could very well rake place on the pitch where the celebrations took place after a judge said they may have violated public chastity laws. Judge Valiollah Hosseini told the state-run Fars news agency that the punishment for violating the chastity law is up to two months in prison and 74 lashes. "It is even worse that these actions took place before the eyes of thousands of spectators and TV cameras," he was quoted as saying. In another YouTube video Rezaei is shown hugging another, unidentified teammate to celebrate the side’s winning goal in the last few minutes. Apart from the flogging they have been banned from football for an indefinite period and fined the equivalent of £25000 for “immoral” acts. For pinching a bottom? For a hug? Oh, come on!

Homosexuality is outlawed in Iran and can carry the death penalty so, oh dear, the slightest hint of anything even remotely suggestive and the balloon goes up.

In 2007, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Mad Mahmoud) famously declared in a speech at Columbia University in New York City that there were "no gays" in Iran. So, if pinching a bottom is worth suspension, 74 lashes, and a fine of £25000 what punishment should be meted out for Mahmoud practically giving bearded Mullahs tongue sandwiches? These are no chaste kisses on the cheek, common in many non Anglo-Saxon countries, but definitely lip-smacking mouth to mouth. There are photographs available that show this disgusting “immoral” behaviour.

It’s lucky for English footballers that they don’t play in a country like Iran. In England the scoring of a goal is the signal for an immediate flurry of activity involving the whole side and practically ending up in an orgy – well an orgy of celebration anyway but definitely an uncalled for indulgence in “immoral” behaviour. What would Stanley Matthews have said at the behaviour on the pitch of today’s footballers?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Continuing the saga of the Lennon tooth: there’s material enough here for Conan Doyle, were he still alive, to write a really gripping new Sherlock Holmes.

‘The first thing to ask, my dear Watson,’ Sherlock said, as he paced the room, ‘could this be yet another of Moriarty’s fiendish schemes? And if so, what does he hope to gain by it and who, in the process, will kick out his life in the dentist’s chair as it were? By the way, Watson, do you know where the expression “to kick the bucket” comes from?’

‘No, actually I don’t, Holmes, but I do wish you would stick to the matter in hand or the case of the Lennon Tooth will never be solved. Scotland Yard is at its wits end and they don’t know which way to turn.’

‘They seldom do, Watson, It is with irritatingly smug self-satisfaction I can say, they seldom do.’

‘And, Holmes, if I may say so, don’t pick up that violin now. This is not the time for music, no matter how soothing. Mrs Hudson is taking her afternoon nap and you know how absolutely beastly she gets if she doesn’t have it, like a schoolboy missing out on dirty doings in the dorm.’

‘It helps me concentrate, focuses the mind quite brilliantly, Watson, but you are absolutely right and I will at this point acquiesce to your wishes.’

‘And please refrain from smoking that awful Meerschaum. It stinks the place out and I don’t want to have to open the windows as we will without doubt catch our death. It really is high time you threw it out and got yourself a new one.’

‘Throw it out? My favourite pipe! My old and trusted friend who has helped me solve many a tricky case? I suppose you would like me to get rid of my magnifying glass, my smoking jacket and tasselled cap as well. What kind of a detective would I be without these accessories? No, no, Watson, I couldn’t dream of it. Were I to do that I would spend more than half my life down at Limehouse. I spend enough time, and a great deal of money I might add, down there as it is and those particular dreams are becoming quite disturbing which is putting it mildly. I know you have retired from practice but you could be called on at any moment to look into something absolutely ghastly and where would you be if I had encouraged you to throw out your old and trusted surgical apparatus?’ Doctor Watson winced and raised an eyebrow at the word “apparatus,” almost as bad as paraphernalia. ‘You would have to use your fingers,’ Holmes continued, ‘perish the thought. But this exchange, delightful as it may be, is getting us nowhere so back to the investigation in hand. What we have to discover, and prove, or disprove as the case may be, is the provenance of this mysterious tooth – that is, did it indeed come from the mouth of the great John Lennon or is it an ingenious and total fake? It is described by a certain young lady as being of a somewhat gruesome appearance, well to a young woman of a sensitive disposition it would, that goes without saying. She goes on to give an uncannily accurate description of the object in question as being yellow, browny (a word I have to admit I have never come across. I wonder if it is in the lexicon) and with a cavity, and her intimate knowledge does, I have to admit, arouse my suspicions. However, let us ask a number of pertinent questions. Let me see now, where to start? I have it. Quite obviously the cavity was the cause of excruciating pain and the sole reason for the tooth’s extraction. Was the tooth pulled in Liverpool or New York and who was the dentist who pulled it? If he is still alive perhaps he could confirm to our satisfaction that this is indeed John Lennon’s tooth and not just any ordinary old tooth. Of what age was Lennon when his visit to the dental surgery necessitated the extraction of this particular tooth? Judging by the description given by the young lady he was of mature years. Did the tooth really come into the hands of his housekeeper’s daughter and what did she do with it? Perchance she hung it on a chain and wore it around her neck. Girls have been known to do that sort of thing, bizarre as it may appear. And where is that young girl now to whom the tooth was given? Though I don’t see that as being particularly relevant as she could quite easily have been palmed off with any old molar in the first place and, if she got rid of it, how, why, where, and to whom was it got rid of?’ Holmes wasn’t too sure of his syntax here. ‘I have to admit in this we have quite a conundrum, Watson. May I smoke my pipe now in order to solve it?’

‘By the way, Holmes, purely as a matter of interest… Doctor Watson tugged at his left earlobe, a habit he had when asking a serious question… ‘how did the expression “kick the bucket” come into being?’

‘Well, my dear old chap,’ Holmes said, tapping down the tobacco in his pipe with a well-tarred thumb and searching for his Swan Vestas, ‘evidently the French when they kill a pig, string the unfortunate creature up by its hind legs to a beam in the barn, the name of which sounds suspiciously like bucket in English, and slit the animal’s throat, at which point of course in its death throes, its hind legs kick the bucket. You haven’t seen my Swan-Vestas anywhere have, you Watson? They do so have a habit of disappearing.’

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I have for a long time felt the world is growing madder by the day and I think I am right. One of John Lennon’s teeth is up for sale and reckoned to fetch £10000! Evidently after its extraction he gave it to his housekeeper to get rid of or pass it on as a souvenir for her daughter. What the hell does someone do with a tooth, even one from a celebrity like Lennon? ‘Hey, guys, come and look at this tooth. Belonged to John Lennon don’t you know? No I don’t want to take it out of its glass case. You can look but not touch. Can you not feel the vibes, man? It’s like John is right here in the room with us. I reckon it was ten thousand quid well spent, worth every penny just to know I have it. Yes, I know ten thousand can by a whole heap of food for starving kids or keep a couple of African families for a year or more but, man, just to have John Lennon’s tooth and to know I am the only one to possess such a memento, that really says something, that’s really cool, man. What do you mean I’m an idiot? You’re just jealous, man. If we had a séance a medium could use that tooth to bring John back from the dead and talk to us.’

Oyez oyez oyez! Update on that miraculous tooth. It has evidently been bought by a Canadian dentist for £19500, virtually double its estimation. £19500 is more than a whole lot of fillings and extractions – that’s any amount of expensive bridge and crown work which only goes to show how rich dentists can be.

And what has the dentist, a Mister Zuk, who once wrote a book on celebrity teeth (My God, what next? People actually buy that kind of thing?) have to say about his purchase? He is going to display it in his surgery and take it around other surgeries and dental schools. As though they could possibly be interested, having never actually seen a real tooth before. ‘My God! Is that what a celebrity tooth looks like? Awesome! I would never have guessed.’

Karen Fairweather from Omega Auctions said of the tooth, ‘It’s rather gruesome, yellow, browny, with a cavity. Mister Zuk said, ‘Some people will think it gross, others will be fascinated by it.’ Fascinated? By a tooth????

So, if John Lennon’s rotten tooth is worth nearly twenty thousand nicker what do you suppose Jesus’ foreskin would fetch at auction today? Wow! A fortune beyond belief. I am led to believe there are a number of churches claiming to hold this important relic but anyone can come up with a little scrap of wrinkled old leather and claim it is the genuine article. After all there is evidently enough pieces of wood taken from the true cross to make a hundred thousand crosses or more and, in the old days, after a public hanging, executioners made a whole heap of money by selling lengths of the rope – enough for a hundred hangings or more. Art for sale has a provenance, what about famous teeth? Who’s to say the Lennon tooth isn’t a fake? Oh, how gullible and how stupid, how gross, Mister Zuk, and how bizarre is the behaviour of some humans. Barnum was absolutely right.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

‘The bells! The bells!’ I have at last got around to actually reading the play made famous by Sir Henry Irving and which I’ve often heard mentioned or read about.

How it got there I have no idea but I found a book in the bookshelf titled ‘Hiss the Villain –Six Melodramas edited by Michael Booth.’ Why I say I wonder how it got there is because it was once the property of Tufts University Library. I must have got it legitimately though because I see on the flyleaf we paid £15 for it and that must have been some time ago when £15 was worth quite a lot. It’s been a long journey unread from New England to Crete, presumably via London and Yorkshire. Not Virginia or New York or it would have been marked in dollars. I was rather surprised not to find ‘Murder In The Red Barn’ or ‘Sweeny Todd’ in the collection, two most famous melodramas, but the ones included are more along the moralistic line, especially when dealing with the demon – alcohol! ‘Ten Nights in a Bar-room’ ‘Lost in London’ ‘Under the Gaslight’ and, of course, ‘The Bells’.

Talking of the demon alcohol – I saw a photographic reproduction of a dozen ladies with a large sign reading ‘Lips that touch alcohol shall ne’er touch mine.’ Looking at the grim faced rather plain harridans in the picture I shouldn’t think anyone would want to touch theirs. But back to melodrama.

It’s too easy now to find these works laughable, melodrama being a joke, but it was the mainstay of English and American theatre in the nineteenth century and evidently right up to the First Wold War and any management wanting to fill the theatre put on melodrama despite the number of elaborate (and expensive?) scenes required in each. Shakespeare and modern drama did not pull in the punters and the upper classes preferred the opera. The writing of these plays, fodder now for send-up and excruciatingly bad as it is with dialogue unheard of except upon the Victorian stage, was however evidently taken seriously by its authors if you consider for example the note Watts Phillips wrote at the end of his play ‘Lost In London.’

“The above explains my reason for requiring a great width of window at the back. I wish the great city to appear most distinctly as a background to the last act of the drama. The moonlight view will give a beautiful tone to the scene.”

And “It is required that the silver light of the moon should fall suddenly on the figure of Nelly, flooding it as with glory.”

Of course melodrama had to develop further and give the masses more of what they wanted hence the inclusion of what was known as “the sensation scene,” that is for example the rescue in the nick of time from an advancing locomotive or the hero diving into the lake to rescue the drowning heroine. What The Times called “a triumph of sensationalism” was in a play ‘The White Heather’ when two deep sea divers fight on the ocean bed and one is killed when his air pipe is severed. Evidently the scene was very realistic including the swimming fish. One of the reasons I suppose for the decline in melodrama was the advent of moving pictures that could reproduce these events that much more easily and with greater effect.

Of the six melodramas in this volume ‘The Bells’ is something of an exception as the writing is much more natural and consists of lines people could actually act in a more realistic way though, as with the others, the sets are many and the cast numerous. Managements could afford huge casts in those days. Now if you present a play with more than one set and two or three characters hands are thrown up in horror. The sensation scene I suppose is Mathias having a fantasy of a courtroom and being tried for murder, being hypnotised by a mesmerist (!) in order to reveal his guilt and naturally being sentenced to death.

Funnily enough we watched an early Sherlock Holmes movie in which that evil fiend Moriarty uses mesmerism to blackmail victims into believing they are guilty of murder. Melodrama wasn’t quite dead.

‘The Bells! The Bells!’

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Played the other evening the 1954 ‘A Star Is Born’ with Judy Garland and James Mason giving a terrific performance as Norman Mayne. Needless to say Judy was a great star anyway. The extras on the disc included a snatch of the 1937 version and trailer for the 1976 production starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson and I simply cannot wait not to watch it. Remakes can be pretty terrible. Whose great idea was this?

Driving back from Xania the following day and with ‘The Man That Got Away’ going round and around in my head, I remarked to Douglas that nearly all my favourite singers were/are female: Barbara Cook who I one heard live in concert in London – Wow! What a voice! What a consummate artiste! What an unforgettable experience!

Ella Fitzgerald who I also heard live, this time in Toronto out in the open air and equally as exciting as the Barbara Cook. Everything said about the former, repeat for the latter. Sarah Vaughan whose voice gives me that legendary tingling up the spine but who unfortunately I have only ever heard on record. And, of course, Judy. I have to admit without a blush to being a friend of Judy. Some men I suppose I can listen to with pleasure, Sinatra for example, but then he had the assistance of the brilliant Nelson Riddle, so it would seem women far exceed men when it comes to ballads. I’ve just created a profile to go with these Blogs and one of the questions asked is, ‘what is your favourite music?’ Well, a difficult one to answer as my musical tastes spread so wide: serious music of all kinds with the exception of some modern composers whose music is far too linear for my liking, songs from shows, ballads, Blue Grass, jazz, country and western, R and B. I don’t particularly go for rock ‘n roll, boy bands or girl bands (I couldn’t even name the latest) and I can’t be doing at all with rap. There are individual compositions that are favourites of course: Richard Strauss’ ‘Four Last Songs’, ‘Pavanne For A Dead Princess – Ravel, ‘Romeo and Juliet Overture, Tchaikovsky.

Many years ago a play of mine called ‘Bay Rum’ was produced at Buxton. It is a ghost story. Well, if Dickens and Wilkie Collins and Henry James can write ghost stories why can’t I? It’s not an eerie ghost story but a romantic one and, when I saw it at Buxton, I sat with delight through the first act it played so well, the audience with it all the way, getting all the laughs and obviously enjoying it. Then came the second half and I felt I would like to slide under my seat I was so embarrassed. It went down like a lead balloon. Now why did it bomb? I can’t understand it because all these years here I’ve been thinking it is a lousy piece of writing but, having just taken it out and reread it, it isn’t that at all. In fact it is quite delightful though a bit old-fashioned now and I still can’t see why the second half was such a flop when the writing is equal to the first half. Weird. Was it the direction? The performances? I just don’t know. Anyway I have spent the last two days correcting errors in the script and making a few teeny-weeny amendments. That’s all I felt it needed. Maybe someone will resurrect it and I will eventually solve the puzzle of the second half. Who knows?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Some years back, 2000 in fact, a friend sent me the following which I discovered whilst having a sort out and which I pass on to you with the hope that you will find it edifying even if you don’t, or can’t, for example if you live on the top floor of a high-rise block of flats, follow all the commandments – but Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Tea Party members please take particular note.

Laura Schlessinger is a radio and television personality who dispenses advice to people who call in on her shows. Recently she became a convert to Judaism and is now Baalat T’shuvah. She has made some statements about homosexuals that has caused the Canadian anti-hate laws to censure her. But even better, this was an open letter to her posted on the internet –

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. However I do need some advice from you regarding some of the specific laws and how best to follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24) The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

d) Lev.25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am, I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev.11:10) it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20:20 or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed including the hair around their temples even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife wearing garments of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So the world population has reached nine billion. The only question to ask now is how long before Armageddon? It won’t be a physical battle or any of the other weird and wonderful beliefs (I’ve just looked it up on the internet) of the various religions but simply that the world will run out of resources, they’re not infinite, and as the population is destined to grow even faster, that time can’t be too far off. Science-fiction will come into its own when mankind, what is left of it, has to find another planet on which to survive even if artificially. It is estimated that the UK population over the next ten years will increase every year to the extent of populating a city the size of Leeds. Mentioning Leeds reminds me of that wonderful old Music Hall, City Varieties, that has just reopened after refurbishing. It is definitely not as grand a theatre as the Bolshoi which has also undergone a facelift recently but it is nevertheless another piece of theatrical history saved from the wreckers. Now, hopefully. Wilton’s will be saved, especially after the BBC made a programme called Michael Grade’s History of the Music Hall in which Chris is featured as George Leybourne, Champagne Charlie. It has been well received and he has had dozens of messages saying as to how much people enjoyed it. Of course, here in the wilds of Crete and not being in a position to afford a way of getting the Beeb we haven’t seen it as yet though any number of friends have recorded it and offered to make a DVD for us so I guess we’ll soon get around to it.

Now he is currently working on his lecture/illustrated show he is to give in December to the Society for Theatre Research under the title of ‘The heaviest of Swells’. This was a Leybourne number and also the title of Chris’s book – volume one (see Amazon) – currently working on volume two which hopefully should come out next year.

He and Douglas are much in demand locally as entertainers. Sunday they did a turn or two at the Doulakis Winery that’s fast becoming a venue for social events and early in the New Year they are performing a full evening’s concert of two hours. This follows on by request after their successful Cole Porter programme.

Vamos seems to have become the centre for a lot of cultural events so it’s pleasing that they are in the thick of things especially as Chris really has missed entertaining, especially when it comes to pantomime each Christmas. He’s a bit like Bernard Miles’s old parrot at The Mermaid that sulked the whole year through, even to the extent of pulling out feathers, but came to sudden life as ‘Treasure Island’ went into rehearsal.

As for me, I long ago lost interest in performing so don’t miss it one little bit. The closest I will get to anything theatrical is a workshop I am holding with the local amateurs next month - should be fun - I hope.