What’s Your Claim to Fame? Part 1

The celebrated British light-hearted entertainment magazine, Viz, used to have various sections in the letters page about celebrities.

  • Celebrity [expletive deleted] for anyone who had ever had a celebrity be rude to them
  • Stars in the Toilets (fairly self-explanatory)
  • Star Watch (readers write in about when they spotted a celebrity (or distance friend or relative of the celebrity) doing something mundane

So here are my contributions…

  1. In 1979 I stood five metres away from Margaret Thatcher.  I was nearly ten years old at the time.  She was reviewing Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  It was pouring with rain.  (Well, it was England.  What do you expect?)
  2. in 1983 Tommy Boyd (one-time TV-am WACADAY presenter) gave me his autograph when I was on a TV news quiz show.
  3. In 1987 Bob Holness (the one and only) leapt at my, invaded my body space, and shook my hand.  Mind you, I had just won the fifth Gold Run on TV quiz, Blockbusters.  Context is everything.
  4. A few hours before that, I bumped into Tim Healey (Dennis off Auf Wiedersehen Pet) and shook his hand.  We ended up having a good chat about Redcar, where I was living at the time.  Ironically enough, 25 years later, I moved to Düsseldorf, where the series was set.
  5. Also in Nottingham, in 1989 comedian and broadcaster Mike Harding came up to me at a bus stop at Nottingham train station and asked me for directions to the theatre.  Not being a local, I was unable to help him.  Why he, on his wages, could not take a taxi, was beyond me.
  6. Darlington train station: Christmas time 1989 – I saw Lord Leon Brittan at Darlington station having a coffee in the waiting room.  I did not speak to him.  I was still thinking of an essay I had to write on Russian literature, as you do.
  7. Back to  Nottingham, this time in 1991, I gave an interview to Central TV news about a murder case (or if you’re a Taggart fan, a “moddah” case). Then twelve years later I gave another interview to ITV about the same case on a series called Real Crime.  I did get a few “haven’t I seen you before?” looks off people after the 2003 appearance.
  8. In 1994 I crossed the road just metres away from Clive Anderson of Whose Line Is It Anyway in Central London.  He was carrying a Rymans carrier bag, but did not come out with any witty remarks.
  9. Also in 1994, I was working as an interpreter at a business conference.  I translated the welcome message from the compere, Stuart Hall, of It’s a Knockout, not the sociologist.  Is that more a claim to notoriety?  He had just stepped into the gents’ toilets of the Natural History Museum as I was walking out.
  10. In 1998 I was five seats behind William Hague, then  MP for Richmond, on the evening flight from Heathrow to Teesside Airport.  He had a very shiny head.  Almost blindingly so.  As he walked past me on arrival, I greeted him with a cheery, “Good evening, Mr Hague.  How are you?”  He replied with a cheery, “Good evening,” but did not advise how he was.
  11. Train stations.  I love ’em.  At Paddington station I spotted Lord Douglas Hurd, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs.  He was reading The Times.  I told him I’d been a member of the Conservative Party since I was 14 (cough cough), and asked he would sign a book I had.  “With great pleasure,” he replied with a voice just like his Spitting Image puppet.  Duly he took my ballpoint pen and signed my copy of Tokens of Trust, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury.
  12. In recent years I have visited the graves of:
    1. Former Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston (Sutton Courtney, Oxfordshire)
    2. George Orwell (same churchyard)
    3. Richard Whiteley of Countdown (East Witton, North Yorkshire)
  13. Oxford train station was also a great meeting place.  There in 2010, I met Judith Hann of Tomorrow’s World.  I told her how very much I had enjoyed the show in my younger years and we duly shook hands.
  14. In summer 2015 I met Peter Hitchens, the great polemicist, and told him I agreed with an article he had recently written about Putin’s Russia.  In reality, I didn’t agree with him, but I was in no mood for a discussion.

Over to you.  The more the obscure celeb connection, the better!  Eg,

“David Beckham’s cousin used to babysit for my boss’s kids.” 

“I once served Terry Wogan fish and chips twice, when he called into my Dad’s chippy.”

You get the idea.

Have a celebrity-packed day, won’t you!

Bread and Circuses

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

– Juvenal

Juvenal’s premise in Roman times was in response to Roman politicians’ a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of their new citizens: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power.  Orwell hinted at similar in 1984, when he described the proles.

Are bread and circuses one of the reasons for underachievement in the British working class?  We all know about elitism in the British system.  

To quote Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones:

I mean, you look at statistics, right. 83% of top British management have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 93% of the BBC have been to a public school and Oxbridge, right? 98% of the KGB have been to a public school and Oxbridge.

Personally I don’t have a problem with people being privileged/fortunate/blessed enough to have been to independent school/Oxbridge/Sandhurst/the Brigade of Guards, etc.  I’ve always taken the attitude that it’s better to build one person up, rather than to knock the other one down.  

Jesus said (Matthew 26:11);

The poor you will always have with you…

 

And the rich and privileged, too, I would add.

The key thing is to prevent the wealthy from being a closed shop.  One way is to raise aspirations of working-class youngsters, and that begins even before school.  However, that involves fundamental change in British society.

  • The UK has a massive percentage of unmarried mothers.  During my short time as a supply teacher, I was shocked to hear a group of four fifteen-year-old girls in a failing inner-city comprehensive cooing at the fact that one of their peers was pregnant, and that “her mam was made up” [overjoyed] to hear daughter was pregnant.  So, this is Post-Thatcher Britain – single motherhood as a “career choice”.  To echo The Specials and their song, Too Much, Too Young, “…If you’re happy with a nappy, then you’re in for fun.”
  • The country has a vast percentage of “neets” (“not in employment, education or training”), unemployed and often unemployable, under-25’s, with poor levels of literacy, social skills and work ethic.
  • Why is it that white, working-class boys are the problem sector of English schools?

Are there enough role models?  Is there too much a ready acceptance of second-, third-, or fourth best?  “They’re only oiks, anyway.”

Is there too much of an attitude that goes like this:

My Dad worked down t’pit.  Me granda too, and me uncle, and that’s all I want to do.

 

Trouble is, in some estates, the adult males chose being in and out of prison as their “career path.”

Have an aspirational day, won’t you!

Mind Your Language – 21st Century Version?

Mind Your Language was compulsory viewing in the 70’s, on after World of Sport and before Play Your Cards Right on ITV.

To save me typing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_Your_Language

So, typical British humour, mocking the bl00dy foreigners.  It’s what that Inselaffen do best.  Nowadays the series is considered offensive and politically incorrect.  Personally, as a wasp (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), I find the programme pretty innocuous.  Other wasps say on behalf of the “bl00dy foreigners” that it is offensive.  Most BME (black and minority ethnic) people I know can speak up for themselves, thank you very much…

The biggest fans of the show that I have met are Kenyan and Indian.  Maybe because they recognise the irony in the show, or the that everyone is the subject of ridicule, including the very “proper” teacher.

Now, I have an idea for a post-modern, 21st century version of Mind Your Language to reflect the UK’s mulit-ethnic, multi-cultural society.

Teacher: Mr Khan, a Londoner with a broad London accent, born and bred in Bethnal Green E2

Students:

  • Jerzy, a Polish plumber
  • Sanjay, an Indian IT worker
  • Mehmet, a Turkish kebab shop worker
  • Tatyana, a Russian stripper
  • Ghiorghios, a Greek security guard

All moaning about the chavs…

Any thoughts, folks?

Henning Wehn

Henning Wehn has broken Basil Fawlty’s advice, “Don’t mention the war.”  Not only does he mention the war, he mentions the Wall.  His comedy is based on the Inselaffen’s stereotypes of the Germans and tendency to celebrate old victories, such as 1918, 1945 and 1966.

Henning Wehn is full of very, very dark humour, not just about “Two World Cups and one World Pope (Doo-Dah),” but also about the EU, the old GDR and their Genossen and Genossinnen.  It was thanks to him that I discovered the folk song, Im Fruehtau zu Berge.  I’m looking forward to enjoying more of his very un-PC material.  Actually I harbour ambitions to be his British counterpart in Germany.  Oh well, one day, maybe…