Larger than life is the way to go

I love really old men with long hair, sporting a couple of earrings and wearing Black Sabbath tee-shirts! There, I’ve said it.


Now, before you unsubscribe, unfriend me, and slowly back towards the door, please hear me out.

What I really love is any form of eccentricity, anything slightly off beam, a tad off centre.

Well, I say any form of eccentricity, but there is a line, I suppose. Donald Trump stands out, and I don’t love him. When I was researching images to illustrate long-haired old men, the screen was suddenly filled with images of Jimmy Saville. I screamed and switched off my computer. I certainly don’t love him. I went to school with Harold Shipman, the eccentric who morphed into a serial-killing G.P. and saw off half his patients. I didn’t love him.

But Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses is alright. Phew, I’m back on track.

unknown-11And it’s not just outlandish people I admire. When you drive along any main road, you come across hundreds of jelly moulds driving towards you, so unmemorable that you’re hardly likely to spend time discussing any of them at the water cooler. But come across a gleaming red Morgan and, guess what, it has your attention.

If you’re a tennis fan recalling the glorious days, do you reminisce about Bjon Bjorg or John McEnroe? Both as skillful, both from a similar era, but one of them, the one with ridiculous hair, famous for shouting obscenities at the umpire and anyone who’d listen. You cannot be serious!

Or, if you were a snooker fan in the eighties, who commanded your attention? The bland machine that was Steve Davies, or the whiskey swilling, womanising, foul mouthed Hurricane Higgins?

I once saw a little fat man walking around Verona dressed as a bee, for no other reason than he enjoyed walking around Verona dressed as a bee. He made me smile – he was interesting. I couldn’t describe anyone else that had been walking around Verona that afternoon.bee-man

Variety is the spice of life. Some people stick like glue to the archetype, some vary dramatically. Who do you tend to remember? And don’t answer, “The nutters!” They’re not usually nutters, although I do accept the fact that nutters are specially equipped to excel at such activities.

a_man_dressed_as_a_woman_thumb10624116_207Let’s be kind and call them head turners. I met someone at a hotel in Rhodes recently, and he certainly turned my head, because he was dressed as a woman. There with his wife, whom I should think helped choose his wardrobe, he strutted his stuff around the hotel for seven days. Lovely gear, but I’m guessing he didn’t turn many guys on, because he was so obviously not a woman. He knew that, we knew that, but he held center stage all week. He was happy and I suspect most of his captive audience was happy, because he showed them something different. Stop it! He was on the same return flight as me, now a very normal, grey haired sixty odd year old man, who could, and did, get lost in a crowd. In a way the real guy proves my point perfectly. Normal, run of the mill, mundane people don’t stand out in a crowd. They’re instantly forgettable.

My son often accuses me of idolising the likes of George Best and Oliver Read. He describes them as washed up, drunken tossers. Is he making a link here? I regard them as slightly flawed geniuses that demand your attention.

But wait. I suppose you could turn that around. If everyone in a room, except one, was an outlandish, centre of attention, larger than life character, and that one person was a little, bland old lady, maybe she’d stand out. Because she’d be the different one.

So maybe there is a case for the occasional jelly mould after all. Just not very often.

So don’t forget to watch out for weirdos. They’re out there in force. You are very welcome to report any sightings on this blog.

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If you would like to read my books, written in a similar style, please click the link here




Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

The other Sunday, The One Who Must Be Obeyed and I were invited to a function at a friend’s village hall.

Barbara's 80th BirthdayI have to say I went with some reluctance but, whilst there, I met what can only be described as a lovely bunch of old people. Most of them were even older than me and I’m 74. But I couldn’t help noticing that this lovely bunch was made up primarily of women. That’s not indicative of a village that secretly despises men. It’s indicative of the fact that men tend to shuffle off this planet a bit quicker than ladies, and, bless them, the women folk are left to do whatever deserted old ladies do.

Now because the odds are that one day, and I hope it’s in the far distant future, I’ll shuffle off before The One Who Must Be Obeyed, I’ve started piecing together what it is they actually do.

Well, for starters, in my village, a coach, that can only be described as past its prime, Beatles-Magical-Mystery-Tour-clip-2012trundles up to a lay-by adjacent to the village hall each Tuesday, to a muted cheer from a queue comprising forty-two old ladies and one old bloke. I suppose the current status of the coach reflects the status of its passenger list.

I often wonder what the one bloke’s motivation is for joining this weekly soiree. I really hope he’s not a dealer.

Elephant ManIf it’s to find a partner, he’s not really succeeding, as there’s always quite a gap in the queue between him and the ladies.

Mind you, he does make the Elephant Man look attractive.

I did look into where the coach goes, and wasn’t surprised to learn that, usually, it ends up at an out of town shopping outlet , which subsequently does a roaring trade in beige cardigans, beige handbags and beige shoes.

Well at least they go somewhere. The few old men that still survive tend to sit on benchesthebench-1 in small groups and chunter to each other about God knows what.

So, we’ve got buses full of old ladies, and their dealer, hurtling around the countryside in search of beige leather goods and we’ve got benches full of the endangered species that is old men, sitting on park benches, probably talking about the amount of beige that’s around these days. Both groups appear to me to be a bit lonely and sad.

There’s got to be a way of bringing these hapless groups together. Not on the bus or on the bench. More a joint venture involving pastures new.

It wouldn’t be breaking new ground to organise a tea dance, or even a speed-dating circle. These folk aren’t too speedy anyway. No, I think it’s time to think outside the box.

I look back at what has brought me together with females in the past. Sixty years ago, Valerie Crosby let me watch her have a pee on the way home from school. Let’s build on this. “Show me yours, Ada, and I’ll show you mine!” No, that’s not going to work.

A week or two ago, I saw a poster that proclaimed, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!’ And then it hit me. These old folk need shaking up a bit so they can start living. It’s all well and good toddling into a village hall, or strolling around a shopping mall, or sitting hunched up with your mates on a park bench. But that’s just existing.

So, I’ve fathomed out how to kill two old birds with one stone. On reflection, that’s perhaps not the best expression to use.

What the oldies, of either gender, should do is step over the edge of their comfort zone, start living again, and meet up with a like-minded potential life partner. And I know just the thing that will help them achieve this.

Zip-WireA friend of mine has just been treated to a hair-raising zip wire experience in Wales. Hair-raising in that you are hurled over hill and dale, whilst strapped in a harness, which scoots along an elevated wire at up to 90 mph.

Now, here’s the thing. Oldies tend to suffer from knee,hip and back problems. Which is why you see them shuffling around everywhere. I can feel the onset of such wear and tear myself and can sense the dreaded shuffle beginning to take shape, or rather mis-shape.

Well, on this super zip thingamajig, these knackered old body parts are given a complete rest. Your stance is horizontal, with arms held akimbo. A bit like Superman in full flight. You are actually encased in a sort of body bag, which again is good training for the future, and you fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane?’ No, it’s Aggie and Horace, her new life partner, sampling the liberation of life above civilisation.

I can’t see how this can fail. So I’ll design a poster, distribute it around village halls, bus stops and park benches, and watch loneliness and beige accessories slowly disappear.

Viva les wrinklies!

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How Lucky Do You Feel, Buster

My first real adventure as a young copper in the sixties came whilst washing the shit out of a dog van.

I’m thinking things can’t get worse than this when an Inspector approaches and recognises me as the proud owner of a Police Firearms Certificate. I point out that he is wrong, but unfortunately for me, he doesn’t do wrong.

Now there’s no way I’d got one of these deadly slips of paper, and there’s no way I’d ever want one. A Police Firearms Certificate is a document that empowers you to carry a gun and take aim at the less desirable elements of society. I’m all for enjoying a bit of extra power now and again, but being a member of a SWAT team is, more likely than not, going to put you into immediate conflict with another class of gun carrier, the type that isn’t averse to blowing a hole in your head.

It turns out the inspector once saw me having a crafty ciggie at the side of a personnel carrier at the nearby shooting range, whilst waiting to drive the firearms team back to HQ.

He eventually acknowledges his mistake, mumbles something to the effect that I would do anyway, and pushes a Browning semi-automatic pistol at me. He shows me the safety catch, instructs me to draw the weapon from my pocket only if absolutely necessary, and informs me that I will be travelling in the back of a prison van with Buster Edwards, the Great Train Robber.

Now, in fairness to him, he is becoming desperate. Buster Edwards is being tried at the Nottingham Assize Court, whilst housed at Nottingham prison. Because they’d already let Ronnie Biggs, another of the gang, escape, Edwards has to be escorted each day by a police cavalcade of armed police officers, comprising two motor cycle outriders, a dog van, which I had just washed, two police cars and a black maria containing the prisoner. This adds up to a total requirement of ten proud holders of the cherished Police Firearms Certificate. The procession takes him to court each morning, back to the prison at lunchtime, to the court in the afternoon and home for tea at the prison. The process is in its seventh week, and the Inspector is becoming seriously short of firearms experts. He must have been, to scrape this low in the barrel.

Whilst I study the safety catch and try to remember which position is ‘on’ and which is ‘off’, I realise that I don’t know if ‘on’ means ready to shoot and ‘off’ means the safety catch is no longer ‘on’. You don’t learn these things whilst leaning at the side of a police van outside the firing range.

I am so absorbed in this ‘do it yourself’ tuition session, that I don’t notice the motor cavalcade assembling around me in the police yard, and I am not aware that a handcuffed Buster Edwards has been placed into the back of the black maria. I become aware, the minute I am pushed in after him by my new mentor, the inspector, who issues final words of encouragement by telling me to accept no nonsense from the prisoner, and then slams the door on us both.

Quickly acclimatising to the back of the prison van, I take in the scene. No windows, a rough wooden bench running the length of each side of the van, and, towards the front, an iron grill running the width of the van. This is the ‘wall’ that protects the driver and his mate from the prisoner and me, the armed and dangerous, rookie policeman.

It is then that I notice him, the legendary Buster Edwards, Great Train Robber extraordinaire.

He sits at the front of the bench opposite me, leaning on the grill.

I sit at the back of the bench opposite him, leaning on the locked rear door.

The ultimate stand-off!

He is in modern, expensive, Italian gear, sporting a trendy Perry Como hairstyle and wearing black, highly polished, Chelsea boots. His small, beady eyes stare straight into my soul.

I am in in an ill-fitting blue surge uniform, sporting a short back and sides basin crop and wearing regulation police boots. My terrified eyes stare straight back at him. How lucky do you feel, punk?

Now, you’ve got to bear in mind that this is the one hundred and twentieth time that Edwards has been subjected to this. In a nutshell, he is bored. He has devised little games to relieve the boredom, games that I am unaware of. His prey on this occasion is me, a green, twenty year old constable, who doesn’t even know whether his gun’s safety catch is ‘on’ or ‘off’. And if I had known, I still wouldn’t have known what that meant.

The black maria swings out of the prison yard, tilts over hard to it’s left, and the prisoner suddenly bursts into song. He gives a passionate rendering to ‘O Sole Mio’, clocks my panic, and blows me a kiss. Terrified, I reach for my gun. No, really, I do. I find myself sitting there pointing an automatic Browning at one of the Great Train Robbers, feeling quite ridiculous, and having no idea what to do next. He clearly thinks this is hilarious and collapses into a fit of hysterical laughter.

Suddenly the van lurches forward and throws me heavily into the back door, dislodging my helmet and causing me to drop the gun.

He just about pees himself at this, clenches his fists, stamps his feet and throws his head back with glee. Tears of joy stream down his face.

He remains in this state until the van pulls up outside the court room. I put my gun away and try to regain my composure ready for the glare of the assembled media.

A great journey for Buster this, and, as always, I provided the comedy.

Buster Edwards leaving the van after he has stopped laughing


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If you would like to read my books, written in a similar style, please click the link here