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Month: April 2009

Ever since I first discovered YouTube, it’s been a source of astonishment and relief that the death of Tommy Cooper on live national television has not been uploaded. My astonishment and relief have come to an end, and it doesn’t make for comfortable viewing. I won’t supply a link, as I suspect it’ll be taken down pretty soon, only to be re-uploaded almost instantly. The really interesting thing is the way that the camera stays firmly on the slumped Cooper, as if expecting him to leap to his feet and make a joke of it. The director will have known this wasn’t how it went at rehearsal. So why did they stay on the star? An explanation comes from Harold Fisher, who was drumming in Alyn Ainsworth’s orchestra that night.

The horrible thing was that the balancer who was outside in the scanner thought that it was part of the act. He sort of sank to his knees and you know, what you were hearing was this death rattle, the poor sod. So he turned it up. His doctor was there, apparently. He told him not to do the show. His son was there and his doctor. Obviously he wasn’t feeling very well. What a way to go. It was amazing how it panned out. He did most of his act, as I remember and then he sank to his knees. They cued the band and the adverts came on. It was unbelievable.”

I can remember watching it with my great-grandmother. Aged 10, I thought it was part of the act. She could see that something was wrong. When the news came on after the show, her suspicions were proved right.

When I was a member of my university’s Labour Club, a few other members of that august institution tried to pass a motion of censure on me, for being close friends, nay housemates, with a known Tory. Even then, in the first flush of idealism, it seemed absurd to let political allegiance decide friendships, especially as my political allies were such a dull bunch socially. Now it seems even more mad, but still it goes on. “How can you talk to him? He’s a Conservative.” Because he’s fun and interesting, now piss off.

In the fun and interesting camp is a chap called Iain Dale, whom I came to know when he was running a bookshop in London called Politico’s. We disagreed pretty vehemently on just about every single thing politically, but we both had a thing for the Eurovision Song Contest and he was/is the owner of a very smart little dog, which beat politics in a game of scissors/paper/stone any day of the week. I visit his blog, still disagreeing with him pretty vehemently on any subject other than the Herreys and aniseed treats, but doing so from a position of warmth and respect.

Iain’s been onto the Damian McBride thing for a while now. Indeed, he was on the ‘to be smeared’ list himself. With Dolly Draper denying the existence of the incriminating emails, Iain was going to file a Freedom of Information request. With the whole story now public and Iain proved right, the FoI request turned out to be unnecessary, and Iain’s been making the most of his vindication, writing articles here, there and everywhere (I would say left, right and centre, but…) and appearing on almost every channel and managing to stay just this side of a gloat.

Now, following some more digging into the way LabourList – the ‘e-network’ run by Dolly – is funded (or not, as the case may be), Iain’s had to contend with 40 calls on his private phone, some of them threatening, and emails like this, apparently promising to blow Dale’s blog off the face of the Internet with denial of service attacks. The way Dale has been treated for getting too close to some uncomfortable truths is nothing short of a disgrace. If Iain’s blog is DOS-ed offline, however temporarily, this will be why.

EDIT – 27/5/2010 – A follow-up post to this one appears here.

Many thanks to all of those who contacted me with notes and queries about Turned Out Nice Again to be borne in mind for the paperback edition. The corrections were finally, belatedly sent off this morning. The delay came partly from the fact that I was waiting on educated responses from a couple of respected individuals, and partly from the fact that there is precious little more boring than reading your own words for the fourth or fifth time. When I read a book by someone else, I might read it through twice, and then keep it for reference/dipping. When you’re checking something for corrections, however, dipping and skimming aren’t options. Comparing notes with a fellow author and close friend, he admitted to glazing over on the first read-through, but I think he was being self-deprecating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely proud of the book and the re-reading merely fortified that pride. However, I know the ending already.

Ah, endings. Had the timorous BBC not forced the last two editions of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle to swap places, the show originally scheduled for Easter Monday being about religion, the show would have had the best closer of any TV show for some years in the form of the riotous apple shop sketch, which culminated in the superb Paul Putner – representing the holy trinity of Ronnie Barker, Harry Worth and Cyril Fletcher in one body – trashing the set, pursued by Kevin Eldon in a brown overall and a lady trombonist. As it is, they’ll have to settle for best finish of a run’s penultimate show, but I reserve the right to restore the original order when I put the series on disc.

Talking of endings, I suspect that those who predict the imminent end of days may have a point. I’m not talking about New Labour’s Nixonian smear shite. I’m not talking about natural disasters all over the shop. I’m not even talking about the return of Britain’s Got Talent. I’m talking about the fact that, earlier today, I bought a JVC hi-fi stereo VHS recorder in good condition for £4.99. I remember when tapes cost more than that.

The front page of today’s Sun says “It’s time to let Jade rest in peace”. This, unfortunately, is not a statement of Snu policy, but a quote from Jack Tweed. As such, you can guarantee that News International has no intention of letting the poor dead sod rest at all. What an age we live in. Still, it’s not all bad. That bald head is just made to have ‘TURMOIL’ written on it.

Elsewhere, an LWT technician has explained that the company adapted a BBC microcomputer to aid with vision mixing. This set me wondering what the LWT micro would have been like. It would definitely have had a set of stairs on the top of the case, with chaser lights built in. And when you turned it on, you would have been greeted by the reassuring sound of Trish Bertram telling you what you’d done and A Well-Swung Fanfare. Having invented the ruddy thing, I now want one.

The Doddy experience reminded me of an LP that I had and played to death as a child, on my mum’s old Dansette. Music for Pleasure MFP1368 – Ken Dodd and the Diddymen – provided many happy hours of amusement in my formative years, not least the ‘Nikky-Nokky-Noo Song’ and the historical epic ‘Where’s Me Shirt?’. I’m not sure where it went. I think I might have worn it through. However, thanks to the Bay of E and the Royal Mail, I now have another copy. Expect no further bulletins from me for quite some time. I’m away with my Diddy mates: Dickie Mint, Mick the Marmaliser, Wee Hamish, Sid Short, Little Evan and Old Doddy Doddy and all. Now, wheeeeere’s me shairt?