Schindler’s Lift

Schindler’s Lift

Following a boozy afternoon on the tiles, I had no memory of making it back to our hotel in East London. This is despite staggering from Soho to Piccadilly Circus to get the Tube, changing at Oxford Circus, taking the Central Line to Stratford, finding the hotel and checking in. I was thankful to wake up in the right room in the right hotel with the right person. Liam couldn’t remember anything either.

I rolled out of bed and peered through the window. The first thing I noticed was how high up we were. It was quite a view, with the London 2012 Olympic Stadium – now home to West Ham Football Club – in the foreground and the city skyline beyond. There were cranes everywhere – saluting the ever-evolving cityscape. The sky was winter bright and the sun hurt my eyes; I drew the curtains and clambered back under the duvet.

After a couple of hours’ dozing and dossing, it was time to drag our weary carcasses back home to little old Norwich to nest and rest. Easier said than done. The Schindler’s lifts were on a go slow and it took ages to get down to the first floor reception to check out. Rather than wait for another sulky lift, we decided to take the stairs to street level. What we didn’t know was that the hotel was perched on top of a high-rise car park and the stairwell just went down, down and down. Our heads thumped in sync with every step into the abyss. For some inexplicable reason, the treads were numbered with felt-tip pen.

And there were the directions just in case we lost our way. Clearly,  the cleaners didn’t make it down very often. And who could blame them?

We had an hour or so to kill before our train, so we settled on the best hangover cure – a full English in a fancy restaurant. Yes, that’s a dead tree behind Liam. Very fancy.

The Naughty Square Mile

The Naughty Square Mile

It was high time for a little naughty fun in the smoke – a chance to spend a boozy afternoon with the London landlady of our Turkey years and an old mucker of mine from way back when. First stop was the French House, an iconic Soho watering hole popular with arty types. It’s a…

…fabulous and entertaining spot to raise a glass in London, the French House truly deserves its reputation as the best known pub in the world’s naughtiest square mile. It’s no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones rule makes it a haven for conversationalists and a firm favourite among some of the best known names in show business.

Even if they do say so themselves.

And converse we did through four bottles of their finest house plonk. Sadly, the clientele was a bit light on thespians and there was nobody famous to gawp at.


Next up was a Thai vegan restaurant. Imagine me doing vegan? Not when I’m sober. It was tasty enough but a bit of pricey for a plate of rice and veg sprinkled with a few cashew nuts and not at all fit for soaking up the Devil’s brew.

Finally, we fell into The Admiral Duncan, a gay bar made famous by a nail bomb which, in 1999, killed three and maimed many others. It was good to see the old place still thriving after all these years despite the advent of ‘dating’ apps which have killed off many a clip joint. It’s the Amazon effect. Why bother with the faff and expense of propping up the bar hoping for a chance liaison when you can order in with free delivery?

Admiral Duncan

Our former landlady popped to the loo to spend a penny and got more than she bargained for. Liam asked if she was alright.

Not really, no. There’s a transsexual masturbating in the ladies.

I had no words.

Tales from Hollywood

Two Hollywood stories caught my eye recently as I flicked through my newspaper and sipped my coffee in a local café. The first was the revelation that comedy actor Richard Prior and brooding macho heartthrob Marlon Brando had been lovers. Generally, I don’t go in for celebrity tittle tattle. I really don’t care who does who as long as it’s consensual and they don’t frighten the horses, but it was the statement from Richard Prior’s widow that, given enough cocaine, her husband would…

…f**k a radiator and send it flowers in the morning…

that had me spitting out my americano. What a woman. I’m not sure I would have been quite so magnanimous.

The second story was the news that British-born actor John Mahoney had died at the age of 77. John Mahoney found fame later in life as the crabby blue-collar dad in ‘Frazier’ who delighted in pricking the pretensions of his snobby sons. He was often handed the best lines and one of the best was…

Boy, things have really changed since my day. Back then, if a girl got into trouble, her family would send her away to relatives in another state and if anyone asked, just lied and said she went to Europe. Then when she came back, they’d raise the baby as a little sister. Not like today, we had morals and values back then.

I remember those values. And I see them coming round again.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

A Siberian cold front  – ‘The Beast from the East’ – has rolled in from Europe,  cloaking the flatlands in a thick blanket of fluffy snow drifting in the arctic breeze. Cancelled buses forced Liam to take the day off and a ‘real-feel’ of minus 11 means we’re going nowhere. And neither is anyone else judging by St Stephens roundabout, empty save for one brave soul. Come rush hour, it’s normally nose to nipple.

Thank the Lord for central heating.

Can I Get, Like, a Coffee?

Can I Get, Like, a Coffee?

It’s often said that the strength of the English Language is its extraordinary ability to absorb, evolve and invent. All fine and dandy. Otherwise we’d still be grunting like Beowulf. But being old and increasingly resistant to change, there are some modern verbal twists that make me want to scream – literally.

Here are a few of my least favourite things.


I like ‘like’. It’s a likeable little word with an ancient pedigree – Old Norse – handy for many a sentence. Handy that is except when it’s repeated ad nauseum by some reality TV nobody in terracotta tan and Brazilian.

“She was like, ‘you aren’t using that word correctly’, and I was like, ‘yes I am’. That’s, like, so unfair.”

No it’s not, like, so unfair. It just makes you sound, like, a bit thick.

Can I get…

Strictly speaking, it should be “may I have…” or “I’d like…” but I’m not that much of a purist. I’m okay with “can I have…” even though it’s actually a question not a request, but “can I get…”? No, no, no, it’s just ugly.


These days everything is awesome. No it’s not. The Niagara Falls are awesome. The annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti is awesome. A meal at Nandos is just chicken.


So, it seems anyone explaining something or telling a story – from learnéd professors on the Ten O’Clock News to the trendy young things on Graham Norton’s big red chair – begin with ‘so’. So, literally everyone’s at it. So, even Mr Norton’s TV company is called ‘So Television’.

And when asked how they feel about something, the response invariably starts with…

You know what?

No, I don’t. That’s why I’m asking, stupid.

Or they’ll say…

I can’t lie.

Which, of course, is a lie.

And then there’s ‘myself’, ‘ourselves’ and ‘yourself’. Why have people suddenly started speaking like a copper trying to talk posh in the witness box? What the hell is wrong with ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘you’?

Postcode Lottery

A phrase used to describe the variable quality of services across the realm, used over and over again by lazy journalists. Frankly, I’m only interested in the actual postcode lottery and only then if I’ve won the twenty-five grand.

You smashed it/you nailed it/you made it your own/you blew the roof off.

The mindless verdicts delivered by talentless talent show judges to some wannabee who’s just butchered a Whitney Houston classic. Someone really should tell the tele-fodder that their pop career will be shorter than the life cycle of a fruit fly and that the only one really nailing it is Simon Cowell.

Do you want a bag at all? Do you have a Nectar card at all? Do you want a receipt at all?

What’s the ‘at all’ about? All of what? Yes, of course I want a bloody receipt – all of it. How else can I bring something back?

Calling out

Where once we used to challenge, expose, question, examine and probe, now we ‘call out’. Even Maybot (our current prime minister who may not be in Number 10 by the time this nonsense goes out) says it. And her a grammar school girl too. I blame Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the neanderthals who’ve been ‘called out’ with their knickers down.

I’ll give it 250%

Er, no you won’t. You literally can’t.

In politics, optics trump metrics

I think I first heard this techno-babble on the BBC’s Newsnight. Apparently it translates as ‘belief overcomes fact’. Nothing new there – religion has been playing that trick ever since Adam and Eve uttered the words ‘where do we come from?’ In my day, metrics were all about metres and litres and an optic was a device for measuring the hard stuff in a pub. Can I get, like, a double?


And last, my most disliked…


So, everyone’s gone literally crazy. It’s literally this and literally that.

“I literally jumped out of my skin.”

No you didn’t otherwise you’d be in the morgue with your vital organs hanging out – literally.

So, I’m, like, calling out this dreary repetition and misuse of, like, certain words which are, like, literally sending me, like, bonkers.

“Can I get, like, a crappafrappaccino?”

I don’t know, can you?

Here endeth the lesson from a fully paid-up member of the grumpy old farts club.

Milk and Two Sugars, Please

Milk and Two Sugars, Please

This winter’s brought some lively weather to keep us from our slumber and to wake the dead in the funeral parlour next door. Unsurprisingly, the huffing and puffing of storm Eileen and her gusty sisters trying to blow our house down damaged the roof over our heads. So it was over to our property management company to contact our freeholders to contact their insurers to contact the roofers to contact the scaffolders to repair the flashing loosened by the ladies. It’s a long supply chain and, of course, we didn’t get any warning before a couple of butch men in hard hats and tool belts over woolly jumpers arrived to chuck some poles up the side of the microloft. It’s just as well I wasn’t sitting in my underwear and fluffy mules.

I should be used to chance encounters with scaffolders. Before we bought the microloft, the roof of our rented weaver’s cottage had sprung a leak. The workers turned up unannounced then too. But that was in the summer and at least I had something scanty to ogle – discretely, naturally.

And then there was the time back in the day when I had a proper job with a proper office on Kensington High Street. The building had been caged in scaffolding for repainting and repointing. There I was, busy counting beans at my proper desk, when there was a rat-a-tat-tat at the window. I looked up to see my brother-in-law beaming at me.

“Milk and two sugars, please,”

he said.

Yes, he’s a butch scaffolder. And yes, I made him a brew.

Brother-in-law back in the day with his youngest

The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour

There’s been a flurry of historical war films lately and more to come, I’m sure. It’s not surprising, given the various centenaries involving the Great War of 1914-18 and the knock-on remembrance of other major conflicts. As a general rule, I don’t do war movies. I’d much rather watch Maggie Smith in bustle and bodice than endure the blood, sweat and tears of the trenches. One exception was the cinematic tour de force, Dunkirk  – a masterpiece. Then came The Darkest Hour, a fictionalised account of the first few weeks of Winston Churchill’s premiership during the Second World War; France is finished, the Brits are trapped, the Americans are hedging their bets and Churchill must decide whether to parley with Hitler. The days don’t get any darker than that. We were drawn in by reports of Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston and his Churchillian prosthetic transformation.

I’ve liked Gary Oldman ever since he played Joe Orton, the controversial and irrepressibly gay sixties playwright, in the deliciously naughty but tragic biopic Prick Up Your Ears.  In The Darkest Hour, neither Gary nor the prosthetics disappoint – both are superb. And what of the film in general? It’s a witty script that doesn’t whitewash Churchill’s considerable flaws, ruthless streak or periods of mental paralysis. But it’s the performance that makes it. Expect a few gongs for Oldman and the clever people in the rubber department.

We also recently saw the latest Star Wars blockbuster – The Last Jedi. The critics loved it, the fans less so. I’m with the fans.