You’ve got to hand it to former Labour Party heavyweight, Ed Balls. After losing his seat to the Tories at the last general election, he’s been busy re-inventing himself in the most unexpected ways. Ed became something of a comic sensation on Strictly Come Dancing this year. His salsa to Gangnam Style is now legendary. The question of whether we were laughing with him or at him is a tad ungenerous. Balls had a ball and it was infectious. God knows, we could all do with a laugh right now. As a politician, he was rather dour, but Strictly had a definite humanising affect. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
Few people here realised Ed was a local boy until he became the Chairman of Norwich Football Club. ‘The Canaries’ are something of an obsession in this town, a devotion little rewarded on the pitch recently. Naturally, the newly-improved Balls was asked to switch on this year’s Christmas lights in front of the Art Déco finery of City Hall, and naturally, he couldn’t resist a salsa reprise with Santa. We also had the obligatory reverend wheeled out to remind us all that Christmas without Christ was just Marks and Spencer. As Norwich is one of the least religious cities in the land, I’m afraid the sermon flew over the heads of the kirk, literally as well as spiritually. Still, like many others, we’ll be hitting M&S for all our festive fancies.
When Ed pushed the button, we got something quite unexpected. My own snaps of the extravaganza turned out to be mostly rubbish, as usual. But I do like the one that makes it look like someone succeeded in doing what the Luftwaffe conspicuously failed to do.
I’ll leave it to the BBC to show you properly. (click below)…
According to a recent article in the Independent newspaper, Norwich is the second most tattooed city in the land, with 41% of people saying they sport more than six images. Coincidentally there are six tattoo parlours in the city centre, all doing a roaring trade. There was a time when tattoos were the preserve of randy roughs and frisky seamen. These days, the streets are teeming with cocks of the county wearing their body art with pride. Everybody’s at it. Some are so well adorned, they could be skinned and hung in the Tate. And yes, the image above is a tattoo of Norwich’s ancient cathedral. Is nothing sacred? Norwich tattoos even get a brief mention in Turkey Street.
‘F-f-fwend,’ said Sean, holding out his hand to an ageing skinhead with a trio of studs in one ear and a spider tattoo crawling up the side of his neck.
I’m not against tattoos per se. In fact, I’ve got one myself. It’s a sad little thing resting on my shoulder, long faded with age and disfigured by a mole. I had it done many moons ago and have never repeated the experience. It was like having glass dragged across my skin. No, a little body engraving is fine by me, it’s just, like most things, less is more. When the lovely Iwan Thomas was the first to be ejected from this year’s Strictly Come Dancing on the Beeb, maybe it had more to do with the sudden exposure of his breast plate embellishment than his stompy cha-cha-cha. And I do wonder, when the ravages of time take their inevitable toll and taut young bodies are distorted by bingo wings, double-barrelled bellies and thunder thighs, how many men (and women, of course) will regret the artful decisions of their youth.
We played hosts at the weekend. Well, I say hosts. Apart from a short stroll to the Playhouse Theatre to enjoy the lavatorial humour of Jenny Eclair, the only hosting we did was to pop the celebratory corks. Our house guests, my old mucky mucker, Ian, and his young Celtic tiger, Matt, were grabbing a few days away from the Smoke and the Christmas scrum. Matt’s generosity at the bar meant that I can’t remember much of Ms Eclair’s high-velocity act though I can confirm it was deliciously funny, full-on, filthy and packed with an abundance of menopausal references to female plumbing. An arctic snap swept across the flatlands and the big skies dribbled with sleet so we decided to cancel the city tour. Instead, we settled down to a warm summit of plonk and gossip with a boozy interval of Strictly Come Dancing on Auntie. Our guests steadfastly refused to let us put our hands in our pockets which was naughty and typically stubborn but gratefully received by these poor old provincial poofs. We sent them packing with a couple of Tesco’s bags (to transport their livers in).
We’ve been watching a lot more British TV these dark and damp evenings. We became a bit bored with Patsy Kensit’s woodentop acting on a continuous loop courtesy of Auntie Beeb’s international offering. This was one reason for dumping Digiturk (that, and buggering off back to Blighty). We recently caught Dancing on Ice, ITV’s trashy and less cool answer to the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. The friends of Dorothy have always loomed large on the entertainment payroll but none so obviously as Louie Spence, the campy Gatling gun judge and leading dancing queen. Louie lispily declared to one of the Z-list contestants attempting to revive their dead-as-a-dodo careers:
“You made a short but perfectly formed homosexual very happy.”
Remember, this is prime-time terrestrial TV with the little-uns watching. While I generally find Louie a bit too much of a stereotype, this short but perfectly formed homosexual loved the fact that nobody battered a moral eyelid. Larry Grayson must be turning in his grave.
The frosty flurry in old London Town soon turned to sloppy slurry. Sunday was our day of rest away from commitments. We decided to do what we rarely do these days – a West End jolly, just the two of us. It was a strangely alien experience. The Sunday evening stalwart – Jivin’ Julie’s karaoke night for the hairy marys down the Kings Arms (or Kings Arse, as it’s affectionately known) was a shadow of its former self. The fat crowd has thinned to just a few old fairy faithfuls. We ventured to Comptons, the pivot around which gay Soho revolves, to find it bereft of punters except for a few lonely tourists, northern fag hags in mountainous heels and Russell Grant. Sadly, cuddly Russ hasn’t managed to keep the weight off following his stint as housewive’s choice on Strictly Come Dancing. I bet he didn’t see that coming in the stars.
All the bars told a similar sad and sorry tale. Was it the long recession or the wind chill that kept the boys under the duvet? Perhaps it was neither. Restaurants were buzzing away to the sound of glasses clinking and tills cher-chinking. Perhaps the crowd has moved on to pastures new. Perhaps the pubs should lower their beer prices. We joined the throng at an eaterie and supped Rioja into the small hours.