Wednesday 27 March 2013


In common with many for a long time I had a fear of the dentist. It all stemmed from our childhood molar inspector; a kindly man called Mr Hudson who put up with a lot. The whole family were his patients and every few months we would troop along to his surgery in order to get checked out. Trouble was in the interest of hygiene he insisted on wearing a mask so he was only visible from the bridge of the nose upwards. His high forehead, piercing eyes and grey streaked hair made him the spit of Christopher Lee as Dracula!

As a very small boy these visits were an exquisite torture as we got to ride on the trolley bus.

This was the only time we ever got to travel on the whirring omnibus with its smooth ride and the smell of burning that seemed to accompany it.

So what should have been a wonderful adventure for a young boy turned into a nightmare.

Some kids grow into adults with a lifelong love of transport. Me? No. Forty years after my last trip on this bus I encountered it at the Black Country Museum in Dudley in the West Midlands. As I climbed aboard I felt odd and slightly uneasy as all the memories came flooding back.

It's not that Mr Hudson was a bad dentist. In fact my Dad reckoned he was pretty good. It's just that seemingly everytime we went I had to have a filling or two. I only got 3d worth of sweets a week so I doubt it was that meagre ration that was causing the cavities.

The treatment was agonising. Beginning with an injection from a huge silver syringe which numbed the lips...but not the gums and nerves.

Then hours of drilling with the accompanying smell of burning enamel.

I would then be returned to my mother a drooling whimpering wreck for the return trip. Knowing in only a matter of days we'd have to go and do it all again.

I bit him on one occasion. He slapped me!

On another occasion he noticed that I'd trimmed my eyelashes.

(I've no idea why either)

When my wisdom teeth came through he joked that I was too stupid to have wisdom teeth.


I met him at a party when I was about fourteen.

"You don't recognise me do you"? He said and then covered the lower part of his face with his hand.


When I was about eighteen or nineteen he retired and a woman took over his practice. She traded in his ancient equipment for state of the art instruments of torture.

Plus all the ancient copies of "Punch" and "The Field" had gone too. So there was nothing to read in the waiting room.

She never called me back for another appointment for some reason.


Then I got a job and started to move around the country. Never staying more than a few months or a couple of years in any one place I forgot about the horrors of dental surgery. I always cleaned them regularly and they didn't hurt so I thought no more about it.

On my fortieth birthday I was eating a kebab and half a molar broke off!

It was very neat and had fractured along a fissure in the tooth caused by it having been overfilled when I was a kid.

I ignored it and didn't smile much for a while but eventually decided that something needed doing and hopefully things had moved on so the treatment wouldn't be as excruciating as it had twenty eight years earlier.


Yup that was the passage of time.

What would they find?

As the long blonde hair of the twenty five year old dentist fell onto my forehead as I lay back in the chair she told me that she could tell I was a coward and it wouldn't hurt a bit and should I feel anything I was to tell her and she'd pump me full of even more anaesthetic.

She waved her hand and suddenly my whole mouth went numb. I hadn't realised she'd been holding a tiny syringe in her delicate hand.

She replaced three amalgam fillings and rebuilt the broken molar with the new white filling material. Scale and polish and I were as good as new!

That was ten years ago. These days I go every twelve months and fingers crossed to date have had no need of further treatment.

"Do you smoke"?

Asked my current dentist last Monday.


" Ah! Tea, coffee and wine stains. Come back in a couple of weeks and you can try out this new treatment we have. It's now bleaching. Come at lunchtime and wear casual clothing."

"Why we going paint balling"?

"No we sort of shot blast your teeth with this special cleaning powder and it goes everywhere"

Sadly unlike my regular treatment this isn't available on the NHS so I'm going to have to fork out £65 for it.

Bearing in mind as a kid any early morning visit to a relative would find them fishing their teeth out of a glass beside the bed. A wonderful interview I did with the late darts ace Jocky Wilson in the early eighties who admitted to only putting his teeth in to eat. The rest of the time they sat in his pocket.

Or the tale you told me on the show once of the elderly couple spotted sharing fish and chips on a bench outside a shop. Not only sharing the food but also passing the mutual teeth back and forth!

In order to keep my ivory castle in the peak of condition I think that money will be well spent don't you?

Monday 25 March 2013


Come the weekend the lack of sleep does tend to catch up with me. If I'm not with the Dark Lady at the
weekend I'll go home, potter around until about 5 or 6 in the evening then amble off to the pub for a couple of hours with the local paper and a bag of nerdy music magazines.

Then refreshed I'll totter back home again to some wholesome food with mountains of vegetables and catch up with all the TV I've recorded. It's usually some of the excellent music documentaries on BBC Four. Although they seem to specialise in using the same couple of people to present everything. You are never more than five minutes away from Alan Yentob.

They could do with trawling the talent pool a little more in my humble opinion. By which I mean hire me to do stuff! It has always been the trouble with the TeeVee. They can't see further than their latest "pash". Which has never been me…much to my irritation, amusement and - at times -frustration. At one point I began to think that Phill Jupitus actually lived in my telly he was on so much.

At this stage of my "career" this is actually a minor gripe. I've grown used to my lowly station in life and frankly it doesn't fuss me much nowadays. Although the recognition and the buckets of cash would be welcome.

Last Friday there was a slight change of plan as I set out to have a "couple of pints" with one my oldest and best friends, the writer and film maker, Bill Shipton. We've known each other for getting on for forty years now and we should both realise by now there is no such thing as "a couple of pints"! He is possibly the funniest man I've ever met and a brilliant raconteur so the time always flies by.

I met him in the pub at around 5 and looking at the timeline for various messages I received during the evening I set off for home at 11.23!

No wonder the inevitable happened when I returned home.

Normally on a Friday - not having been back to bed since I rose at 1.00am - I'm usually able to wolf down some food, watch a bit of telly then, before I can go upstairs to bed, I drop off to sleep and wake up cold and cramped on the settee at about 2 in the morning.

The Dark Lady (who is used to me complaining that I keep falling asleep in the chair) suggests all sorts of remedies. Such as a TV in the bedroom so that if I do fall asleep I'll be in the right place.

Or maybe I should set the alarm on my phone so I can rouse myself at a reasonable hour if I do nod off. Or if I forget to do that she even suggested I let her know when I'm leaving the boozer so she can wait an hour, then ring to wake me to tell me to go to bed.

"Nah, don't worry, I'm fine," I protest…before doing the same thing again.

I can look through the recording of the show I was watching the following morning and see at what point I nodded off.

"Remember it. Remember it. Remember it....gone"!

The transition from wakefulness to sleep happens in a matter of seconds.

Friday night and I beat the Alex Lester slumber sofa record.

I'd just forked down the last morsel and BLAMMO! I was gone. I came to cramped and cold with a crick in my neck at 4.30 the following morning.

Perhaps I should move the bed downstairs.

Thursday 21 March 2013


So on we trudged down the prom. In the distance we could see Heysham. Still no sign of Eric.

The sun shone and the air was fresh. We could smell the seaweed. It was bracing.

Two miles walked and still no sign of Eric.

At this point our opinions divided on gender grounds.

"Perhaps we should ask someone" Opined the Dark Lady.

"Nah. I'll look it up on my iPad."

"It would be far simpler to just ask someone."

"Look I have the technology lets use it".

"I'll fire up google earth. That'll show us where he is"

"OK" came the doubtful reply.



"Not got Google Earth on the iPad"

A very generous Xmas present from my dear wife.

"I'll go and ask someone"

"No need I'll just download it. Won't take a second."




"Not enough signal"

"Now I'll ask someone"

"No need. I've got Google Earth on my iPhone".

I'm using this handset as my new android is being repaired AGAIN!



"Not enough signal"

"Don't worry. Eric is right by the hotel."

"How do you know that"?

"While you were fiddling I went and asked someone which we should have done in the first place"!

We trudged back the way we had come marvelling at the view. Miles of sand and hills in the distance to our left. Boarded up shops to our right.

Two miles later and past the hotel we came across some ornamental hedge. There he was.

Eric Bartholomew in a jaunty pose. There was a steady stream of sightseers all striking the pose next to him. As he must be around seven feet tall unless you are a member of an American major league basketball team you are going to be the same scale as Little Ern when you stand next to him.

We took it in turns.

We even made a short video for the Facebook page

If you've never been. The exhibit is more than just the statue. Set into the steps and the prom around the statue are the catchphrases and a list of all their famous and in some cases due to the passage of time slightly less famous guests. Nina anyone?

Trio Athenee?

The Pattersons?

Agents and scriptwriters are, not forgotten and its a time capsule of light entertainment from the 60's to the shows demise in 1983.

It's very well done and a fitting tribute to one of the giants of British comedy.

A word though. When you are told "Turn left out of the hotel onto the prom"

They mean from the landward side. Not the seaward side!

Also when your partner says "let's ask someone" just do it. It saves a world of frustration and enables you to get to the bar quicker.

Monday 18 March 2013


The Dark Lady is a huge Morecambe and Wise fan. She loves comedy. Although whether she finds me amusing is another matter. If we differ I think it's that she prefers British comedy and I find the American version more compelling. That is not to say I sit stony faced though episodes of the Two Ronnies or Monty Python

Although "Bottle Boys", "Mind your Language" and "Terry and June" elicited little more than the odd wince. I'm more likely to laugh out loud at "Frasier", "The Big Bang Theory"or "Family Guy".

Likewise stand-up routines by Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard or Michael McIntyre might create the odd guffaw. It's the likes of Chris Rock, Bill Hicks or Brett Butler that make tears roll down my cheeky chops.

Eric and Ernie though hold a special place in everyone's hearts and they were the comedy soundtrack to the DL's and my lives.

So it was decided a trip to the birthplace of Eric Bartholomew was in order.


It was also a terrific opportunity to catch up with my excellent Auntie Daphne, who lives in the Lake District. You'll remember my aunt as we gave her a metronome for her 80th birthday in 2011, she being a music teacher of many years standing. So long, in fact, that her original one had worn out.

Where to stay? Well bearing in mind this was going to be a special pilgrimage we decided to push the boat out so instead of Mrs Miggins’ B&B we opted for the Art Deco Midland Hotel built in 1933 with its spectacular view of Morecombe Bay.

It wasn't as big as I expected but was wonderfully restored. We had a room at the top of the hotel which we noticed had been described as a "tacky pod" by a pressure group complaining about the restoration of the prom. Morecombe may boast a wonderful hotel and an excellent sea-front walk. Sadly though the town has seen better days and is in dire need of investment. This always brings out the "antis". I don't know the plans or the politics of any plans so can't comment. Although my own experience living in another seaside resort which has had similar problems shows that there will always be a battle between developers and residents.

Developers wanting to pack as much into the space and the other side wanting prettier less dense construction.

"We want 2,000 luxury flats and car parks"

"No. We want an Eco pod village with natural reed latrines"!

Accommodation aside, we'd arrived in the town on a mission....

We were here to see the statue of Eric Morecombe.

So having been given the directions by you, we dutifully left the hotel and turned left.

On we walked. Small plaques set into the Tarmac informed us of the placing of various landmarks and former landmarks. All this set against a backdrop of closed shutters and for sale signs. We walked. We walked some more and then we walked some more.

Where was Eric? Had he been removed for the winter? For restoration? Been stolen and melted down for scrap?

Where was he?

Monday 11 March 2013


A weekend at home catching up on my tv watching was in order. The torrential rain somehow had managed to make its way inside so I arrived back to a pool of water on the stairs. This has had a rather detrimental effect on the decorations.

When I bought the house it had been lacking in TLC for a number of years. This may have explained its bargain price. So over a period of years as money permitted it was refurbished from top to bottom. I can remember shortly after I moved in my parents came to stay one December, the central heating had bust and there was scaffolding inside the building as well as out.

Looking around the house I noticed that the state of the decorations has now become a little shabby. How could this have happened? Simple; I've been living there for getting on for fifteen years. The older you get the faster the time goes. It seems only yesterday that I moved in!

Still back to the weekend. As usual I'd been recording documentaries so sat my way through docs on Lemmy from Motörhead. A doc about Swing. Finally one about Mott the Hoople. It instantly transported me back to 1971 and as a fifteen year old going to see them at the Nottingham Albert Hall. My first ever concert and one which is forever etched in my memory.

Enthused by this huge amount of music I set to pre-filing the backlog of CDs. Being lazy I much prefer listening to music to actually filing it.

I've discovered that by putting albums roughly in alphabetical order I can then be standing in roughly the correct position with a handful of records rather having to dot about the place doing more unpleasant bending than normal.

I also fired up my new CD player. The replacement for the previous one that bit the dust recently. (See previous blogs).

The new one is identical to the previous one although for some reason the remote control is larger and didn't come with batteries. Grrrr!

Sunday and I hurried back to the bazoom of the family as it was Mother's Day. Incidentally check out my special message on Facebook  (click here)

In the evening we all went out for a something to eat.

Dark Lady likes Italian food so off we went the five of us.


Well. Mother. Two step children and their Dad and me. That's five. People ask me if I find this weird. I don't. I like the DL's ex husband Barry very much and we get on very well.

Although as the restaurant was packed with Mothering Sunday parties we did wonder what the waiting staff made of the five of us.

"Which one’s the father?"

The place is under a railway viaduct and we've been there before as we all like it.

On this occasion I think the sheer press of customers slightly overstretched them.

I ordered the Calzone (for some reason the kitchen didn't seem to be able to cope) whilst the rest of the family tucked into their spaghetti. I had to sit there like a lemon waiting for my pizza.

I hate it when this happens as you feel there is pressure for you to hurry it up as the others are waiting. Or if they decide to wait (even worse and I won't hear of it) their food grows cold as you wait for yours to arrive.

Whilst we were waiting we also realised that the music was deafening and we were having to shout to make ourselves heard. Even the staff were finding it difficult to hear.

When they kindly turned it down we realised why it was up so loud in the first place. It disguised the rumble of the trains overhead!

We had a great time and the pizza was worth waiting for. Just before we were due to leave our ears were assaulted by the wailing of a small child. As you know all enclosed public spaces have to boast a crying child. I think it's the law. Particularly in Cinemas and trains but definitely on aeroplanes. What had caused this outbreak of howling?

The corridor to the toilets was partitioned from the rest of the restaurant by batwing saloon type doors.

The kid had pushed them wide sashayed through and they had sprung back, belting him on the back of the head.

That never happened to John Wayne!

Wednesday 6 March 2013


Dark Lady and I took ourselves off to France for a week for a little R&R.

This actually meant relaxing in front of a wood burning stove with a glass of wine with a DVD on the TV and something nice to eat.

However something disturbing began to happen after a couple of days.

I don't think we can put it down to alcohol abuse as the DL is not much of a drinker so we shared a bottle of wine and that would be it for the evening. Enough probably for the health police to have an attack off the vapours. It's a week and we try not to drink any alcohol except at weekends these days.

After a few days we started to break things.

Over the course of four days we shattered innumerable glasses. A mug. A butter dish and chipped several plates.

What was causing this attack of fumble fingers?

Had we been poisoned just has the Two Ronnies were with their private eyes "Charlie Farley and Piggy Malone who had succumbed to the clumsy drug?

I have a suspicion it may have been caused by too much cheese.

We like cheese and every time we go over the channel we pop into the shop to buy "just a couple" of varieties.

This is actually impossible. We stagger out of the place laden with small portions of a load of different types.

Then the carnage began....



"Pont l'Eveque"?


"St Saverain"?






"Edel de Cleron"?







"Abbaye de Belloc"?


It may be only anecdotal evidence… However maybe Police and emergency services called to the site of an accident may like to test victims not only for the usual booze and drugs but also for dairy products.

Puts how do you test though?

"Excuse me sir have you been at the curds"?

"J-j-j-j-just a sliver of Cheddar Officer"

"I'm afraid we're going to have to do a cholesterol test"!