Hockney’s rubbish

October 25, 2012

I wrote this post way back just before Easter. For some reason, it’s been lying around as a draft. And so now I’m publishing it. I hope you like it. But if not, hey, what gives?


Or so you’d think, listening to the folks wandering the Royal Academy’s galleries. We went along to see Hockney’s latest exhibition, A Bigger Picture, on Good Friday. The exhibition closes this Easter weekend, and, just like us, it seemed many people had left it to the last minute to go. And so the queues were huge; at least an hour and a half until you could buy a ticket, and then another wait depending upon which time slot you got.

A nice lady stalked the queue, pointing out that, if you became a friend of the Royal Academy, there and then, you could get into the exhibition, there and then. And for free too! Once you’d become a friend. A friend who gives money that is. And so let me introduce you to my little friend; the Royal Academy.

Why do people queue up to see something they’re only going to moan about? What is it about art that gets people so angry? Heck, if you don’t like something, just move along there. It’s not as if Hockney’s only done two or three paintings. just relax please; all you people who have left it til the last weekend, to come with your words and your talking.

In a packed gallery it’s easy to loiter by those who have something to say. Occasionally you learn something; I never knew Hockney once gave Damien Hirst a dead leg in Tesco’s (I may have misheard this one); but more often than not you learn more about the talker… and hell, I know that in writing this I’m sort of showing off my big art mouth, so feel free to heckle…

Here’s my favourites:

Elderly fop to squirelled madame and (possible) first date: “And look, here, there’s no definition, as if he couldn’t be bothered, or got bored.” Move along please.

Grey fellow to owled and tired wife: “He says he painted them all at different times of the day, but look! Look at the sky! There, and there, and there in that one too! It’s the same blue! He’s used the same blue paint!” Owl wife; “What’s your point?” Grey mullet; “It’s just the same blue, he’s used the same paint!” Next please.

Tim Dowling lookalike pushing a baby in a pram to his word-beaten wife; “It’s a shame you don’t like blah blah blah.”

By the way, it wasn’t Tim Dowling, just to make that much clear. The little I know of Tim Dowling, from his columns, I doubt he’d choose to be so provocative to his wife. Surely he’d keep mum.

It’s not a shame that his wife didn’t like blah blah blah. I’m glad she didn’t like blah blah blah (blah blah blah because I can’t remember what it was… a Hockney thing). Maybe she liked the next one. Or none. That’s ok. No shame.

Was he threatened by his wife not liking what he liked? I do wish, in the gallery, she’d gone all Peanuts Pesci on him and started a “Shame, how?” row.



I don’t like some things. And I’ve had friends not get that, or not like it. l like shrugging and going “what gives?” I like Sparks. If I took it upon myself to tell all my friends that it was a shame that they didn’t like them, well, I’d have no friends. I just have to accept that not everyone likes Sparks. And the “don’t like” is the crucial thing. I  can’t choose to interpret “don’t like” as “don’t get”. It’s not for me to think they’re missing out. It’s their choice. Idiots. Shame.


The Life of Tess

August 11, 2010

Tess was born in 1990 and died in 2010 at the age of 20. If she were a human she would have been 96.

Tess (and her brother Bobbin, who died at the age of 15… 76 human years) spent their first 8 years living in Northampton; an outdoor life, living in a garden and a garage.

At the ages of 8 in 1998 they came to live with me and my then girlfriend. They then became indoor cats. They didn’t do much. Neither of them got a job and they rarely helped wash the pots.

But they did like long horse whips. With the right kind of flick of the whip they would leap 4 feet in the air and do acrobatic back flips. Why did I have a horse whip? A 4 foot long one with a 12 inch whippy tassle bit at the end? Well… when I worked on Live and Kicking we and the other presenters were sent lots of mail. Most of it lovely and sweet. Some of the presenters, however, would attract a more bizarre type of fan. Val would go through all of our mail before we got it, in case there was anything unsuitable. She would then censor it, and then we would all demand to see it. It’s difficult to censor (or hide) horse whips. These weren’t sent to me of course. Nor Jamie Theakston. The horse whips were sent to Zoe Ball. Zoe kindly gave me a couple. For the cats of course.

So, the cats enjoyed a couple of years playing with a whip. This, and sleeping, took up most of their days.

Somewhere along the line my life changed and I ended up moving to Peckham. The cats came with me. Tess liked to climb into bed and curl alongside me. I would have to turn her around when she tried to sharpen her claws on my… you get the drift. Bobbin would always stay on top of the sheets.

Then things changed again, I moved, and I couldn’t take the cats with me. My good friend Sarah took them. Only for six months mind, whilst I sorted myself out.

I’m still not sorted out and so six months became years. Bobbin and Tess became Sarah’s cats as much as (if not more than) mine. But I would visit, and they’d appear nonchalant. They loved me really.

They both stayed with Sarah until the end. Neither of them ever got jobs, and, to the best of my knowledge, neither ever helped Sarah even with the most basic of household tasks. No pot washing, no putting out the bins. Nothing. Just sitting around, eating and weeing and pooing. This is what cats do. It’s no good holding it against them. No point in getting angry.

If Tess had been human her life would have been something like this:

Tess was born in 1914, the year war broke out. By the time the First World War ended Tess was four years old. She was too young to be conscripted into the forces and she has little memory of the impact war had on her. She spent all of it living in a garage in Northampton.

Tess lived in the garage in Northampton until 1962, craftily avoiding all of World War II too.

In 1962, at the age of 48,  she moved to London to live with me. I was only a baby, new born, living in Salford. But somehow it worked out.

She stayed with me until she was 70. And then, around 1986, she moved in with Sarah. I don’t know what Sarah was doing in 1986, but I suspect she looked a little like this.

Tess was upset, for a short while, when her brother Bobbin went at the age of 76 in 1990. She missed him, but she didn’t miss his cheeky goes at her with his barbed penis (it’s a cat thing, don’t blame me).

She then settled into a happy and long retirement. When Tess announced her retirement the common response was “how would we know?”

And so to 2010.

96 year old Tess decided to call it a day. She’d had enough. On the journey to the vets she whispered in my ear. It was difficult to make it all out, what with her raspy little lungs and her shallow breathing, but what I could make out went something like this:

Thank you all for looking after me. Thank you Simon, thank you Sarah. I’m sorry I never helped out much. I wanted to wash the pots but I just couldn’t reach the sink. I’m sorry I never helped out in those World War things, but I wasn’t really there. It’s just you, Simon, doing this cat/human year thing. Though it’s a shame I can’t hang on a little longer just to get something from the Queen. Take  care, I’ll be fine. I love everyone who has looked after me. Bye.

With thanks to Andrea for the use of her photos. Andrea lived with Tess and Sarah for a while and Tess loved sleeping on Andrea’s bed. You can see many more  of her photos of Tess here.

Bye Tess

August 6, 2010

Tess 1990-2010 (pictured on the 3rd June 2010)

Tess has gone.

On Tuesday night I had a call from Sarah, my good friend and Tess’ ‘mum’. Tess had been sick and was really not well. I went over and as soon as I saw her I knew her time had come. In the car I held her in my arms rather than put her in the cat box. She had barely any life left; breathing shallow and quick, hardly moving. As Sarah drove I put my finger in her paw just to feel a reflex, just to know that she was still with us. The sweet thing managed a bit of a purr now and then.

I didn’t like having to sign a form giving consent to ‘humane destruction’. I know this is another term for euthanasia but… destroying little Tess?

She was 20 years old. That’s old for a cat. If she were human she’d be 96.

I want to say thank you to all those who have looked after Tess (and her brother Bobbin too, who died when he was 15) throughout her 20 years. Those who, whether it was for years or hours, looked after her:

Dermot, Julie, Lydia, Paul, Trev and family, Andy and Thomas, David and Charlie, Simon, , Vic, Emily, Nick. No doubt many more I’ve failed to mention.

Finally a big big thank you to Sarah. Tess came to you to be looked after whilst I sorted out somewhere to live. You maybe expected to have the two for six months? A year? Tess has been with you for at least a third of her life. Thank you for caring for her so.

I will write some fun stuff about Tess soon. A twenty year history… but maybe viewed through a 96 year life. That’s to come. And, should you wish, you can read previous Tess posts here.

For now, rest in peace Tess.

Magician’s Knee

July 27, 2010

I’m catsitting in Richmond. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. I’ve also got to read over the second draft of our film (I write with Trev Neal). I’ve been told to prepare myself for the cuts ahead (no dopey, not the removal of the UK Film Council, the cuts in our screenplay to get the running time down). I also know, from all the e-mails flying around, that Trev is happy (ish). So, looking forward to a good read and, hopefully, a screenplay that might possibly someday somewhere get made, I went out to buy two things; a cigar and a beer. Then, a sit in the garden and a read.

Out on my cigar and beer hunt I overheard a woman on a mobile phone. She kept saying “magicians knee, magicians knee.”*

I like it. I wish I had it. I wonder what it is.

It’s got to be one of two things. Maybe three. Or four.

Most likely it’s a fake knee, a little like a hidden pocket. A prosthetic knee “cap” that flips open and in which you can store a pigeon.

That’s the most likely thing it is.

It could also be a medical condition. One of those medical conditions, like Tennis Elbow, where, until you get it, you have no idea what it is.

Possibly it is just the knee of a magician. It’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Or, and this is, sorry to say, the most likely explanation; she wasn’t saying Magicians Knee. She was saying something else, in a foreign language. Something I don’t understand.

Now to read and have a cigar, like the man in Misery.

* Magicians knee, magician’s knee, magicians’ knee- you decide.


June 13, 2010

I’m catsitting again. I tend to do this a couple of times a year for friends who like to have a holiday. It gives me somewhere to live. And it gives my long-suffering friend who kindly houses me a break every now and then (it was meant to be for six months or so… now… 3 or 4 years later… oh my… I have become the guest who won’t leave). So far I have four families in need of occasional catsitting. Maybe, in time, I can build up enough cat families, all taking holidays at different times, so that I can just float from cat house to cat house, never needing a place of my own.

Now I am catsitting for Stella, Tigger and Pirate (the names of the cats, not their owners… not that you can own a cat). Saucer too, but sadly she disappeared a few days before I arrived. We hope she’ll come back, but it’s been a while now. She’s blind too. Hopefully someone, somewhere, has taken her in.

Tigger on top, Stella down below

Stella looks calm doesn’t she, sleeping down below? Well she won’t let me get near her. There’s low level growls that make all of Hither Green quiver, and then comes the hissing, the spitting, the scratching.

I looked up Stella on the internet to try and write some witty Tennessee Williams thing; to portray myself , sweaty and vesty, crying her name in despair. But I was distracted by this Stella picture. I can’t really compete with a nude lady holding a lamb.

Tigger is far more friendly. Tigger moves like a Ray harryhausen cat, all stop-motion jerks and crazy head twitches. At feeding time she paces around in circles, whipping her head like a lion would if I was standing there in a red top hat and tails. She sometimes walks around Pirate, as he sits still, waiting patiently for his half a pack of jellied cat stuff.

Pirate’s the friendliest. Given the chance, he’ll jump up on my lap; at night he sleeps on the bed.

The other two spend most of the time sleeping on my bags. Wherever I go the cats are always drawn to my bags. That’s fine, but with mad cat Stella plonking herself on my suitcase I’ve now gone ten days without a change in underpants.

First pics

February 11, 2010

Here’s some pics I have taken with my new camera; a surprising and lovely gift from a very kind reader of my blog. I’m just getting used to it and so far have only used it in automatic mode, but as you can see it takes lovely pictures, even of beer.

Andrea and Samantha requested animals. Andrea, smiling ones. Well, Tess always smiles. Inwardly. Trevor Hickman wanted a tiger. I’ll work on that, but for now here’s a lion. John Southern, Suvvo on Twitter, asked for an empty pint of Timothy Taylor.

I see this as the start of a bizarre project that could last all of a few weeks.

20 year old Tess sits by 2 month old Noah


Glass all full

Glass all empty

A year ago today I wrote my first blog entry. You can find it here. It’s a test one really, not about much; though in saying that I do Bobbin and Tess a disservice.

A year ago I was full of crazy excitement. Blogging was a new adventure. I hadn’t got a clue what I would write. I felt that bit by bit, writing at least a post a day, I would find my feet and discover why I was doing this.

A year on I’ve slowed down a bit. No post every day, but I try for a couple a week. And I’ve expanded. We’ve got the Trev and Simon blog on the go, and I’ve started 20th Century Mummified Fox– a blog where I can indulge in my love of films.

I still don’t know why I’m doing this. I haven’t found my feet. Of course it’s an indulgence; no doubt I am showing off, but showing off what? It’s not a comedy blog. It’s not some kind of confessional. I’m no film critic. Nor a photographer. But this blog is made up of bits of all of these. And lots of animals.

And it keeps me busy when times are tough. I enjoy it. And so, sometimes, do some of you. All of the people who come here and read or look, thank you. I know there’s lots of blogs out there, blah blah blah airline appreciation speech.

And thank you all for your comments. I enjoy reading them and I enjoy the interaction. And, to my pleasant surprise, the comments over the year have been thoughtful and considered, even when being critical. I haven’t, as yet, had to delete any for taking the chance to hurl abuse at me. Still, there’s time. My blog is just a baby.

Since the whole blogging thing is one enormous indulgence, for Mummified Fox’s first birthday I am going to pick some of my blog favourites from my 234 posts. One from each month.

November 2008- This and That’s Entertainment. Every year I go to Great Yarmouth to play pool. But which is best, Great Yarmouth or Las Vegas?

December 2008- Tommie Smith and John Carlos. I drag my family to see the Tommie Smith and John Carlos statue in San Jose.

January 2009- Murderer. Me, Trev and Cyndi Lauper have a close shave with Coronation Street murderer Tony Gordon.

February 2009- Deal or No Deal on the Dole. Ok, a bit of a weird one. this is a story about Deal or No Deal, Noel Edmonds, a luckless contestant, and Cosmic ordering.

March 2009- The Nazis. I drew them at school and only got a B+.

April 2009- A Nightingale sang in the 100 Club. A sort of review of the Nightingales and Ted Chippington.

May 2009- “Yes, I spent money on furniture”. Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove and the elephant lamps we bought him. Including comments from the man himself (or so it seems).

June 2009- Pigs, a goose and a sheep. Just as it says.

July 2009- I’m going to cheat here and mention two posts. I’m not quite sure why it’s cheating; there’s no rules, it’s my blog. But at the top of this post I did say I’d pick one from each month, so yes, I am cheating. First Like the circles that you find– a guide to reglazing windows. And also RIP Rob. Rob sold the Big Issue outside Hither Green station. He died in July.

August 2009- Little and Large. My mum and dad used to go to The Talk of the North in the 70’s and see all the top acts. Years later I get to meet one of them.

September 2009- The Rogers Brothers and the Cox twins. The real life inspiration for two of our characters.

October 2009- Bigmouth strikes again. Possibly my most personal and indulgent post and also my most commented on.

So there’s some of my favourites for the year. If you click on any of them I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please look at some of the remaining 221 posts.

I was going to use the blog’s first birthday to say why it’s called Mummified Fox. but I’m going to save that for next year.


Happy 1st Birthday Mummified Fox


October 26, 2009

Yesterday I visited my cat Tess. She doesn’t live with me but is looked after by some very good friends. She’s their cat too. She’s a shared cat, though cats, were they able, would deny belonging to anybody.

She’s old now. Nineteen. And tiny. She weighs just under 3kg. Her brother Bobbin died a few years back at the age of fifteen.



Tess may miss him. We don’t know. They used to cuddle up with each other, but then Bobbin would always take it one step too far and try and have his way with her. I never knew what to do. Should we impose our morality on our cats? Tess would always sort things out with a high pitched meow and a whack. I couldn’t blame Bobbin; he deserved some fun after having vets do their business down below many years ago. I was always amazed and surprised that he still had the urge.

And then you find out more things. Who knew cats had barbed penises? Not me. So Tess, I’m sorry I didn’t stop him.

Tess is doddery now. She’s totally deaf and fairly blind but otherwise in reasonably good health considering that, in human years, she’s 173. When I saw her a week ago she had a little siezure of sorts. It could have been cramp, or rheumatism, arthritis, a stroke. She stood up and all one side of her had gone dead. She could only walk sideways and she kept bumping up against the wall. After a short while she recovered.

She has difficulty getting up and down stairs. She can’t jump up on to beds or sofas anymore, but she can fall off them.

Yesterday she was in good form. I spent a bit of time with her, trimmed her claws and combed her fur. She’s pretty good at taking care of herself and grooming, but she’s old, so she doesn’t mind a bit of help.

And she’s found a new friend, though I think it was the sun that was the attraction.




Four snails and a chip

July 11, 2009

As I came back from Lewisham People’s Day (I’ll write about the day tomorrow), as I walked to Hither Green Station, I saw four snails eating a chip. Or maybe pushing it home. This was new for me. I’ve never seen this before. It’s possibly the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I saw a wasp battle a spider (the wasp won by eating the spider’s legs).

I stopped and looked on in wonder. There was no one around so I felt pretty cool about taking a snap. And then a woman turned the corner and walked towards me, just as I was in macro mode. I felt an urge to share the moment. She was impressed. She laughed. And as she walked away she turned back and said “Shame. Someone’ll not see them and stand on them.” She was quite likely right. There’s not much you can do in a situation like this to help a snail. You can’t shoo them along, as you would a cat. You can’t prod them, as you would a frog to make it hop out of danger. You can’t even pick them up without risking crunching their home to pieces. And even if you could do any of these things, what of the chip, their greatest and largest meal ever?

I hope they enjoyed their last supper.


Thriller- photographed by Tippi Hedren

Thriller- photographed by Tippi Hedren

I’ve avoided the whole Michael Jackson thing. Oh sure, I’ve posted a few, mildly cheeky comments on Twitter. But the truth is Michael Jackson’s pretty much passed me by, and once things started getting really dodgy, I just kept away forever.

Actually that’s not quite true. When HIStory came out in 1995 he craftily put a “free” disc in with it, full of his hits. I was nearly fooled. I thought it was some kind of bargain; a must have. We were touring at the time, and as was our style, we would spend far too much time in record shops. I’d loiter by the HIStory shelves, pondering Jacko’s stone pose. I’d pick up the CD and that would be when Trev, my comedy partner, would intervene. “Put it back!”

As simple as that. “Put it back!” A moment’s hesitancy and “NOW!” I’d asked him to act as my Jacko protector and he did a good job. The CD would be returned and Trev would lead me in the direction of Weller.

I paid a little attention when John Landis and Martin Scorsese got involved in making the videos, but surely Bad was just a blip in Scorsese’s career. Where was his Trev? Where was De Niro, pointing out the error, telling him to put the Jackson back? Now!

But, you know, the poor guy’s died, only 50, and, whatever his faults and failings, that’s sad. And those that are hurting are not just his fans, but his family and those nearest and dearest to him.

Like Thriller and Sabu.

Thriller and Sabu were Michael’s Bengal tigers, named after his album Thriller and his little-known duet with Terry Brunk Ebony and Slam Dunk (possibly) . When he closed his zoo, Thriller and Sabu had to pack their bags. Off they headed to the Shambala Preservea jam animal sanctuary founded by the gorgeous Tippi Hedren.

It may seem odd that a woman most known for being pecked to bits by birds should choose to work with animals. But not really, for The Birds isn’t true. It’s a story made up by Ed McBain, writing under the name of Evan Hunter.

And so Tippi told the tigers. “I went up and sat with them for a while and let them know that Michael was gone. You don’t know what mental telepathy exists from the human to the animal, but I hope they understood.” Me too.

Apparently, Bubbles hasn’t been told yet. He’s 26 now, and has a bit of a temper. According to The Sun he spends his days listening to “calming flute music”.

According to me Bubbles said “Give me calming flute music over Why You Wanna Trip on Me anyday.”