Ok, yesterday I did my yearly round-up of the Top Ten comedy DVDs, according to Amazon. Some of you have complained. Some of you don’t like this comedian, or that comedian. Well guess what you lot! Me neither! Some I like, some I don’t. I don’t get to choose the Top Ten. I guess sales do, or something.

Did any of you notice that all the Top Ten are male? And 9 out of 10 are white? And the only comedian who isn’t white is described as “dangerous”? Like I say, I don’t pick. I just watch and-

Oh no! The Top ten has changed today! How’d that happen? It’s a minor change; Bailey’s out, Mack’s in.

For the sake of this poll coming up, I am going to use the Top Ten from yesterday. Now remember! this is very important! You are NOT voting for who you think is the funniest. There are two polls: the first one is for the best cover, the second one is for the worst cover. Got it?

Here’s an example. You can’t stand McIntyre (not necessarily you, but someone on Twitter did express annoyance that he was in here), but you do love his cover… then you must vote for him. THESE ARE THE RULES! Please stick to them.

Ok, here goes:

Oh no! First a quick reminder. Here they are:

Henning Wehndylan moranalan carrChris Ramseybill baileyPaul ChowdryMichael McIntyreDara o BriainJohn BishopKevin BridgesNow here goes:

And now the opposite. Which do you think is the worst?

 

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It’s that time again. Christmas-time. And Here I am with the annual round-up of Top Ten Comedy DVDs, helping you make those difficult Christmas present choices.

This is how it works: The Top Ten is taken from today’s Amazon Stand-Up comedy recommendations. I’ve not watched any of them. I don’t read anything about them (not even the Amazon blurb). I look at the covers and come to unfair conclusions. I’ll say the same as last year: “Yes, I am judging a comedy DVD by its cover.”

Here goes, counting down from ten to one.

10: Henning Wehn

Henning Wehn

Henning Wehn

It looks like we’re off to a good start. Henning is “a superb social commentator” with “great likeability”…. Woaaaaahhhh! Hold your horses! He’s only gone and said that about himself! Where’s the quotes from The Sun, or the guardian, or anyone else. Ah! There is a quote from Everybody Else! He’s “that German bloke”.

There’s a clue to his Germanness (Germanity? Germanicity?) in the title Eins, Zwei, DIY. And we can also tell that this is a DVD of his live show from the use of the word “Live”. As far as titles go, I like puns, and this made me laugh. But then I laughed a little less when I remembered a similar comedic use of the 123 thing from a German zombie film a few years back.

dead snow

Ein! Zwei! With my little eye!

Still, it’s a good start to our Top Ten. And Henning looks like Frank Skinner in a never-made Ronnie Barker shop sitcom called Spanner’s Manor, where Frank/Ronnie/Henning would have played Sam Spanner, a DIY shop owner who’s a private dick on the side.

Henning’s DVD is a 15 certificate, shown twice (once in blue, once in red) making it suitable for 30 year olds. It is available on Amazon for £10.

9: Dylan Moran

dylan moran

Dylan Moran

There’s going to be a pattern here with the certificates. Why they have to do it twice is anyone’s guess. Globalisation or something.

Anyway, this is Dylan Moran. Live. It’s called Off the Hook. No one knows why. Here’s some suggestions: Dylan has been let ‘off the hook’ by someone… a family member? The police?; the DVD has a fishing theme; it’s a bit like Off the Pegg– a not-yet-made one joke-fits-all fest by funnyman Simon Pegg; It’s a DVD of jokes stolen from New Order funnyman Peter Hook; it has no meaning.

Dominic Cavendish, from The Telegraph, says: “This show makes the world seem a better place”. It may well be deliberate but I have no idea what that means. He does give it four stars though, and that is good.

Unidentified writers from the guardian, The Times, and the Evening Standard also give the show four stars. One must assume that, unlike the brazenly out there Dominic Cavendish, these other writers are spies.

Nevertheless, it gives the DVD a total of 16 stars. That means it is good and funny. You can get it at Amazon for £10.

8: Alan Carr

alan carr

Alan Carr

15 + 15. This is Yap, Yap, Yap! Live. It is described by Guardian (not the guardian, so really, it could be anyone!) as “Hooting jabberfest”. (What in hell’s name has happened to the definite and indefinite articles here? Have they gone on holiday for Christmas?)

Anyway, let’s get to the point. Dogs yap, owls hoot. I’m guessing Alan is an animal impersonator. Available for £9.79.

7: Chris Ramsey

Chris Ramsey

Chris Ramsey

15 x 2. Lots of info here. It’s Live. And you get a full-length bonus show thrown in too. It’s All Growed Up, which means… it’s not… ’cause it’s said in baby talk. And Chris is holding a microphone made out of Lego (I wonder if he had to buy it, like Ai Weiwei?) It’s “Stand-Up gold” too (from the proper the guardian). So, everything’s looking good for this one, except…

“Frighteningly talented… tearing up every stage he lands on.” GQ

This is really worrying. Why does he land on stages? Has he only ever performed in Miss Saigon? Is he an alien? And then why on earth would he tear them up? Has he a Hulk complex?

And how is he managing to lean on a blue sticker that isn’t a sticker at all but they’ve still gone and made it curl up at the edges to try and fool us into thinking it is a sticker after all?

Putting aside these worries and doubts, Chris’ video takes us back up to the £10 mark.

6: Bill Bailey

bill bailey

Bill Bailey

It’s a first this year! A 12 certificate DVD. 12 + 12 = 24. Fun for (most of) all the family!

You know where you are with this one. “Sublime hilarity” and “Blissfully funny”… from proper papers. And then there’s jokes on top! The big joke is the plug pun (it made me laugh). The smaller joke is the “high voltage comedy” bit. And the surreal joke is the tick showing that the DVD is “approved by most goverments” (I’m guessing that the missing ‘n’ is a joke I am missing out on, rather than a spelling mistake).

And you get three DVDs for £10.57!

5: Paul Chowdhry

Paul Chowdry

Paul Chowdry

Man, this one gives me the heebiegeebies!

Seriously, what gives? “Imperiously on top of his game”? Is that good? From the Mail on Sunday too? maybe it’s a spoof. Five stars though. and another five from the Daily Mirror to show that he’s cool on the left too. No quote from them, but the stars are adding up. Ten stars so far.

But then Eastern Eye lets Paul down. No stars and “Dangerous comic genius”. Dangerous? What!? Surely a comedian to be avoided?

Imperious? Dangerous? Genius? Is he after a part in the next Bond film?

But, ever fond of the cheaper stuff, PC’s World is funny.

As a little aside; when me and Trev worked on Going Live! and Live & Kicking our producer, David Mercer, was responsible for deciding if  our content was acceptable/broadcastable. At times, he could be harsh on us (or so we thought), and so, in the face of BBC right-on thinking, we would always sing the same song at him. And it went like this; “Where in the world? David Mercer’s PC World”. That’s all. Not even funny. It just stuck. But if you ever meet him, do sing it to/at him.

Back to the £10 DVD.

4: Michael McIntyre

Michael McIntyre

Michael McIntyre

You knew he’d turn up. What would the Top Ten be without him? If anything, it’s scandalous he hasn’t made the Top Three!

No newspaper quotes here, because he doesn’t need them. “The record-breaking comedian returns with his brand new show!” A brand new show! It’s a shame they don’t tell us what record(s) he has broken. I’m going to plump for World’s Greatest Curtain Peeper.

It’s Live at The 02 Arena (does it have red curtains?) It’s called Happy and Glorious but where’s the trademark McIntyre smile?  If anything, he’s looking sneaky. As if he’s about to rob the 02. With a prosthetic hand.

Long to reign over us. 15 + 15. £10.

3: Dara O Briain

Dara o Briain

Dara O Briain

Here’s Dara O Briain spoofing a Phrenology Head, looking a little like the third of the Three Wise Monkeys. “Devilishly sharp” says Metro. What’s devilishly sharp? Dara? The scalpel that separates the sections of the brain? A Kitchen Devil knife?

Look closely and you’ll see what to expect: audience chat, highbrow, lowbrow, Gloria Estefan, Not bumping into things. Oh, and a formula I don’t understand, and gags! Gags! Right by his left eye.

Crowd Tickler. Ken Doddish? £10.

2: John Bishop

John Bishop

John Bishop

Possibly the most understandable cover amongst the lot. John Bishop. Live. At The Royal Albert Hall. “Britain’s top comic”, the Daily Mirror.

But hang on… Supersonic Live? Supersonic? As in Syd Little? I guess this is John’s tribute to Cyril Mead, the Little half of Little and Large, always referred to by Edward McGinnis, the Large half of Little and Large, as Supersonic. It’s a nice touch. And always welcome to see the new wave of comedy acknowledge the old wave. Or whatever.

Nice arrows. 30 year olds. £7.99! Cheapest so far! (unless you price Bill Bailey’s per disc).

And so to Number One. The Top DVD on Amazon today! Beating “Britain’s Top Comic”! Who can it be?

1: Kevin Bridges

Kevin Bridges

Kevin Bridges

It’s Kevin Bridges! “Kevin Bridges might just become the best stand-up comedian in the land” says The Times. That’s … ummm… treading carefully. Might just become!? “Kevin Bridges might just become the best replacement Letter I on the cover of his DVD in the land”. Me.

Perhaps comedians just like to have a laugh with the newspaper quotes. Or perhaps Kevin can’t bring himself to do the usual cheeky trick; the one where you go – “Kevin Bridges… the best stand-up comedian in the land”.

It’s A Whole Different Story… Live 2015 . There’s also one of those stickers that aren’t stickers (though at least this one isn’t fake peeling) stating that the DVD “also includes Kevin’s set from BBC1’s Live at The Referendum”. Like Live at The Apollo I guess, but I have no idea where The Referendum is. It might be in Scotland.

I feel distracted. Is there a big I behind Kevin, or is he a human I? And has he got his hands in his pockets to stop McIntyre prosthetic hand syndrome? £10.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll do some polling. Have your say. Which are the best covers, which the worst. Voting commences tomorrow.

Something Sunday

November 29, 2015

It’s Something Sunday isn’t it. Yeah, it is. Something Sunday. Comes two days after Black Friday and the day after Shrug Saturday.

Something Sunday. The day before Cyber Monday. Two days before Tired Tuesday. Followed by What Wednesday, then Green Thursday, and then, a full week on from Black Friday, we have Just Friday, when all the magistrates use No Win No Fee claim forms as auxiliary toilet paper. Next Saturday is Next Saturday, when all branches of Next offer Same day Delivery, tomorrow. And then, we come full circle to the following Sunday which, at the moment, is flirting with calling itself Sallow Sunday; a day where all yellow gifts that have been left in sun-bleached windows over the summer will be sold off at bargain prices to the first customers who skin-tones match the product.

It’s difficult keeping up isn’t it? Do you remember the good old days when days just had a number, or a one-word name? Monday the 12th, or Wednesday the 29th… and so on. Do you remember? Think back. Do you remember when there was that Monday in your childhood that was just a Monday, any old bog-standard Monday, but what a great Monday it was? We all loved that Monday. I think it was Monday 16th July, 1979. What a Monday! Glorious. A Monday. With a number. 16.

The good old days.

And then came Saturday. Saturday 21st 1979. What an awful day. Mondays were never the same after that were they? Bob Geldof and his bloody pop song. Released on the 21st; completely buggering up the 23rd. So he didn’t like Mondays? He could have kept it to himself. But no, too late, he’d opened the floodgates. Blue Monday was next and the world was never the same.

And now here we are, on Something Sunday.

Let’s try and make the most of Something Sunday. Let’s try and make something positive out of the hell Geldof unleashed.

Let’s make Something Sunday something special. Let’s make it Strangeness Sunday.

Have I told you about STRANGENESS in SPACE?

(I know. I can hear you; “so that was his plan all along. To start off with some nonsense, some improvised rubbish, and then to slowly suck us all in only to bang on about his new thing.”

Yes. It was my plan. Sorry. Sorry Sunday.)

If you haven’t heard about STRANGENESS in SPACE, it’s a new audio sci-fi comedy me and Trev have done (done as in written, acted in etc) along with Sophie Aldred (Ace to Sylvester McCoy’s Dr Who). We’ve also had the most amazing special guests involved, including Doon Mackichan and Rufus Hound.

You can listen to Episodes 1 and 2 here. For free.

We’ve now written Episode 3, and the writing for Episode 4 is underway. We also have a great new special guest for Episode 3. Only the comedy legend that is Alexei Sayle! This is so exciting for us. It’s just amazing to be able to ask some of our favourite funny people and for them to actually say yes.

And the great thing is, because this project is crowd-funded, we have no suits hovering over us, telling us we can’t do this, we must do that. We are lucky enough to be able to do exactly as we want. And if we want Alexei Sayle in it, we ask and cross our fingers. And the great man said yes.

Crowd-funding made this happen. You all made this happen. It’s a great thing, and we’re all in it together. Tell me why, I do like crowd-funding.

But (oh, I know, there’s always a big but)…

We crowd-funded Eps 1 and 2 through Kickstarter. We went beyond our intended target enabling us to fund not one, but two episodes. But now we are on to Episodes 3 and 4 we need to raise the money ourselves and crowd-fund through our own website.

We’re getting there, but the sooner we can hit our target the sooner we can get our great cast back into the studio to record the next two episodes.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to STRANGENESS in SPACE please do take a look at our ‘shop’. We’ve lots of things in there costing from just a few pounds to… well… a few more. Anything bought in the shop goes straight towards our goal to fund the next episodes; to pay all the people who are working so hard on our behalf to get this made; our Production Team, our cast, all those helping behind the scenes. All these great people are working long and hard hours, and often for ridiculously favourable ‘mates rates’. I promise you, everything we spend is up there on that audio “screen”.

Here’s some of my favourites from the shop:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is our first set of STRANGENESS in SPACE badges. You can get the set for £6 including Postage and Packing (posted and packed by me or Clare, with a handwritten note too).

We liked these so much we had a second set made too… a little more in the know for ‘Mirthlings’ who’ve listened to the first two episodes.

badges-layout-1-350x300

We’ve also got T-shirts, Beanie hats, Bags for Life. You can find our shop by clicking on this link.

Christmas is coming soon too. We have our own STRANGENESS “Merry Spacemas”card in the shop. It’s signed by me, Trev, Sophie, and Clare. It can be dedicated to whoever you choose. And we can post it to them for you, or we can post it to you.

spacemas-350x300

If you fancy helping us get the next episodes made but you don’t necessarily want us to post you anything, why not consider sponsoring a page of our script. Each page can be ‘commissioned’ by you. It will have your name at the top of the page for all the cast to see and we will also email you the script once it is released. This is limited to the number of pages in the script, and at the mo we have 11 left. You can be one of our page commissioners for £20 and you can do that by clicking on this link.

Ok. Enough I think. Enough trying to flog you stuff for today. Enough Something Sunday. You came here for a bit of fun, I reeled you in, and then I gave you the hard sell.

But… if you can help, please do. We are having so much fun getting STRANGENESS in SPACE made, and we can’t wait to be getting on with the next two episodes.

Happy Sunday everyone. And remember, tomorrow is Monday. Just Monday. But do watch out for the Cybermen.

 

 

Our favourite Comedian

June 10, 2014

In the early 80’s me and Trev met at Manchester University. We were doing degrees in Drama (one each). I can’t speak for Trev, but I was hardly the most academic of students. Nor was Trev. As our friendship developed, so did our interest in comedy, more commonly known then as mucking around a bit and getting up late.

We were blessed with having tutors who not only indulged our experiments in comedy but also actively encouraged it. (Every Monday night students would perform their latest experimental pieces at the department’s Stephen Joseph Studio, a converted church where we once tried an ‘alternative comedy’ take on Chekhov).

One of our tutors was Dr David Mayer (later to become Professor David Mayer). David’s daughter, Lise, was the girlfriend of a former student, Rik Mayall. The two of them, along with another former Manchester student, Ben Elton, had just written a new sitcom for the BBC called The Young Ones.

We had no TV. We were students; we had no money. Any money we did have had to be spent on beer. And tins of Goblin Dumplings (50p at Oobidoo. Everything at Oobidoo was 50p. That’s why their slogan was –Don’t ask the price. We always did.)

The Drama Department had a TV. And a video player! Every week David Mayer would video The Young Ones for us. And I do mean us, the two of us. Others may have come along too, but David, gently pushing us in all the right directions, knew it was important for us to see this show.

There’d been nothing like it. And it was made by students from Manchester! Not Oxford, not Cambridge. Manchester! It was the most ground-breaking Mancunion contribution to comedy since Frank Randle (and, if you have four minutes to spare to watch this clip from Somewhere On Leave, 1943, you’ll see that Frank would have fitted very nicely into the world of The Young Ones).

Sometime shortly after this, in 1983, David said; “Lise, Rik, and Ben are going to be at my house over the weekend. Would you like to come and meet them on Saturday night.”

Ok… stop. Take a big long break in reading. I’d like to leave a big long gap on the page but that’d be daft. Just imagine the time it’s taking me, even now, for this to sink in. Would we, two stupid students, barely out of our teens, like to meet the creators of The Young Ones? At our tutor’s house?

Let’s deal with David Mayer’s house first.

It was a Mansion of Myths. We’d never been there, but we’d heard the rumours. Apparently he had a shower with three heads! And a Picasso! And we were being invited there! To meet The Young Ones! (I know exclamation marks should be used sparingly, but… come on!!!)

Now, the meeting. Of course we went. We even prepared: We spent Saturday afternoon scooting around Oobidoo, looking for fun items and generally asking the price. We settled on a wind-up spider. 50p.

And so we headed off on Saturday night to our tutor’s home in the posh part of Manchester armed only with a wind-up spider. (I don’t know at what age we learn to take wine, but whatever age, we hadn’t reached it yet).

We arrived at the house. And whatever you read from this point onwards, I assure you, did happen. David greeted us and showed us into a huge half kitchen, half dining room, with a small dividing wall about three feet high in the middle. In the dining room half there was a circular table. And there was Rik, Lise, Ben… and possibly someone else (sorry someone else). David didn’t introduce us… oh, he may have said something like “this is Trev and Simon”… but he didn’t explain who we were or why we were there. The one other thing he did do was to ask us to keep an eye on some steaks he was grilling in the far half of the kitchen.

This of two idiots whose diet consisted of tinned Goblin products.

And David disappeared! Where did he go? To this day no one can answer that. But the best bets are ‘to have a look at his Picasso’ or ‘to have a shower’.

So… we kind of stood around. The others, at the table, carried on talking to each other. At one point we wound up the wind-up spider and let it have a little walk. It didn’t get much of a reaction. But then, why should it? These fellows had demolished a house in their first episode.

We hadn’t been asked to do much by our tutor. Just keep an eye on some steaks. But that wasn’t our forte. We did our best. We wandered over to the cooker. We looked at them. And then they burst into flames.

How can a steak catch fire? I’m sure it’s easy to burn a steak, to ruin it; but for it to catch fire?

Trev struggled to get the grill out. He did, eventually, but not before the fire alarm went off.

The rest is a blur.

***********************************************************************************************
On Monday night we did a daft bit of comedy at The Stephen Joseph Studio. It ended with us dropping some kind of large object off a balcony onto our wind-up walking spider. The spider was smashed to bits. And Rik, and Lise, and Ben were there.

Afterwards we talked about Saturday night. They had no idea why we were there or who we were. They said they hadn’t realised we were ‘comedians’. Which could have been a compliment or not, but either way we had a long chat with our comedy heroes. And for the next few days they were around and about. One night I played cards with Ben and Rik (Ben insisted on giving me money for a taxi home. I insisted on refusing it. I walked the three miles home in the rain. What an idiot student.) Another night we sat chatting with Rik in the bar at The Contact Theatre (the theatre connected to the drama department). He gave us lots of advice and he even gave us his phone number (before mobiles… this was Rik’s home phone number!) and told us to phone him whenever we wanted. He also gave us a quote to use on our publicity for our first Edinburgh show. He told us to use, “My favourite act!”

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Up in Edinburgh, doing our first ever show in 1984, we walked past a poster for a band. I can’t remember the band, but I can remember the quote: “My favourite band”, Rik Mayall.

RIP Rik. Thank you. x

Go Sober- three days to go

September 28, 2013

Three days until Go Sober kicks off. It’s simple; I will go teetotal for 31 days, and I hope some of you will donate to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The aim is to raise £1664. It’s a lager thing. And now I am not on my own. My lovely wife Zoe has decided to join me. She’s giving up drinking for a month too.

Here’s the thing. Me giving up drinking is one thing. Zoe giving up is another thing. The two of us giving up is two things that add up to a whole lot of things. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not even going to be easier! It’s going to be like Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway in Barfly. Except in reverse. If you thought running a Marathon for charity was hard, then you’re an idiot!

Please help us two jokers get through this. And in so doing, you will be properly helping people who need proper help.

There are three ways of donating:

You can sponsor me by clicking on this highlighted sentence. It will take you to my GoSober page.

You can sponsor Zoe by clicking on this highlighted sentence. If you are quick you might become Zoe’s first sponsor.

You can sponsor us as Team Mr and Mrs Hickson by clicking on this.

To Simon, Clare, Vicky, Sophie, Gerald, Malcolm, Darren, Christine, and Christian; thank you for getting us off to a flying start before the month even begins.

And that’s a crucial thing. It’s still September. Later we will be going shopping. Zoe needs to get some tonic to go with the four G&T’s she claims she will drink tonight. I’ll be finishing off my bottle of Black Cow Milk Vodka that Zoe got me for my birthday.

We are not alcoholics. We do not condone or promote drinking to excess. We just really really really need to clear the house out.

 

 

The Comedians part 5

December 22, 2012

Ok, I’m a little behind. And there’s barely any shopping days left til Christmas. So let’s get going on this Comedy DVD countdown lark. You can find the first three in Zavvi’s Comedy DCD chart here. You can find the next one, in at no.7, here.

Now, onto no.6. Oh, and please do remember the ‘rules’; I am judging these comedy DVD’s by their covers alone. Not the content; not the comedian.

Mostly.

Jack Whitehall no.6

No.6 Jack Whitehall

It’s Jack Whitehall Live. Not much to go on with this cover. It’s his debut stand-up DVD. There’s no quotes. Possibly because it’s so new, so debut, it’s as yet unseen.

He’s got the look of a Noel Edmond’s son about him. He’s crossed his arms in such a way that his left thumb is either missing, or gently feeling his right bicep. I don’t know how to read this.

His jacket, with a lapel accoutrement, is very with it. He’s possibly wearing blue contact lenses.

Suitable for 30 year olds.

Ok, the Top 5 countdown, comes along tomorrow.

I apologise. I’d planned to do more. My wife has returned from Christmas shopping and, being the usual ordeal, I had to make her a gin and tonic. Me? A martini.

It’s a Saturday night for crying out loud!

So, the Top 5 tomorrow. Giving you all Christmas Eve to shop for the top of the comedy pops.

Here’s a Jack Whitehall related thing to end on.

This watch

February 22, 2012

On my mid afternoon walk with Archie (Archie’s a Miniature Schnauzer by the way- though what do I know? I constantly forget. The other day someone asked  his breed and I said Miniature Dachshund). So. On my mid afternoon walk with Archie I passed this poster, and it took my fancy.

It’s not that Prophet Oscar Diomande is speaking just down the road in Catford… I say Prophet, but looking online he seems to switch between Pastor and Bishop… It’s not that the Prophet/Pastor/Bishop is in the vicinity. That’s not what got me. That’s not what took my fancy.

It’s that damned watch!

Look at it! He’s showing it off like he’s on a shopping channel.

Is that appropriate? Is it right? It’s a little flash isn’t it? For a man of God? Surely a Timex would do. At a push a Sekonda. That looks scarily Christin Lars to me.

He’s even pushing his jacket back to give us a cheeky glimpse. To make us envy his golden wealth. It’s surely not on.

Perhaps it’s something to do with his role as a man of God anointed for the last days.

Perhaps. Though, frankly, I doubt it. A man of God anointed for the last days would surely be doing us all more of a favour if her bore a calendar. A watch is far too abstract. Unless we’re in the last day. Now. In which case, goodbye all. Hope you’ve had a good one.

It started as something that took my fancy, but now it’s just unsettling. Particularly since I’ve started to think of Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction.

Some of you will be with me by now. Some not. If you don’t know of the dark depths I am stooping to, watch this; this watch.

You’ll never look at a pastor’s gold covered wrist in the same way again.

Oh bloody Tesco!

April 16, 2011

When will I learn? Bloody Tesco! Is it their aim to give middle-aged pedants like me heart attacks? Are they wilfully immoral? Are they crooks?

They are most certainly disingenuous.

After paying and then seeing (yet again) that I had been conned, I queued at the queuing place; an area, perhaps unsurprisingly, where there is always a queue.

My gripe? I’m shopping in Manchester for my mum and I’d taken up the Tesco’s current stir fry offers. So far, so good. I also bought some meat; pork and beef. Each pack with a large sticker on it declaring “any two for £6”. Individually they were £3.50 each. I was charged £7, not £6.

At the counter I have to empty my bags, like being stopped by Customs and Excise. Even Tesco; especially Tesco; should realise that after the ordeal of going around one of their stores we all feel like we do after a long haul flight; please, don’t make us empty our bags, just let us get home to sleep.

Tesco lag.

The customer person explains that I didn’t get my meats for £6 because I bought two different meats. To get two for £6 you have to buy two the same. So… they’re not “any two for £6”? Yes, she explains, they are, as long as they’re the same two. So that’s not any? Is it? Am I mad? Shouldn’t the sticker say “two for £6”?

I sigh like a man desperate for death, and tell the poor woman that Tesco is at best “disingenuous”. I then walk away.

Out in the car park I feel bad; bad for being a bit narked with a member of staff who can’t be compared to the cheap old line of ‘just following orders’ and bad because yet again Tesco have made me feel worthless in not standing up for myself. I go back, queue, and then apologise to her for being a bit grumpy. Then, nicely, I ask her if she’ll pass my thoughts on, because I do feel that Tesco creates deliberately ambiguous policies when it comes to their special offers. She agrees and tells me that they often have to deal with these kind of complaints.

DO YOU HEAR THAT TESCO? YOUR STAFF AGREE THAT YOU SET OUT TO TRICK CUSTOMERS AND THAT YOUR PHRASING ON SPECIAL OFFERS IS, AT BEST, DISINGENUOUS.

Although, to be fair, the member of the staff didn’t use the D word.

Tesco, you are crooks.

Any: one or more without specification or identification.

It would be nice for any member of Tesco’s staff to respond to this. Of course, when I say any, I mean David Reid.

This is what Crumpsall means. So Wikipedia says. Wikipedia also informs me that Don Estelle, Jason Orange, and Myra Hindley were all born in Crumpsall. I lived in Crumpsall as a boy, moving there when I was 11 and staying until I left home to go to university. In Manchester. I moved from Manchester to Manchester.

I never missed Crumpsall.

I don’t really know where Crumpsall is. If you were to say to someone, “I’ll meet you in Crumpsall” you’d be hard pressed to pick a landmark. There’s no centre. It’s just streets and emptiness, bordered by the more lively Cheetham Hill and the comparatively swanky Prestwich.

My defining Crumpsall moment came when I was 15 years old. I was off to the shops at Cheetham Hill for my mum. I was walking along, possibly skipping (it was the kind of thing I did, still do). I was certainly whistling. Whistling the latest big hit, I Will Survive. Three lads surrounded me. One of them asked me the time. I told him. He said “let me see”. I held up my wrist and he said “that’s not the time”. Then he hit me. Hard. Hard enough to knock me out.

I spent four days in hospital. I effectively had plastic surgery. A nose job. I went around for the next few weeks with a plaster cast on my nose held in place with a big ‘X’ of sticking plaster.

Perhaps the most shocking thing was the police. They asked if they could have a word with me, alone, away from my parents. When my mum and dad had left the living room they asked me: “We know what you’ve told your mum and dad, but what did you do to provoke them?”

I was a very young 15 year old. An innocent in the world. Could whistling “I Will Survive” be seen as provocative?

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I’m back in Manchester now. Prestwich. Birthplace of 10cc, Victoria Wood, and home of local hero Mark E. Smith. Just for a short while. Looking after my mum as she gets better from an operation. She’s out of hospital now and doing well but she spent just under two weeks in North Manchester General Hospital.

It used to be called Crumpsall Hospital. It’s in Crumpsall.

I’d been visiting twice a day but last Tuesday Janice and Kath went to see my mum in the afternoon, giving me a little break. So I went into town, saw The Adjustment Bureau, and then got the Metro to Crumpsall for the evening visiting session. Leaving the hospital at 8.20pm I headed back to the station. The first and only time I didn’t drive.

It’s a lonely old place, between the hospital and the Metro station. Where is Crumpsall? Even when you’re in it you are nowhere and there’s no one around.

Walking along Crumpsall Lane (where we lived over 30 years ago), past Hermitage Road (where I used to go for piano lessons from Miss Musgrave until I became old enough to tell my mum and dad I didn’t like playing the piano, I didn’t want piano lessons)… thinking these things… possibly inwardly whistling I Will Survive… not considering a skip this time.

Then something –  that sense –  moments before it happens. Maybe it makes you tense up in preparation… what is it? An instinct?

The lads must have crept along. In the shadows. Following and biding their time. And then an explosion behind me. A whack on the head. A rush and a push.

I go flying to the ground and my bag races ahead of me as they try to run away with it. But no, this cannot stand. I manage to keep hold and after a silly little struggle they run off. It could have been worse I suppose. They could have got my bag if they’d really wanted.

The two lads run, turn left down Station Road. Alone again. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know where to go. There is no one around. What if they come back? There is a shop just past Station Road. The Canny Scot, an off licence. I could head there, phone a taxi…

But I’m not going to let this get to me. I’m going home. on the Metro.

I turn down Station Road. Quiet. Empty. But well lit. And there are two lads. But these two are with a girl, coming from the Metro.

I stop and wait a moment, unsure what to do. One of the lads calls to me: “You alright?” I hesitate. “Something happened?”

I keep my distance but call to them: “Two lads just attacked me.”

One of the lads says he saw them run off up Station Road. He leaves a beat before adding: “Why not go after them, fight them?”

The other lad chips in; perfect Mancy sarcasm: “aww, got mugged did ya?”

I step further away, back towards the (maybe) safety of The Canny Scot. They head off back down Crumpsall Lane, away from me.

I go to the Metro. It’s empty apart from one lad sitting there, smoking, hood up. (When something happens; for a while, until normality returns; everyone is a threat).

I stand in the middle of a brightly lit platform, alone, waiting, imagining them coming back. Imagining myself dying on CCTV.

After 8 minutes that could have been 80, the Metro arrives. It’s packed and I get on, shaking.

Two stops later I get off at Heaton Park, head into The Ostrich, and get drunk.

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The next day, a little more collected, I realise I should tell the police. Nothing can be done for me, and I’m fine, but the police should know to keep an eye out. Many people may visit the hospital, many older than me. And many may have to rely on public transport.

I call in at the police station on Cheetham Hill. I tell the… I don’t know what? Was it an officer? Or just someone employed to speak to the public? They didn’t seem very, well, policey. The first thing she says is: “Why didn’t you call 999?” It’s a good question and I don’t have a good answer. I mutter something about having been ok, and having come from seeing my mum in hospital, maybe my head not being in the right place, maybe other things mattering more.

I give her some details which she jots down on a piece of blank paper. She says she will pass it on to an officer. She tells me again, in quite some kind of a tone, that I should have called 999. I guess so. I leave, heading straight on to the hospital. Visiting time again.

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And later I’m thinking; Shouldn’t some kind of statement have been taken? Shouldn’t she have asked my name? or noted my phone number? was I not reporting a crime? Should I not at least be a statistic?

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A crooked piece of land beside a river… sounds romantic, doesn’t it?