Tuesday 16th December 2008
light flashes, return to seat
Typical isn't it? You don't update for ages and then in the middle of writing your updates the news overtakes you and renders half what you've written irrelevant. Well, that might not happen to you (especially if you keep on top of your website updates) but it happened to me just as I was finally getting round to assembling this update. I'd written quite a bit about Crewe Alexandra's disappointing start to the season and how even I had lost faith in the ability of the manager to turn things around and then the club announced that Steve Holland had been relieved of his duties as first-team coach and that former manager and current Director of Football, Dario Gradi was back in the hot seat temporarily. Clearly the club's board of Directors saw the same things in the tame home defeat to a poor Leyton Orient side that I did and decided enough was enough. Given the general consensus amongst fans that the board would be prepared to give him until Christmas at least, this move came as a shock to almost everyone. It certainly came as a shock to the players who had earlier been training under Steve's watchful eye ahead of the weekend's game against Stockport. To be honest, once I'd got over the initial surprise that the board had acted decisively, I felt an overwhelming sadness and disappointment. Sadness that the move from Academy director to First Team coach hadn't worked out for Steve, who is a really nice bloke. Disappointment that it had got to the point where the last resort was the only resort and that Steve's 14 years of good work at the Academy will forever be tainted by his failure with the first team. The Crewe chairman, John Bowler, has discussed an alternative role for Steve, as the club are keen not to lose his skills completely, but it now seems likely that Steve will take up the vacant post of Academy Director down the road at Stoke City. In the meantime, we were hoping that the return of Dario and his favourite son, Kenny Lunt (back on loan from Sheffield Wednesday again), might serve to lift the team. Sadly, all we got in the next game was a brutal reality check as a high-flying Stockport coped with our sporadic passages of decent play in the first half and then upped the tempo in the second to run out comfortable winners by three goals to nil. Clearly, it wasn't just down to the manager that we weren't doing very well - there were three or four players at least who just weren't up to the required standard. And despite Dario tinkering with the formation and improving performances, we hsave lost all three league games under his command and are now six points adrift at the foot of the table. We did manage a win away at Carlisle in the second round of the FA Cup but as the reward for that is a trip to Millwall, it may have been that both sides were trying to lose... Anyway, it'll be interesting to see who applies for the manager's job, what sort of quality candidates we get and who the board go with. There have been plenty of names bandied about already but very few inspire me with any confidence. What we need is an experienced manager with a belief in the Youth Academy system and a track record of success. Shouldn't be too hard to find, eh? Not that I'm expecting an appointment in the near future as the board appear to be moving with all the speed of a glacier...
And in another example of the news over taking you - no sooner had I bigged up The Clik Clik for their performance at The Box than they announce they're splitting up. Hope it wasn't that tour (or my review) that convinced them to pack it in.
The cold snap at the start of November brought on a heavy cold, which arrived just in time for my birthday. Not exactly the best present I've ever given myself although, it was slightly better than the dodgy leg rash I suffered the week before. It was so alarming that I took some photos. I even went to the doctor to get it checked out. Sadly, my doctor didn't know what it was either. So she called in a colleague for a second opinion and he arrived with a medical student in tow and another of the practice's doctors... Even a second and third opinion was no closer to solving the mystery although they were able to tell me what it wasn't. So, they took some blood and sent me away with instructions to rest it and come back if it got worse. It didn't get worse, and the blood tests were, apparently, inconclusive, so I went back and gave them some more blood and am waiting the results from that set of tests. In the meantime, my leg has healed up and there's hardly any sign there was ever anything wrong. Still, you can have a look at my purple swollen thing below. And my leg....
Of course, compared to the losses suffered by other members of my family and one of my good friends recently, a mystery rash on my leg is nothing. So perhaps I should just shut up and stop moaning?
Back on the subject of birthday presents, my sister and her family got me a lovely, black Flying V Ukulele. Marvellous. Not only does it look rock'n'roll but it comes in a custom-made white vinyl gig bag with blue furry lining. The only disappointing thing about it was that the tuning pegs were a bit slack so I couldn't tune it up at my sister's and play them a jolly birthday tune. Still, a bit of work with a screwdriver back at my place and it's good to go. Continuing the photo theme of this update, there are a couple of pictures below. (Luckily, footage of me actually playing the thing is still not available...)
The other thing I did for my birthday was to go and watch Crewe Alexandra playing at Huddersfield. It was a long way to go for nothing. Especially as engineering work on the railway scuppered my plans for pre-match beers in Stalybridge. The lager in the ground was horrible and the result was pretty dire too - having managed to somehow pull themselves level from two goals down, Crewe pressed the self-destruct button and conceded the winning goal two minutes from time. About the only good thing about being in Huddersfield were the lovely Yorkshire Pudding wraps (basically a soggy Yorkshire Pudding folded round some roast beef and a splash of gravy. And that was about as good as it got. Still, at least on the way back I met up with some fellow Crewe fans and enjoyed a few beers in Stalybridge and Manchester before heading home.
Following the Alex's defeat at home to Leyton Orient back at the end of November, I met up with Jules from crewe blog and a couple of other long-suffering Alex fans and, after a couple of pints in Bar 22 and The Express and much general agreement that the Alex are poor and the manager needs to go, we headed up to The Box. We'd missed the first act on, The Guide (sorry about that, chaps), and User Friendly were doing their stuff. They were pretty good, again, although they seemed a bit less organised than last time. They were followed by The Shylos. Well, clearly as they're all young lads, they can't have heard of The Lurkers, but that was exactly who they sounded like. Nothing wrong with a bit of 70's Punk, of course, but I'm just old enough to remember it. In order to pass the time we picked up our debate about the future of Crewe Alex. They were followed by The Sumo Kings. Sadly, this time they weren't accompanied by the grooving granny, but that was about the only downside to their performance. They did occasionally get a bit shouty, but that's only to be expected. And then last up were local favourites Sgt Wolfbanger. Not a lot else I can say about this lot that I haven't said before - top entertainment, some banging choons (check out 'If I'm Honest' on their myspace page) and a good stage presence. If there's any justice, they'll be all over the music press by the end of next year.
There's loads of other stuff I really ought to be updating you on - my fancy dress outfit, trips to watch Nantwich Town FC, the one new album I've bought, some crappy DVDs I've watched, the fun I've had with recording my guiitar through my computer and my upcoming project for the New Year, for example - but if I go on then I'll never get this up before Christmas, as the bishop said to the actress... I'll try to get back into the habit of updating more regularly as soon as I can, honest.
Wednesday 15th October
Waiting for a date from the loyaliser
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I haven't done an update for ages, what's the big deal? It's not like I've been doing anything interesting. Or have I..?
Way back around the end of August, I went to see my mates The Lockdown at Crewe's newest music venue, The Box. It's called The Box for good reason - it's a windowless, cube of a building that looks like, er, a box. That said, get yerself inside and up the stairs and you'll find an excellent little venue. And they're putting on a corking series of Friday night gigs at the moment. This gig I was at was the first and featured The Lockdown, Blast Stereos Loud (both local(ish) bands) and up-and-coming indie-kids The Clik Clik. The Lockdown opened proceedings with a fairly short set which included a couple of new songs. They only made two mistakes for me, one was apologising for doing 'I Don't Know How' and the other was not saving 'Like Never Before' till last. Next up were Blast Stereos Loud. I'm afraid they didn't get my gears turning. They weren't helped by a rather sludgy sound or the fact that they hadn't dragged any of their mates along to make it look like they could draw a crowd, but they were a bit ordinary. Final act on stage were The Clik Clik. Now I'd checked out their myspace page beforehand and was expecting to be driven to incandescent rage by their twee pop but it turns out that live it's a bit more ballsy and in-your-face and a good deal more enjoyable. I have to also give them extra marks for coming out and watching the support bands too. Even so I couldn't stay till the end of their set as I wanted to get the last train home. Yes, I'm turning into Larry Lightweight...
Then, early in September I had a few days off. I was going to go to Whitby for a little break and watch Nantwich Town play a league game whilst I was there, but the cost of my new PC rather scuppered that plan. In the end I spent a few days pottering around at home, catching up on paperwork and stuff. I also had a little trip out to Nantwich Musuem. I've been meaning to pop in for ages but never got round to it. This time though, alongside the permanent static displays, they were staging an exhibit called 'Scary Monsters and Super Creeps' which featured the work of locally-based special effects artist Reuben Armana. Mr Armana has worked on a number of projects, including Dr Who, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings but the majority of the exhibits were from two less-well-known productions - Glitch and Lemon Heart (So less well known, in fact, that I couldn't find many references to them on t'Internetto.). I had an enjoyable couple of hours wandering round, looking at the exhibits and taking photographs. Given that the museum has not much more floor space than an average house, they certainly manage to cram a lot in and I'm not sure my photos do it justice. You can see my photos on my flickr page in my Nantwich Museum photoset. If I was to have a quibble, which would surely be harsh, it would be that Mr Armana didn't really design the Star Wars stormtrooper outfit on display, unless he did it when he was three... Still it was worth checking out. Sadly for you lot though, that exhibition has finished - if you go any time between now and November 8th, there's an exhibition by local artist Vic Irving, and after that there's an exhibition of art and creative writing by member's of the Crewe Mental Health Plus group. Check out the museum website for details of opening times and future exhibitions.
Towards the end of September I had a busy weekend. It started on Friday night with another trip to The Box to meet up with Jules from crewe blog and take in some more of the sterling indie-rock that the venue are promoting at the moment. I arrived part way through a set by unbilled support act Scott Nicholas. One man, one guitar and no stage banter, but very enjoyable. The unexpected was followed by the unimpressive. Next on were Pilot Wings, who had zero stage presence and obviously no one checking their sound out front as the guitar was almost inaudible. What we ended up with was bass-heavy sludge, which was dreary enough but was compounded by the fact that the guitarist-cum-keyboardist-cum-frontman seemed more interested in entertaining his mates on stage than entertaining the audience. That all said, check out their myspace page as they sound like a reasonable act on that. Penultimate band of the evening were User Friendly. Storming indie from a local outfit. Presenting a brand new set, apparently, and including a bit of Salt'n'Pepa's "Push It". Very entertaining. They've got the stage thing sussed. Worth checking out, in my opinion, and not just because the lead singer is a Crewe Alex fan. Last on, all the way from the frozen wastes of Northwich were up-and-coming indie stars The Shallow Call. Keen observers of the pop scene may recall their single 'Frank Bruno' recently caused minor ripple in the indie charts. They've got the lot - catchy tunes, stage presence and good idea of how to deliver a balanced set. If you like your pop edgy, spiky and shot through with good humour, you can't go far wrong with this lot. Overall, a good night - good venue with a decent crowd in, decent bands, and only four of your Crewe pounds. Fans of live music in the Crewe and Nantwich area should get themselves down The Box every Friday. You might not see anyone you've ever heard of (although some of them may go on to achieve success) but you're pretty much guaranteed to hear something you like. That said, I won't be down there for another couple of weeks due to financial constraints and other commitments...
Anyway, following my boozy Friday night I had to get up reasonably early in order to greet my old mucker Tim W and his colleague Simon, who were rolling into town for the Nantwich Beer Festival. The Beer Fest is actually part of the much larger Nantwich Food Festival, which features all sorts of food-related fun, including celebrity chefs, exotic produce, and wine tastings. Of course, we weren't really concerned with that sort of frippery but with working our way through as many of the ales on offer at the festival as possible. Well, Tim and I were, Simon was taking it a bit steadier. Having made our way in we got our half pint glasses and Tim and I bought ten tokens each (each token entitling you to a half pint of ale) whilst Simon went for five. We started the day with a hearty brunch (well, breakfast for me) of Dabbers Pie with chips and onion relish. The Dabbers pie is a pork pie with cheese and pickle in and is absolutely delicious when served hot. We accompanied this with the first ale of the day. For me it was Hyde's Owd Bill, Tim went for a Pot Wallop and I'm not sure what Simon had. To be honest, that's about as far as my clarity on drinks and the order in which they were consumed actually goes. We had a couple more before taking a break and visiting the Union pub to watch the Liverpool v Everton derby and cleanse our pallets with some dirty lager. Then it was back into the fest to taste some more superb ales (altohugh I missed out on the Wobbly Bob, which Tim assures me was excellent) and catch up on what's been a-happening in each other's lives. Turns out Simon had worked for Convergys in Bristol and had had an interview at my old place in Cambridge. I would remark upon it being a small world but there surely aren't that many technical authors in Britain. Anyway, Simon ducked out around 3-ish, leaving Tim and I to work through our remaing beer tokens. Either by accident or design we managed to finish conveniently in time for Tim to meet up with his partner ansd get a lift home. I made the somewhat foolish error of returning to the fest to have another crack at the beers despite the fact that I knew I ought to go home for a lie down. I thought I'd be OK but after another couple of beers I knew I was struggling and despite having a little sleep whilst sat in a corner I had to give up on my last half and found myself heading homewards around 8.30pm. Still, for me that wasn't a bad effort - eight and a half hours drinking and only one little sleep. Anyway, I have listed the beers that I can remember drinking below. It's not a complete list - I had 14 tokens and can only remember 12 of the beers....
- Hydes 'Owd Bill'
- Northern 'Deep Dark Secret'
- Beartown 'Ginger Bear'
- Woodlands 'Midnight Stout'
- Beartown 'Polar Eclipse Stout'
- Coastal 'Merry Maiden's Mild'
- Country Life 'Pot Wallop'
- Hanby 'Black Magic Mild'
- Weetwood 'Cheshire Cat'
- George Wright 'Blue Moon'
- Skinner's 'Betty Stoggs'
- Country Life 'Lacey's Best'
Unsurprisingly, when I got home from my day out drinking I crashed out on the sofa and dozed through till about three in the morning, when I got up and went to bed. Suprisingly, when I did get up for real on Sunday morning I felt OK. Tired and a little thirsty, but not as nauseous as I feared I might. In fact I felt so reasonably OK that I managed to persuade my sister to let me tag along with her, to the Cholmondeley Castle Classic Car Show. Cholmondeley Castle isn't a real castle, but was built in the style of a castle back in the early 1800s, for the Marquess of Cholmondeley. Incidentally, if you're struggling with the name, it's pronounced 'chum-lee', obviously. I'm not sure how much of the castle itself you can visit, but the splendid castle gardens are open from March to September and they often host events, such as this one, in the grounds. Anyway, the weather was fine and although the ground was dampo, it was a lovely day out. I took a few photographs, of course, and you can find the best in my Cholmondeley Car Show photoset on flickr. I have to say there were a fair few E-Type jaguars there and I snapped a few, but frankly I could have filled an album with shots of them alone. The other thing I surmised from the event is that I'm obviously getting old when the cars that I remember as being the staple of my Dad's driving history when I was growing up are now considered classics. (Although, of course, there was never anything classic about the Rover SD1, except as an example of the declining standards of the British motoring industry perhaps...)
As a comic-book fanboy, I still can't help getting excited when I hear about a movie project based on some comic or other. This is usually followed by a feeling of disappointment as I realise that said movie is a pile of pants. To be honest, you'd think it'd be fairly straightforward to transfer a comic to the big screen, wouldn't you? After all, what else is a comic but a big storyboard, so all you have to do is fill in the gaps and make sure you get the special effects right, surely? There must be something more to it than that though, otherwise I'd be telling you that Iron Man and The Hulk are as good as the first Sam Raimi-directed Spiderman film. Anyway, all this is a bit of a preamble to bringing to your attention the forthcoming Watchmen movie. (Watch out that site takes a while to load.) Yes, a movie based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's seminal work of 1986/7. It was one of the few things I kept after my brief stint working in the comics industry (along with Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight' Batman graphic novel and his Elektra mini-series and all the X-Men Mutant Massacre comics, including the cross-overs). If you're not familiar with it, Wikipedia has a very good Watchmen article. Sadly, having seen the trailer, I think I'm doomed to disappointment. The characters all look ten years younger than they are portrayed in the comic and the colours are very much darker. Also I expect that a lot of the backstory and sub-plots will be lost. Of course, some of that's a necessity - you can't cram twelve issues worth of story into a two hour film, but some of it is unfilmable too. It might turn out to be a reasonable adaptation in it's own right - let's not jump to conclusions - but I reckon the only way I'll be able to enjoy it is to divorce it entirely from the comic books. Which might be difficult as I've just re-read them...
Gas, boys! Gas! No, it's not the return of my staggeringly-wrong gas bill, but something a little more worrying. The gas fires in my house had their annual inspection a while back and got a clean bill of health. Which was nice. Unfortunately, since then (and I'm pretty certain it is only since then) I've been greeted by a faint smell of gas in my bedroom upon returning from work every day. I took no real notice putting it down to me being a bit of a slob and assumed it was more to do with the fact that my laundry basket is right by the bedroom door. So I was somewhat alarmed to receive my energy bill and find that I'd been charged for some gas, even though the only time the fires have been on was for their inspection. Even more alarming was finding on checking the meter (which is outside, otherwise I might have checked it more often), that not only had some gas been used but that the meter had increased since the last reading was taken. So I turned the gas off at the mains and, lo and behold, no gas smell in my bedroom (well, not one that I didn't make myself) and no increase on the meter. And another job on the list of things I'm still waiting for the letting agent to sort out. It's time for a personal visit to their office I think, rather than the telephone calls which are getting no response.
Finally, here's something for my musically-inclined friends to think about. When I went to see the Lockdown a couple of weeks ago, I got talking to a young lady (a friend of a friend, I should point out - I don't go round randomly chatting up women) and she suggested I should start playing the bass again, get me old mate Ian back on the drums and get a band back together. In fact, she was fairly forceful about it. Well, I don't know about re-uniting the band, although I do know enough people to get some sort of act together. The only stumbling block is finding a decent singer, and even then I do know a girl who has a great voice - I just have to get back in touch with her... Anyway, this got me thinking. Next summer it's 25 years since I was diagnosed with cancer. (Yes, 25 years! Stick that in your pipe, God!) I can pinpoint the date with a fair degree of accuracy as I was in hospital during the great North Wales earthquake of 1984 and that was 19th July. That was a day or two after I'd had the operation that confirmed the diagnosis. Anyway, I thought that as a way of marking the occasion, I'd stage a gig and play a few tunes. Maybe get a few old mates to make an appearance, book a proper headline band perhaps and donate the profits to charidee. I'd even got a name for the event - "Bollocks to Cancer" - although I've since discovered there's already a documentary film called that (which I must have heard of) and I wouldn't want to look like I was poncing off that. Haven't booked a venue yet, or even got my guitar out to see if I can remember any of the songs we used to play, but if anyone's interested in getting on board with this, let me know.
Right, that's your lot and I didn't even drone on about the football. Again, apologies for the lack of updating action. I still struggle to find the time to write this shit up, to be honest. And I ought to warn you that I might not do another update for a while because I've just bought one of these, so will be spending my winter recording all sorts of stuff. In between recording sessions I will be following the exercises in Charlie Bronson's Solitary Fitness book and listening to 'Viva Dead Ponies by The Fatima Mansions, from which the title of this post is taken. Cheerio!
Sunday 31st August
I'm sure I've mentioned it before but my PC at home has been playing up of late. I've had trouble getting it to start up and usually have had to switch the power off and on at the wall a few times before it would boot up. Well, I used to have to do that but, over the Bank Holiday weekend, even that tactic failed and my PC showed absolutely no sign of springing to life. I opened the case up for the first time in ten years, carefully brushed out the dust (all over the living room carpet) and checked all the wiring was properly seated and the like but the best I got out of it was a brief spin of the fan and a threat of booting up before it shut down. Bugger, I thought. Well, that left me with four choices:
- Go without Internet access all weekend and wait till I get back to work to do all my surfing.
- Rig up my old laptop to t'Internet and try to find out what went wrong and if I can fix it.
- Make a flying visit to my parents to get my other old PC out of their cellar and hope I can use that.
- Bite the bullet, do what I should have done years ago and buy a new PC.
Well, having ruled out the first option as just crazy, the second one as too much as a faff, the third as being even more of a faff than the second option, I took the fourth. I managed to persuade my sister to give me a lift to PC World and there, without too much ado, purchased a sparkly new Dell Inspiron with 19-inch flat-screen monitor for a shade under four hundred quids. It's perhaps a bit light on diskspace, with only 160GB but I bought a 160GB portable drive whilst I was in PC World, so I should be alright for storage for a year or two. Surely?
The other drawback to buying a new PC now is that I've had to get one with Vista on it. Bizarrely, it seems to run a bit slower than my beloved Windows 98, despite the fact it's got sixteen times the RAM of my old PC. Mind you, my old PC used to stop responding if I had more than about four applications running on it, whilst this one shows no sign of creaking under strain. Yet. I guess if it really does start to irritate me I can install XP or Linux as a dual-boot option.
(And before you say it, yes, I know, I'd be better off spending my money on a hand-built job with decent components, spec'ed the way I want it, than a "mass-produced piece of junk" from a retail chain, but frankly, I don't have the money for a PC or laptop spec'ed the way I'd really like. Or the time to wait for Dell or someone to build a lower spec one and deliver it to my house.)
Of course, the real drawback to the death of my PC is that (hopefully only temporarily) I've lost hundreds of music files, photos and the like that I didn't get round to backing up. A lot of it I'm not that bothered about but there are some things I'll miss - photos/movies from my sister's wedding, the Clodhoppers album I spent a couple of days transferring from tape, the v/vm downloads and one or two other things that'll be a bit more difficult to find again now that people are more reluctant to share music files publicly. Of course, I've also lost all the electronic copies of my CV, so I hope I don't have to find a new job in a hurry! Luckily, I do have another PC that I can cannibalise for spare parts, so I'll get that from my parents and see if I can get my old PC to run again, even if only once so I can get all the useful (and not-so-useful) things off the hard drive. And if I can't, I'll just have to spend some money getting an expert to do it for me.
The death of my PC has been about the only noteworthy incident of the last fortnight, to be honest. I could mention the football season, but I'll only end up ranting about Crewe's inconsistent form. I've still got the photos from the Nantwich Transport festival on my camera, so once I find the driver disc to set up my PC so it recognises the camera, I'll upload those. I've got a few days off from work coming up, so hopefully I'll have time to do that. Well, I should do - I was planning a little seaside break but that went out of the window when I bent my credit card buying my new PC.
Sunday 17th August
Stop. Drop. And Roll.
Apologies for the lack of updates but I was busy and then I spent time recovering from being busy. It's been a little over two weeks since I went to the Nantwich Show and International Cheese Festival. It seems like it was ages ago and in web terms it probably was. Anyway, having moved back to Nantwich a few years ago, I now try to keep the last Wednesday of July free in my diary for the Show. Not because I'm particularly fond of agriculture or a cheese lover, but because it usually makes a good day out - there's a fine mix of traditional countryside pursuits on display, there are plenty of tat and junk food stalls to keep the kids amused and there are usually a couple of good attractions in the main arena. Plus there's more cheese on display in one place than you could possibly imagine. This year was no exception on the cheese front with a record of over 2,600 entries in the cheese classes. From a small sideshow to the main agricultural show, the cheese festival has grown to be arguably the countries largest, and now attracts international cheeses to the competitive classes. You are no one in the cheese world if you haven't exhibited at Nantwich...
Anyway, after last year's cancellation of the agricultural show due to the excessive rainfall, it was somewhat troubling to wake on the day of the show to grey skies and persistent drizzle. Fortunately, the wind blew the rain away by about 10.30 and so at 11, with my two nephews in tow, I set off for the show, via town to stock up on drinks and stuff. Now, that was a wise move - if only I'd been able to stock up on burgers and ice cream too... Anyway we got up to the show around 11.45 and after parting with a substantial wedge of cash (must remember to buy tickets in advance next year) we were in. First stop was the programme seller for a show guide and a map. Establishing that we were going to miss the falconry display (damn!), we headed up to the Cheese marquee for a first look at the cheeses. After pottering around there for a bit we went to the main arena in preparation for the UK Freestyle MX Team. Unfortunately, due to the over-running of the horse competitions, we were stood in our spot for about an hour, during which time we missed out on opportunities to see the glass-blowing demonstration or have a look at the livestock arenas. (I did however have plenty of opportunity to spend a fortune feeding two bored kids...) Worse still, when the stunt bikers did come out, I realised I'd seen them (or someone very like them) before. So I was rather under-whelmed by their act. I think the kids enjoyed them though. Moving on from the arena, we took in the Mornflake Pavilion, which was the commercial end of the show - packed with various stalls flogging all kinds of produce. The kids loved the chocolate fountain stall and I reckon would have spent all their money there if I'd let them. I was more interested in the real ales myself. From there we had time for a leisurely stroll round the Arts and Crafts marquee before it was back to the main arena to witness the world's least daring stuntman and escapologist, Mark Stannage, and his family.
Now I love a good stunt as much as the next person, but in order for a stunt to succeed you have to convince the audience that there's an element of danger. An "Exploding box" which doesn't actually explode is a bit of a let-down even if said box is 60ft in the air at the time, but then I guess we wouldn't have hung around to see the "Bottom falling off a box" escape challenge... Likewise, the straitjacket escape hanging upside-down from a burning rope promised much but in the end it became clear that Hell was more likely to freeze over than for any of the supporting ropes to burn through so the frisson of danger soon dissipated. I don't think things were helped by the fact that the MC for the show was Mark's wife and I'm sure she's lovely and all that, but she's not a natural show-woman. Plus the incidental stuff to the two set-piece stunts was a little dull - the Fire Run (in a burning jacket) took place in the opposite corner of the arena, thus depriving about two-thirds of us a decent view, and the kid on the bike was impressive if he really is only 13, but frankly, he's been eating long chips for a lad of that age. Sadly, due to constraints of time we were unable to hang around for Mark Stannage's second performance when we might have been impressed by the Fiery Dive of Death, he was promising to perform.
From the main arena, with time ticking away, it was back to the Cheese tent with Will for a last look at some cheese and to attempt to grab some cheese for Dan (who had nicked off a bit earlier). We also still had time for an ice cream and a visit to the sweetshop before wending our way home, some six hours after we'd entered the showground. We didn't get to see any of the livestock this year, except for a close encounter with some bulls entering the main arena, which almost became an even closer encounter when they got involved in a cattle jam and one or two of them got a bit aggressive. I've never seen so many people move back so quickly as when a good tonne or more of aggrieved bull started swinging round to "have words" with the bull that had just hit him in the rear! Apart from that we missed out the falconry display, the glass-blowing demonstration s and one or two other things we ought to have got round to. I'm sure Dan would have liked a go on the climbing wall, for example, but by the time we found it, he was ready to go home. Anyway, I did take a fair few photos of the day, the best of which are available in my Nantwich Show photoset on Flickr. Enjoy.
After the excitement of the Nantwich Show, I had a long weekend holiday, taking a relaxing break in Bridlington with my old mate, Kev. Lucky old Kev has just changed his job and is about to become a Senior Logistics Consultant at the Grimsby Institute or something like that. So, as he had some time to take off, and I needed a break, we fixed up a trip to the coast. We had originally planned to go camping but there were no vacancies at the nearby camp sites, so we had to rough it in a B&B for a couple of nights. We travelled up on Friday afternoon, meeting up at Doncaster station at lunchtime. In contrast to my usual luck with trains, I had no problems on my journey, so having set off an hour early, I had an hour to kill on Donny station. I spent the time having breakfast and checking out the trains to Bridlington. When Kev arrived, he grabbed a sandwich and we found the right platform for our train. The journey to Bridlington was uneventful, except for the fact that the train went in to Hull and then back out, which was a bit puzzling. And also slightly annoying - we could have met at Hull as easily as Doncaster and it wouldn't have made much difference to either of our journey times. Still, we didn't know that. We got in the holiday mood by cracking open a beer or two and I gave Kev his copy of the list of pubs in Bridlington that I'd got off t'internet. The plan was to try to get round to as many of the 42 pubs on the list over the course of the weekend.
Arriving at Bridlington we noticed almost immediately that the station buffet, almost obscured by floral displays, wasn't on our list. After a brief photo opportunity, we gave it a miss anyway, and headed into town. Having by-passed The Cricketers because Kev didn't fancy the look of it, our first stop was The Half Moon. That was a much better choice. Not. If I was writing an idealised, romantic view of the trip I'd describe the clientele as the unfortunate, down-trodden, forgotten, senior citizens of the town. But I'm not, so I'll describe them as nutters. Having ticked it off the list, we didn't stop for a second pint. We headed down to the sea front and a pub Kev knew would be alright - The Pavilion. Now that was really nice, except for the fact that it wasn't actually on our list. And also the toilets were closed. By the time we left, I was in desperate need of a wee, so we stopped for a third pint in The Casino further down the Promenade. That was a decent place, although empty. It wasn't on our list either but we later discovered it was part of The Forum which was on the list. Having had a pint, taken a picture and emptied bladders, we headed off to check into our B&B, The Avalon Hotel. Having had a beer at the hotel bar, there was time for a quick wash and brush-up before we headed back out on the town. First stop was the Prior John for some tea. Then we had a stroll down to the harbour to give our tea time to settle before attempting to carry on boozing. The next pub we visited was The George. This was a nice enough pub which has a view out over the harbour at the back. From there it was short stagger up the road to Jaz, which wasn't on our list. Turned out it used to be Bar 24, which was on the list. This was also the most expensive place we visited all weekend, with two triple gin and tonics coming in at little under a tenner. Yes, it serves us right for being a bit lightweight and going on the spirits but, even so, that's outrageous. Especially as they've got a board outside advertising "house triples £2.99 all day". Anyway, despite the fact that it wasn't much after 10pm, the day started catching up with us and we both nodded off, on separate occasions, so decided to call it a day. Kev at least had an excuse as he'd been out drinking till 3 in the morning, whereas I'd just gone to bed a bit late. Anyway, we headed off to the chippy before returning to the hotel for a nightcap and off to bed, hoping to hit a few more pubs on Saturday.
Saturday morning we were up for breakfast at 9 and after forcing a reasonable fried brekkie down us, it was off and out for the day's adventures. We were both feeling a bit rough, so took a stroll down the promenade in the hope that the sea air would help clear our heads. It did alright, I think, although we should have picked up a bottle of Lucozade or two a bit earlier than we did. Having gone through the sea front amusements we ended up heading past the harbour and towards one of the other targets on our list. Unfortunately, the Bridlington Spa Catering didn't look open for customers and neither did any of the pubs that we came across in the vicinity, except for the Yorkie's Bar (for Yorkshire folk) but I couldn't go in due to being Lancastrian. In the end we found The Hilderthorpe was open and settled in there to read the papers and make use of their facilities. Our hoped-for peaceful Saturday pint was interupted by the arrival of a stag party, who were a bit loud AND sat on the table behind us. We would have moved on but the weather turned and there was a heavy shower going on. So we were forced to have another pint. When the rain stopped we supped up and moved on. On our way to the next pub, we were treated to the funniest sight of the weekend when an older gentleman walking along the road tripped on a kerb, stumbled in comedy style and then slowly went down. As he got to pavement level, he rolled to minimise impact and rolled straight into a puddle. We did stop to check he was alright and helped him up but, to be honest, we were laughing about it for the next five hours. Next pub up was The Albion. A traditional pub kitted out with wood pannelling. It was also home to a parrot and had home videos of some sea salvage operations playing on the large screen at the other end of the bar. One operation sailed out of Grimsby, which we recognised, but once you've seen one condenser hauled up from a wreck, you've seen them all, I reckon. From the Albion it was on to The Coachman. We were the only customers, so took full advantage by settling into the back bar and shooting a few games of pool (I won 3-1, for the record). Once some more people came into the pub, we moved on. After a brief stop in a music shop for Kev to buy a cheap harmonica and for me to buy a couple of plectrums (plectra, perhaps?) we made it into The Station. There Kev had the first short of the day - a G&T, adorned with a lovely paper umbrella. After a quick toot on the old harmonica (and no, that's not a euphemism) we moved on, arriving at The Cricketers a mere 24 hours after we should have first visited it. In common with the previous two pubs, this one is slightly off the tourist route so was not too busy. It was even less busy once Kev got his harmonica out! After emptying that pub we made our way to The Kings Arms. Another of Bridlington's decent boozers, this one has boxing memorabilia on the walls, including a pair of Joe Frazier's shorts. From there, my memory gets a bit confused. I know we went back to base and got changed (the camera never lies) but then the order of pubs we visited doesn't seem right. We definitely went to the Masala for tea and then to the New Inn, but somewhere along the way we fitted in Libertys, The Harbinger (of Doom) and the Beaconsfield Arms before staggering off in search of the Hook and Parrott, which turned out to be shut. So we ended up in The Pavilion again. Transformed from the family pub of daytime to a lively disco-pub, with go-go dancers, we decided to stop there for a while. And there we stopped till late on, when we staggered by home at about two in the morning. Still, not that many pubs knocked off the list, but there wwas still Sunday morning...
Sunday morning was lovely and bright and the weather looked good. Which was more than I could say for me and Kev. I felt like tackling breakfast but Kev wasn't up to it. So we skipped it. Checking out of the hotel we set off for a stroll to the Old Town. Kev confused me by setting out in what seemed to be the wrong direction. Still, he claimed to know where he was going and, to be fair, we did get there in the end. Can't say I was too impressed though - once we got there everything except the paper shop was shut. There was about half a dozen of the pubs on our list there, but not a single one showed signs of life. Having had a rest and bought a drink, we headed back down to the harbour. By this time I was feeling rather peckish and had a slight headache, so wasn't in the best of moods. A mood not improved any when I realised that all the pubs down the harbour end of town were shut too. We grabbed something to eat down by the harbour and I sat there sulking for a bit. After I'd cheered up a bit we had a discussion about plans for the day and decided to head off homewards. We got the train from Brid station just before 12 and arrived at Doncaster an hour and a half later, to find that Kev would have to wait another hour for his connection. I could have legged it then, but decided to hang around and have a pint on Donny station with Kev. Well, the customer service in the Pumpkin buffet on Platform 3a left somethng to be desired. We stood by the bar (next to a man who had obviously been there a bit longer) but the woman serving behind the counter resolutely ignored us. Mind you, the bloke we were stood next to had started tapping on the bar to attract attention and frankly, I would have ignored him for that. When he finally spoke up, apparently, we weren't "in the queue" so she couldn't see us, let alone serve us. Quite how anyone was meant to detect that we had to queue at the food counter to get served in the bar area without using their psychic powers is beyond me. A sign on the bar, or even a quiet word to customers who made the mistake of queueing at the bar, might have been useful. Anyway, we finally got a beer, and then had a toastie, washed down with another beer before we parted company.
All in all, a decent weekend. With hindsight, we should have tackled the old town on Saturday afternoon and I should have packed less gear, but those are minor quibbles. Bridlington is a lovely little town with plenty of decent bars for those who like that sort of thing and plenty of things for kids to do for those with families. I certainly wouldn't mind going again. Oh, and for those of you who haven't seen it, there's a photographic record of most of ou trip in my Bridlington photoset on flickr. Enjoy.
After my relaxing holiday, I spent the next week feeeling absolutely knackered. A feeling not helped by seeing Nantwich Town lose tamely in a pre-season friendly with FC United of Manchester on the Friday night and then Crewe Alexandra lose tamely at home to Brighton on the opening Saturday of the season. Still, my spirits were lifted by a trip round the Nantwich Transport Festival on the Sunday afternoon. I took loads of photos, but I still haven't got round to sorting them out a week after the event, so you'll have to wait a few more days to see those. They'll be on my flickr site soon as they're ready. Honest.
Monday 21st July
She is the body electric
Well, I was wrong about having a massive hangover yesterday, instead I was just extremely tired. Once I got up, around lunchtime, I spent most of the day dozing on the sofa whilst watching the German Grand Prix and the Open Golf championship - two sports which are perfect for dozing in front of. Then I uploaded my photos from Saturday night's excursion, more of which later.
On Friday I met up with some ex-colleagues from MDS, and assorted others, for a train-based pub crawl. The route and plan was fairly straightforward: depart from Birchwood and have roughly an hour at each of the following stops for drinkage - Stalybridge, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield (again), Marsden and Stalybridge (again). In stark contrast to the last time I went on one of these, the weather was a bit poor, but then we were inside for most of the time, so it didn't matter. First port of call was the excellent station bar at Stalybridge (obviously). The station bar has had a reputation for serving decent beer for as long as I can remember and I certainly spent a couple of evenings there missing trains back to Manchester back in the late 80s. If you ever have occasion to take a leisurely train ride via Stalybridge, it's worth getting off for a good pint of real ale. (Unless, of course, you can't stand the stuff. In which case, there's nothing to see here.) Anyway, at Stalybridge I learnt several things. One, Crones Cider is horrible. Two, there are five crystallized forms of chocolate and the fifth is the one that tastes best. Three, the rather strange cartoon Salad Fingers not only exists but is rather popular. (Having watched it I now understand the obsession with the perfect spoon.) Four, I ought to sign up to Facebook. And five, there's nothing more deflating than being out-geeked by a girl. I was all set to impress by telling everyone I'm currently working on documentation for a space engine, but that paled in comparison to the discussion of fourth-generation, energy-recovering, light accelerators. Anyway, from Stalybridge it was on to the Head of Steam on Huddersfield station. Another good pub with a fine selection of real ales. And thence to to the furthest point on our journey - the West Riding Refreshment Rooms on Dewsbury station. Not only did they provide a fine selection of ales but they also put on a splendid buffet for us intrepid travellers. Unfortunately I mis-calculated on the beer to food ratio and overdid it on the potato salad and bred-and-dripping that was on offer. As a result, I was feeling a little over-full as we departed back to Huddersfield. A feeling that didn't subside until I'd had a tactical chunder in the Huddersfield station bogs. It was a good move though because after about an hour I felt much better. So much so that by the time we got to the Riverhead Brewery in Marsden I was getting beers in outside of the round. I also got into a heated discussion with a couple of fellow travellers about the location of the bar, which I insisted had not been moved since our last visit. Turns out I was wrong (shocker!) and the bar had been on the other side of the pub last time we did the Rail Ale Trail. Sorry, Carolyn, I should never have doubted you! After a good hour or so in Marsden it was back up the hill to the station and on to the last stop, back where the fun started, Stalybridge. I was feeling OK, the beer was flowing and the company was good. So it was with some regret that we boarded the train back to Warrington. As time was ticking on I knew I'd be cutting it fine if I went on to Warrington for a pint before getting the last train to Crewe, so I jumped off at Manchester (along with a few others) where I had time for another pint in the station bar and to spend far too much money on a couple of burgers and some onion rings. Then it was on to the train to Crewe, which fortunately only goes as far as Crewe, so I could have a kip. Once I got to Crewe I didn't have too long to wait to get the last train back to Nantwich, so I was back home well before midnight. As a double bonus I woke up on Saturday with no hangover. True, I did feel a bit knackered and incredibly thirsty but I could certainly live with that. Especially as there was drinking on the agenda for Saturday night too. Result. Top day out. Good company, good times, good beer, what more do you need?
So, Saturday and it was off to Mexborough Civic for Disarm's album launch party. The guys have a fantastic album out - 'By Any Means Necessary' on Imprint Records, check it out - and rightly it deserved a party to celebrate it's release. But not only did they lay on a party, they also provided the entertainment and persuaded Kitty Hudson to give us a twirl too. I took my camera and you can see the photos from the evening in my Disarm Party photoset on Flickr. If anyone wants to make use of any of those then at least do me the courtesy of asking permission first, please. Jamie and Brad kicked the evening off with some acoustic numbers, followed by a solo acoustic set from Richard of Kitty Hudson. After a break for some food, Kitty Hudson treated us to a full band set and Disarm closed out the night with a full set. It was a very enjoyable night all round - the bands were all good and the atmosphere was great. I wish Disarm all the success in the world with the album - they deserve it.
And of course, if they do make it big I intend to cash in with all the mp3's of their early stuff that I've got lying around. After five years (yes, I first saw them in July 2003, check out my archive) of championing their cause to the dedicated thirty or so people who follow this site, then I'm entitled to something, surely? Disarm - the Wilderness Years, coming soon to ebay. It's a forgotten classic already.
I'm just joking about the cash-in. 'The wilderness Years'? What a rubbish title! I'll have to come up with something much better... Anyway, one thing I won't joke about is a big thank you to Disarm and PapaKev for putting on a good party and making me feel welcome. And and even bigger thanks to my sister Liz, who, having been let down by her parents on the child-minding front, opted to drive over to Mexborough and back on Saturday night rather than miss the gig. I especially appreciated this as it saved me the train fare and a night in a hotel. It's a fair old trek from Nantwich to Mexborough and back and unlike me and Dan, Liz didn't have the luxury of having a kip on the way back. You're a star, Liz. Absolute star. Mind you, I might not be calling her that next week when I get to play childminder while she and Roger have a weekend away...
Right, that's yer lot for now. I've got to go and find my bank card so I can get some money out of my savings account to pay for my Crewe Alexandra season ticket and my dirty weekend away in Bridlington.
Sunday 13th July
There are times when I think that, having bought a decent digital camera, I ought to get out and take more pictures than I do. And then there are times when I realise that I haven't uploaded the pictures I took last week, so there's not point in taking more pictures till I've got them sorted. And sorted them I have. So you can now pop along and have a look at my pictures from the Wrenbury Scarecrow Trail. It's an annual event in aid of Wrenbury School and the villagers all pitch in. Over three weekends you can go along to the village, buy a guide and walk round the trail, spotting the scarecrows and vote for your favourite. There's also a car boot sale and the school fayre on during the middle weekend. We had a wander around the central village bit then drove out to Wrenbury Heath to see the scarecrows there. We didn't sadly get as far as Aston for the scarecrows there, so if you want more information pop along to the Offical Scarecrow Trail site. As well as seeing the scarecrows we also saw the ancient lifting bridge in action. Not once but a couple of times. I filmed it in action but need to work out how to rotate the film before I can upload it. Oh and add a soundtrack, of course.
Having worked through the Carry Ons, anyone still interested in checking out my reviews, and pointing out any inconsistencies or spelling mistakes, can now check out my CarryOnathon page via the link added on the left. I've re-ordered the reviews in to film release order so it makes a bit more coherent reading. I won't necessarily be checking the page very often though, so if you want to make a comment it's probably best to e-mail me.
I did mention in my last update that I'd been challenged to name my top ten movies and that I thought I'd done that before. Well, I sort of did way back in February 2004, (check through the archives if you're really interested) when I named my ten favourite films of the time. Of the ten I named then, I reckon four would probably make it in to my all-time top ten of all time. I've still not settled on a definitive list though, so you'll have to wait a while longer for that. (Ooh, I'm such a tease!)
And that's it for this update. Still not decided which DVD boxset I'll be reviewing next, I'm afraid. Not much else to tell either - I've got a few things lined up next week though, which should make interesting reading on here at some point. I'm off for a railway-based pub crawl with some ex-colleagues on Friday. And then on Saturday I'll be at Disarm's album launch party. I reckon I'll have a cracking hangover by Sunday...
Wednesday 9th July
Carry On Commentary
So, I've had a week's rest, some decent nights of sleep and a chance to reflect on the CarryOn-athon. so, here are some of the questions I've been asked during the course of the last month or so.
I've always had a soft spot for the Carry On films and my memories of them are mostly good. But I don't think I'd ever considered the series as a whole and my opinion of the series seemed to be based around a third of the films. I needed to to check them out and see how my opinion might change. Plus, I wasn't that interested in Euro 2008 amd June has thirty days, coincidentally the exact number of films that I had to watch, so I put two and two together and came up with a stupid idea.
Which is your favourite Carry On?
Screaming. Next question
Did you really watch all of them?
I cannot tell a lie and so I have to admit that I did watch them all but not necessarily on the day I reviewed them. I managed to sneak in a couple extra during the second weekend and so was almost always ahead of myself. I wrote up reviews after I'd watched the film but didn't post them until the relevant day, which is how I managed to go to the annual Lawrence family gathering and watch-slash-review 'That's Carry On'. I ought to point out though, that not only did I watch the films but I also checked out the extras on the DVDs too. On most of them this stretched as far as some trivia information, publicity stills, the cinematic trailer and audio commentary from some minor stars. On the later ones the extras also included episodes from the Carry On Laughing TV series. If you thought England and Emmannuelle were bad, you should see some of these. Clearly all shot in a studio for a cost of about three quid, most of which must have been spent on drugs, because they clearly didn't spend anything on sets, scripts or jokes. I think I found watchingv those dreadful TV shows more disheartening than the films...
Why didn't you include Carry On Columbus?
Apart from the fact that it's a sham of a mockery of a travesty of a farce? Two reasons - firstly, although it's recognised as a Carry On film, it isn't acknowledged as part of the classical canon. It is, in fact, the bastard offspring of the series. And the second reason for not reviewing it is that I don't actually have a copy of it on DVD or tape, and it's not currently available in the shops.
Is there a general rule of thumb that I can use to determine whether a Carry On is worth watching?
There's a couple of simple rules. Anything starring Jack Douglas is probably best avoided. The higher up the bill he is, the worse the film is. And then it depends on whether you find Babs Windsor attractive or not. It seems no coincidence to me that she isn't in most of the best ones. And let's not forget she only starred in nine of the films. Generally speaking, you can avoid the films with Babs in.
What's the best way of classifying the Carry Ons?
There is the obvious way of deciding which are the top ten, the bottom ten and whatever is left over, but that always leaves people arguing that such-and-such a film deserves to be higher in the list or that the same film should be in another list. So I think that it is better to break them down into the Delights, the Decent, the Distractions, the Disappointments and the Dross. The Delights are those films that you must watch, the Decent are those that are worth checking out, the Distractions are those that are best saved for a wet weekend, the Disappointments are those you should watch with low expectations, and the Dross are, of course, those that you should never watch. There's always the question of personal taste of course, but having trawled through the lot I think I can offer the following table with some authority.
Up the Khyber
Follow That Camel
At Your Convenience
Don't Lose Your Head
Up the Jungle
That's Carry On
And if you don't agree with me, well, tough. You will respect mah authoritah!
What are you doing next?
Well, I'm not sure, but whatever it is won't involve watching and reviewing a film a day for a month. That was just madness. I do, however, have some other box sets I could work through. I've got two Horror box sets with 20 films each and a Comedy boxset, also with 20 films in it. These, I think, I've mentioned before. I picked them up cheap at a discount store and each contains a mix of stuff - some classic, some foreign, some you've never heard of. I've also got the Comic Strip Presents... box set, which has all 39 episodes in. I could do that as a side project, I think - one a week, on a separate page. That might work. My brother, Mark, also suggested I name my top ten films. I think I might have done that before so will trawl back through the site to find out. I'll see. As soon as I've decided, I'll let you know.
Monday 30th June
Carry On Emmannuelle
And so we reach the end, the last of the accepted Carry On canon, Carry On Emmannuelle. The regulars hauling their creaking comedy bones back on set for this are Williams, Sims, Connor and Butterworth. The irregulars include Jack Douglas, Larry Dann (fourth Carry On), Michael Nightingale, Eric Barker and Victor Maddern. The hitherto umentioned Gertan Klauber also makes the last of seven Carry On appearances. Making their one and only Carry On appearances are Suzanne Danielle and Beryl Reid; the sublime and the ridicul;ous. (Please yourselves about which is which.) And for all you connections fans, Albert Moses and Dino Shafeek, who appear here, also starred together in the TV series Mind Your Language. Screenplay, for this film, handled by Lance Peters, based on a X-rated novel and toned down considerably for this Carry On.
The plot, or flimsy excuse for gratuitous nudity and endless innuendo, revolves around the French ambassador to England (Williams), his wife Emmannuelle (Danielle) and their troubled sex life. Ever since a close encounter with a church steeple during a parachute jump, Emile has been unable to fulfill his wife's desires. With his blessing she has getting her oats elsewhere, with as many and varied partners as she can. On her way over to England, she seduces a nerdy, mummy's boy, Theodore Valentine (Dann) who becomes obsessed with her and starts stalking her. Whilst Emmannuelle cavorts across London having erotic encounters with all and sundry, Valentine is following her and taking pictures. He reveals all to the tabloids, who have a field day and Emmannuelle appears on television to defend herself. Which she does by seducing the interviewer during the live broadcast. As you do. In the end after seeing to half of London and the winning team and the referee at the Cup Final (a team playing in a very familiar Manchester red strip, it has to be said) she gets what she really wants when Emile finds himself able to rise to the occasion again. And she gets a bit more than she bargained for because it turns out that sneaky Emile has replaced her contraceptive pill with a fertility pill. Cue hilarious scene in hospital with sextuplets when nurse says they look like their dad and the camera pans to reveal a room crammed with candidates-cum-suspects.
I thought Carry On England was the worst, I may well have been wrong. There's nothing at all funny in this film. Plenty of nudity, including dear Kenneth Williams himself exposing more flesh than might have been advisable, but not a single laugh-out-loud moment. Williams' delivers the wobbliest French accent in history - veering from the south of France to south of Fulham in an instant - and is matched by Danielle's accent being so heavy that some of her lines are almost unintelligible. The other Carry On regulars are wasted in inconsequential roles that appear to have been written solely to give them something to do. The plot is as flimsy as one of Ms Danielle's negligees and the jokes are, well, pretty much non-existent. In fact, this is pretty much a blueprint of the sort of sex comedy that the British used to do so badly in the Seventies. Not only does it have a cheesy disco theme tune, most of the sex is implied and the producers spent so long on working out how to get the occasional flash of flesh past the censors that they neglected the script. Dreadful from start to finish.
I'm afraid I can't even bring myself to give it one. Or a score out of 10. (And, believe me, that's funnier than any joke in the film.) Yep, 0 out of 10. Absolutely no redeeming features - no great performances, no classic gags, no nothing. If Carry On England was scraping the bottom of the barrel, this is turning the barrel over, scraping the mud and slime off the outside of the bottom, grilling some bread and serving the two up as toast and pate. This shouldn't be avoided like the plague, this should be avoided like the Biblical plagues of Egypt.
And that's it. Thirty days and thirty films. I'm now going to take an evening or two off, catch up with my sleep, and come back to give you my considered lists of the ten best, ten worst and ten not-the-best-or-worst. Just in case you were planning to start up your own Carry On viewing society or film library. And then I've got a few other movie projects I could work on. None of which will involve watching a film a day for a month, because that's just madness.
Sunday 29th June
That's Carry On
Celebrating 20 years of the Carry On films, along comes this compilation, That's Carry On. Regulars? Well technically they're all in it, along with plenty of the irregulars, but the only new scenes in this compilation are the linking sequences featuring Kenneth Williams and Babs Windsor. The dialogue for their scenes was written by Tony Church, but later Williams claimed to have changed much of it.
There is no plot really, it's just Ken and Babs in a projection booth, mucking about and watching edited highlights of virtually all of the films in the series. The only one that doesn't make the final cut appears to be Carry On England, for which we should be truly thankful. Otherwise the rest are all present and correct, although the clips are shown with scant regard for the chronology of the releases. And in some cases, scant regard for the order of the scenes in the actual films. The clips themselves were chosen by the director and the producer of the Carry Ons, Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers, whittled down from an original selection that was over six hours long.
Call me a curmudgeon but I can't help feeling that we would have been better served by a concentration on the better films in the series here rather than by the potted highlights of each and every one we get. That way, we could have avoided some of the clunkers in the series and the jokes and set-ups in the other films could have had a bit more screen-time and probably made a bit more sense. On the other hand, only a true devotee like myself would surely have watched all those films, so if it encouraged people to go back and have a look at some of the others then all well and good.
Overall though, it's a 3 out of 10. The linking shots between Babs and Ken are pretty weak - the innuendo and stuff is almost as overdone as in Carry On England - and Babs seems enormously pleased with herself despite appearing in less than a third of the films. And the highlights don't work - they're too short to convey much of the theme or plot of each film and some of the jokes fall flat out of context. This is one for the completists only, as they say.
Saturday 28th June
Carry On England
The end is nigh and the series almost ends up back where it started - in the army - with Carry On England. The only regulars enlisting this time around are Connor, Sims and Butterworth. Kenneth Williams, Babs Windsor and Bernard Bresslaw were all unavailable, and although never slated to be in this film, Sid James died before the start of filming. The territorial army of irregulars include Julian Holloway, Michael Nightingale, Jack Douglas, Windsor Davies, and David Lodge. The familiar names joining the cast here are Patrick Mower, Judy Geeson (sister of Sally) and Melvyn Hayes (Gloria from It Aint Half Hot Mum). Diane Langton came in to do the Babs Windsor part. Screenplay was handled by David Pursall and Jack Sneddon, who had presented it originally for the Carry On Laughing TV series. Another regular absent from this one is composer Eric Rogers, who pulled out of scoring the film when budget cuts reduced the orchestra from 40 to 20 players.
We're back in the war years, 1940, to be precise and 1313 Experimental Battery is giving the Army no end of trouble. Having sent their best officers down there and seen them all fail, the top brass take a new track and send one of their worst - Capt S. Melly (Connor) - to have a crack at it. And what is it? Why, it's a mixed battalion, with both men and women in service. Except the only thing they are servicing is each other. Cpt. Melly, assisted by Sgt-Major Bloomer (Windsor Davies) tries his best to instill discipline, whilst the soldiers, led by Sergeants Able (Mower) and Willing (Geeson) try to get on with the business of knocking each other off. Not that there's much else to do - they're an anti-aircraft battalion without a gun. As the battle of wits between officer and soldiers continues the ante is upped considerably when an anti-aircraft gun is finally delivered. The batallion then have to pass an inspection in order to continue their existence. Of course, they pass but not without incident. Incidents affecting Cpt Melly, mostly.
I think you can generally judge a Carry On by the standard of the characters names and Captain S Melly, has to be the worst, weakest gag name in the entire series. Swiftly followed up by Sgts Willing and Able and Privates Ready and Easy. Notably here too, out has gone the subtle wit, the double entendre and the gentle humour and in has come a load of single entendres, gratuitous nudity and absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. Even the clean jokes are delivered badly. This is a disaster from beginning to end and not even Windsor Davies manic turn as the Sgt-Major can save this from the dung heap. Absolute toss. No wonder not many of the regulars were in it - if they'd read the script they would have known instantly to avoid it. Even Pink Floyd, who originally put up half the money to finance the film, pulled out of this one. And if you want an example of the level this sinks to, well, take the Reveille scene. When the Reveille sounds through the speakers in the barracks, both the men and the women sit up in their beds to complain. In the men's hut, all the soldiers are wearing pyjamas whereas next door the women all apparently sleep naked, or topless at least.
Score on the door, er, well, there isn't one. Oh alright 1 out of 10, but only for Windsor Davies' performance, despite the fact he'd been playing that character for a couple of years in It Aint Half Hot, Mum. This is, as far as I'm concerned the absolute worst film of the series. Dreadful from start to finish. Odious characters, preposterous set-up and no wit or subtlety at all. Avoid like the plague.
Friday 27th June
Carry On Behind
Hey, hey, hey, it's the first full day of Glastonbury and I'm at home watching Carry On Behind. The regulars who signed up for this one are Williams, Butterworth, Connor, Bresslaw and Sims. The irregulars include Patsy Rowlands, Jack Douglas, Marianne Stone, and David Lodge. Making his eighth and final Carry On appearance is Billy Cornelius and Hugh Futcher notches up his seventh. Liz Fraser returns for her fourth Carry On, having not been seen since Carry On Cabby. Special guest star is German totty Elke Sommer. There's a bit of an Army connection with Windsor Davies, Donald Hewlett and Ian Lavender all turning out - Davies and Hewlett starred in It Aint Half Hot Mum and Lavender in Dads' Army. There's also a Coronation Street connection as both Mike Baldwin, aka Johnny Briggs and Mrs Reg Holdsworth, aka Sherrie Hewson are in this too. Larry Dann sets what must be the record for time between Carry Ons, making his second appearance 16 years after being in Carry On Teacher. The screenplay is handled by Dave Freeman this time out. Mr Freeman had plenty of experience, including writing the Carry On Laughing TV series and contributing to the Christmas specials.
Archaeologist Professor Crump (Williams) and visiting Russian expert Professor Vooshka (Sommer) are off to a dig of some Roman ruins on a campsite. It's the height of summer, of course, so also on their way to the camp site are two single girls looking for "fun", a couple of married men likewise, a hen-pecked husband with his wife and mother-in-law and a couple and their enormous dog. Crump and Vooshka are forced to share a caravan and there are hilarious consequences over that. In fact, there's just general hilarity to be had from Vooshka's mangled English. Meantime Ernie (Douglas) and Fred (Davies) have convinced their wives that they're off on a fishing trip and have met up with Carol (Hewson) and Sandra (Carol Hawkins), Unfortunately, their attempts to impress the girls backfire and they end up destroying the girls' tents. Elsewhere on the campsite Arthur Upmore (Bresslaw) is putting up with his wife (Rowlands) and her mother Daphne (Sims), who has insisted on bringing her pet Mynah bird with her. The relationships deteriorate even more when the bird escapes. And there are misunderstandings galore as Arthur goes in search of the bird, whose favourite phrase is "Show us yer knickers!". As the two professors get to grips with their living arrangements and each other, the girls ditch Fred and Ernie for some strudents who arrive to help out on the dig, Fred and Ernie's wives turn up unexpectedly, and Arthur's mother-in-law is re-united with her husband. And that's about it.
It doesn't sound much and that's because it isn't much. Dave Freeman makes sure he sticks to the tried-and-trusted Carry On formula by basically copying Carry On Camping, but replacing the tents with caravans. Sure there are one or two tweaks but nothing too radical; Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas play the Sid James and Bernie Bresslaw characters from Camping, Butterworth appears to be wearing the same outfit from that film and Bresslaw himself gets the Terry Scott role, albeit with Sims as the unwelcome third party instead of Hawtrey. And to complete the symmetry, this was shot in the same location - Pinewood Orchards.
Overall, 5 out of 10. Not a bad film per se but a pale imitation of the glorious Carry On camping. And whilst I don't miss the cackling of Babs Windsor, there's clearly a Sid James-shaped hole in the film. A hole that Windosr Davies just can't fill. I have seen a case made that this is an overlooked gem but, in the context of the series, the best you can say is that it is the least worst of the final few films and certainly the last of the ones worth watching.
Thursday 26th June
Carry On Dick
The Carry On crew stand and deliver once again, with the 26th outing in the series, Carry On Dick. Regulars on patrol here are Bresslaw, Butterworth, Connor, Jacques, James, Sims, Williams and Windsor. Heading up the irregulars are Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands, Bill Maynard, Michael Nightingale, Marianne Stone and Maragaret Nolan. David Lodge appears in his third Carry On, having appeared in Regardless and then having to wait twelve years before getting his part in Girls (ooh-er!). The screenplay was done by Talbot Rothwell and this one proved to be his last - an attack of nervous exhaustion near the end of the script-writing process not only meant that his daughter had to type up the final draft but it also put the mockers on a deal for a further five Carry On scripts. Mind you, it was perhaps not surprising he was exhausted - not only had he been knocking out Carry Ons at the rate of two a year for the last ten years but he'd also written the Carry On London stage show, the Carry On Christmas TV specials and done Up Pompeii for Frankie Howerd. sadly, after being advised to rest, he never wrote another thing and passed away in 1981.
'Tis 1750 and criminals roam England. The King has formed the Bowe Street Runners to try to cut down on crime but despite their successes, there's still one highwayman who eludes them - Big Dick Turpin (Sid James). So called because of the size of his weapon...(yawn!) Anyway, Captain Fancy (Williams) is tasked with apprehending Turpin and his gang. Aided by Sgt Jock Strapp (the appalling Jack Douglas) he travels north to track Turpin down, going undercover as a criminal. Of course, he lets the local vicar in on his secret, which is a bit of a shame as the Reverend Flasher is none other than Turpin himself. There then follows some comic episodes where Fancy is outwitted by Turpin and then later taken to be Turpin by the slow-witted local constable, who promptly arrests him. There's also a bit of frippery with Joan Sims and her troupe of "models" which seems to be included largely to up the cleavage count. (Not that Babs isn't managing that on her own as Turpin's saucy assistant, Harriet.) In the end, when the truth finally dawns on Fancy, he tries to arrest Flasher on leaving his church one Sunday morning, only for Turpin to outwit him again and escape, riding off into the sunset with his accomplices.
Couple of major problems with this one, I'm afraid. One is the increasing amount of screen time given over to cackling sex dwarf Babs Windsor and the other is that we've seen this film before in the shape of Don't Lose Your Head. Apart from a few minor changes the plot is virtually identical. Even the normally flag-waving notes accompanying the DVD admit as much. The whole affair is, therefore, as predictable as the references to Babs' norks and as about as amusing. Worse still, there aren't any decent comic characters or good performances to lighten up proceedings.
Sorry to say but I'm afraid this only gets 4 out of 10. The wholesale recycling of plot, characters and jokes just seems lazy and uninspired. And even what new jokes there are in the piece are unsubtle and unamusing. "Big Dick" indeed. That said, there is something about this film that makes it more appealing than some of the others in the series, so I reserve the right to come back and change my rating later.
Wednesday 25th June
Carry On Girls
It's off to the sleepy seaside town of Fircombe, for Carry On Girls. The regulars taking the sea air are James, Sims, Windsor, Connor, Butterworth and Bresslaw. Irregulars also on the promenade include June Whitfield, Jack Douglas, Patsy Rowlands, Valerie Leon, Marianne Stone, and Joan Hickson. And the odious Robin Askwith, later to star in the downmarket Confessions... series, makes his one and only Carry On appearance. Talbot Rothwell turns in what proves to be his penultimate Carry On screenplay.
As mentioned before, we're down by the seaside in the sleepy town of Fircombe and local councillor Sidney Fiddler (James) persuades the Mayor (Connor) that they should run a beauty contest in order to boost tourism. Seems like a good idea but they reckon without the Women's Libbers, lead by Councillor Augusta Prodworthy (Whitfield). She's against it, alright. Not looking too amused either is Sid's long-time dalliance Connie (Sims), who finds herself corralled into putting up the contestants for free in her hotel. Sid also ropes in Peter Potter (Bresslaw) the PR man to help him. And Potter travels down from London, leaving behind his austere looking girlfriend, Paula (Valerie Leon). Things start going downhill when Miss Easy Rider, Hope Springs (Windsor, of course) arrives and starts a catfight with Dawn Brakes (the lovely Margaret Nolan) during the first publicity shoot. And then there's the hilarity of Bernie Bresslaw in drag as a publicity stunt. That (predictably) backfires when the police arrive, along with Potter's girlfriend Paula. All the while the Women's Libbers have been making the Mayor look a laughing stock - not a difficult task - and plotting to disrupt the contest. On the night of the show, they put itching powder in the girls outfits, sprinkle pepper on the contestants and then turn on the fire sprinklers. Fiddler finds himself run out of town, with Hope Springs hot on his heels. Just about everyone else gets to live happily ever after.
Despite the acres of cleavage on display, this is a bit of a letdown. Williams and Hawtrey are obviously missed and it falls to Jimmy Logan to play the camp role and he makes a bit of an arse of it. The other thing is, this film is noticeably a Babs and Sid vehicle, and they may have been an item in real life but on-screen their relationship looks like your uncle trying to get off with one of your girlfriend's mates. It's just wrong. Not even decent performances from Butterworth (as the lecherous Admiral, a hotel resident) and Bresslaw can disguise the gripping, not-very-goodness of this film. For example, the battle of the sexes set-up ends, without any deviation from predictability, with the women coming out on top (ooh-er!) as they always do in the Carry Ons. As another example, Paula's transformation from uptight, repressed secretary to sexy siren involves the standard removal of spectacles and shaking out of hair. Gosh, how novel. And furthermore Kenneth Connor's performance as the Mayor appears to be an exercise in self-parody whilst Joan Sims apparently phoned in her performances. Worse still though than the easy resort to cliche and the lacklustre acting, is the increased screen time given to Jack Douglas, a one-trick pony whose trick does not bear repeated viewings. (He's the guy doing the tedious physical spasms stuff throughout, if you haven't guessed.)
So, out of 10, I can only give this 4. That may be a tad harsh, as there is much worse to come, but really, I didn't find this funny. Definitely in the bottom ten of all time.
Tuesday 24th June
Carry On Abroad
After churning them out at the rate of about two a year, the series slows down to just one a year now, with 1972's offering Carry On Abroad. Pretty much a complete cast of regulars are booked in for this trip - Williams, Hawtrey, James, Connor, Sims, Jacques, Butterworth, Bresslaw, and Windsor. Also along for the ride are the irregulars - Patsy Rowlands, Derek Francis (the last of six Carry Ons for him), June Whitfield (second of four, first since Nurse), the harbinger of doom Jack Douglas, and Hugh Futcher. Jimmy Logan comes in for the first of his two Carry Ons and Sally Geeson, who starred in Bless This House, does likewise. The screenplay is, as ever, in the capable hands of Talbot Rothwell.
It's 1972 and the package holiday is still pretty much a novelty, so it's ripe for a send-up. And here a disparate group go on a four-day getaway to the Mediterranean island of Elsbels. There's Vic Flange (James) who was planning a dirty weekend with Sadie (Windsor) till his wife Cora (Sims) got to hear about it and decided to go along with him. There's a repressed couple, Evelyn and Stanley Blunt (Connor and Whitfield). There's also Mr Tuttle (Hawtrey) travelling alone, the aforementioned Sadie, a couple of young girls looking for fun and a party of priests, including Brother Bernard (Bresslaw), who are off to the tomb of St Cecilia. Looking after the lot of them is Stuart Farquhar (Williams), the tour guide. They arrive in Elsbels and, shocker, their hotel isn't finished. Not only are the top four floors not built but there are only three staff - Pepe (Butterworth) who does everything. Giorgio (Ray brooks) who does nothing and Floella (Jacques) the cook. They do their best to accommodate the party but there are one or two, or three, or maybe half a dozen, things wrong; the shared bathrooms, the unfinished wardrobes and drawers and the dangerous balconies to name but four. Not to mention the teething troubles in the kitchen where Floella just can't work her cock, er sorry, coke-powered ovens. Still, having managed to get past those minor inconveniences, most of the party head off on a sight-seeing tour. Evelyn Blunt gets left behind and Giorgio, if you'll pardon the expression, finally does something. The sightseers meanwhile are enjoying the market, whilst the priests are visiting the tomb of St Cecilia. One of the stallholders is flogging a dodgy love potion call Liquer D'Amoura and more than a few of the party are stocking up. However, when the Brits are abroad, you know trouble can't be far behind and Mr Tuttle sparks outrage in the local stripclub by trying to play leapfrog. It descends into a full-scale fight involving the rest of the sightseers and then the priests and they all spend the night in the police cells. When they get out, it's back to the hotel for a farewell party. Pepe lays on a champagne punch and everyone spikes it with a good helping of Liquer D'Amoura. Cue scenes of drunken lechery, with even the priests getting in on the act, having been persuaded to have "just one glass". Outside the hotel, a storm is raging and storm waters flood under the hotel, ruining its foundations and the whole thing comes tumbling down. Luckily, the various romantic plots have all been resolved and everyone escapes before the hotel collapses. Cut back to Vic's pub some time later and various characters all turn up for a re-union including Mr Tuttle, who closes the film.
I mention Mr Tuttle because, sadly, this was to be Charles Hawtrey's last Carry On. After a solid run of 18 consecutive Carry Ons and appearing in all but one of the series (Carry On Cruising being the one he missed), he was unable to resolve his differences with the film's producers over his position in the credits and so left the series, never to return. Indeed, he made only one more film and appeared in an episode of SuperGran and lived a fairly reclusive life in retirement. Not quite the end of the era, but another sign that the end was nigh.
Perhaps another sign was the rather dreadfully stereotypical lines that Butterworth, as Pepe, had to put up with. Or more appropriately, had to be "making the puttings up with". That and the fact that yet again Sid James was playing the lothario despite the fact he's got a face like a walnut. A pickled one at that. All in all, despite some good gags (I was especially amused to spot the balloons arranged like a penis and testicles in the background at the farewell party) the series here starts to show a bit of wear and tear. Maybe it's because they just introduce a load of characters and there's no sense of a back story or a common history between them. Or maybe it's because the cackling dwarf, Babs Windsor, gets too much time on screen again.
Perhaps a little controversial but I'm only giving this 5 out of 10. It's by no means bad, but it's not particularly great either. In fact, it's a bit dull. It may pass the time pleasantly enough on a late Friday evening but given what's gone before it's not really up to scratch. There are better Carry Ons worth checking out before you get to this one.
Monday 23rd June
Carry On Matron
Making almost as many return visits to hospital as George Best, the team are back on the wards for Carry On Matron. The fully registered regulars here are Williams, Hawtrey, James, Jacques, Sims, Connor, Windsor and Bresslaw. The ancillary staff are headed by Terry Scott, with Jacki Piper, Patsy Rowlands, Bill Maynard, Valerie Leon and Margaret Nolan amongst the rest filling out the minor roles. Kenneth Cope comes in for his second and final Carry On. There are also appearances by future Eastenders stalwart Wendy Richard and future Everton chairman Bill Kenwright. Also making his first appearance is that one-trick pony and signifier of rubbish Carry Ons, Jack Douglas. Screenplay by Talbot Rothwell, knocking out his 17th Carry On in the space of 9 years. No wonder some of them were a bit patchy...
We're at Finisham Maternity Hospital this time round. A hospital run by the hypochondriac Dr Cutting (Williams) and Matron (Jacques) who is in love with him (shocker!). Not only do they have to deal with awkward cases like Mrs Tidy (Sims) who eats like a horse but shows no sign of producing her overdue baby, but there's another danger in their middst. Yes, it's scheming Sid Carter (James) and his gang, who are looking to steal a load of contraceptive pills for sale abroad. Sid goes in to have a recce but decides the only way to get a proper map of the layout is to send in his son, Cyril (Cope), disguised as a nurse. Unfortunately Cyril's planned quick look round turns into an extended stay, as first he has a run-in with the lecherous Dr Prodd (Scott), then gets billeted with Nurse Ball (Windsor) and then has another entanglement with Dr Prodd. To cap things off, he then ends up on the front pages of the newspapers after helping film star Jackie Darling (Leon) have triplets. Following his heroics, Matron gives "Cyrille" the day off but on returning to the nursing home, Nurse Ball discovers his secret. She agrees to keep quiet on the understanding that he's going straight once the heist is over. Meantime, when Sid visits the hospital to talk to Cyrille, Matron becomes suspicious and follows him. Sid makes a narrow escape and decides they must do the job that night. So come nightfall, the job is on. The gang manage to get into the hospital and past the security guard but then things go a bit pear-shaped. They get their hands the contraceptives but find themselves locked in the hospital and pursued by staff and patients alike. In the end they have to strike a deal to get away. Whilst the crime caper has been going on the romantic sub-plot between Matron and Dr Cutting has been developed, mainly by way of comedy misunderstanding, and the film ends with the two marrying. At the ceremony are Cyril and Nurse Ball, who have become an item and Sid and the rest of the gang. As Sid outlines his next caper the two henchmen, Ernie (Bresslaw) and Freddy (Maynard) exchange glances and then do a runner.
It has to be said, the plot here is a bit of a clunker. The comedy crime caper has been done better and the romance between Jacques and Williams runs almost exactly the same course as their previous relationships in both Carry On Doctor and Carry On Camping. Plus Ken Cope doesn't fool anyone in his attempts at crossdressing. Of course, that's largely the desired effect for comedic purposes, I suppose. And for all the flaws with the plot, the dialogue is excellent - Williams and Jacques both get some splendid lines, along with Hawtrey's psychiatrist. And Sid plays better as small-time crook than the lecherous types he usually played.
Overall this has to be a 7 out of 10. Possibly the best hospital comedies and probably because it didn't concentrate on the patients too much. The resolution might be a little glib, but the story gets told, the boys get the girls and everyone lives sort of happily ever after. Certainly in the running for the end of season top ten.
Sunday 22nd June
Carry On At Your Convenience
It's back up to the modern day and into the world of work for Carry On At Your Convenience. The regulars clocking in are Williams, Hawtrey, James, Sims, Jacques and Bresslaw. The part-time staff include Patsy Rowlands, Jacki Piper, Bill Maynard and Marianne Stone. Richard O'Callaghan returns for his second and final Carry On. Magaret Nolan's magnificent figure makes the third of six Carry On appearances. Julian Holloway also makes an uncredited appearance. Also worth noting for the older members of the audience is the appearance of Geoffrey Hughes, who later found fame as Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street. And Kenneth Cope, who starred in TV Series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), makes the first of two Carry On appearances. The screenplay is in the capable hands of Talbot Rothwell, once again.
It's all about the trials and tribulations of the staff and mangement of WC Boggs & Son, toiletware manufacturers. Up in the office Mr Boggs (Williams), works foreman Sid Plummer (James) and designer Mr Coote (Hawtrey) are putting a new design through it's paces, aided by Mr Boggs' secretary, Miss Withering (Rowlands). Down on the factory floor, bolshie union leader Vic Spanner (Cope) is stirring up trouble again. He's outraged by Lewis Boggs' (O'Callaghan) decision to axe the tea round. He takes the workers out on strike, again. With the factory at a standstill, everone goes home. Well, Vic tries to get canteen girl Sally (Piper) to go on a date, but she blows him out in favour of Lewis. Sid goes home to a rather dismal dosmetic scene but he discovers that his wife's budgie, Joey, has a knack for picking winners at the horse races. This turns out to be really useful later. Anyway, the strike is resolved, the workers are all back in the office and Lewis returns triumphant from an overseas sales deal with a contract for 1,000 bidets. Boggs Sr. overcomes his resistance to manufacturing them, especially when they work out the profit margin on the deal and OKs the production. Sadly, the bank refuses to back them but Sid stumps up the cash instead, aided by the aforementioned bird. All looks set fair but then Vic spots that the new fitting on the bidet is crossing labour demarcation borders - it's a combined tap and waste pipe fitting and thus can't be fitted by either the tap fitters or the waste pipe fitters, as they'll be doing each others' job. He takes the workers out on strikem again. They stay out for two weeks and the factory looks like losing the contract and going bust. Boggs decides to sell to save the workforce. The workforce return, but not to save their jobs - they don't know they're in danger - but to go on the annual works outing to Brighton. Cue capers as stuff Boggs gets drunk and his secretary takes advantage. And the rivalry between Lewis and Vic finally gets settled when Sally plumps for Lewis. Meanwhile Sid tries his best to get off with neighbour Chloe, despite the fact they're both married. After the trip to Brighton the threat to jobs comes out and Vic's mum rounds up the women workers and the men's wives and they storm down to break the strike and save the factory.
Absolute classic Carry On this one - it has plenty of toilet humour (of course) but also wit and decent writing. Sadly, though, the protrayal of the Union leader as a bit of a clot didn't sit well with the Carry Ons largely working class audience and this film was a relative flop. Most of the films hit their break even point after three days release (because they were so cheap) but this one didn't pull in the numbers and didn't break even until it had been released in Europe.
It scores 8 out of 10 from me. It's a corker. It's got a good story, with a decent sub-plot or two, and the jokes are pretty funny. Of course, it'd be a shame if they couldn't hit the spot in a comedy set in a toilet factory. The actors appear to have a great time and the location shoot in Brighton looks like it was a definite hoot. Top hole!
Saturday 21st June
Carry On Henry
More moralising on the nature of love as we hit number 21 in the series, Carry On Henry. Members of the royal court of Carry on in attendance here are James, Williams, Sims, Hawtrey, Connor and Windsor. Peter Butterworth puts in an even more fleeting uncredited cameo than last time out. The minor courtiers are led by Terry Scott, with Patsy Rowlands, Julian Holloway and Peter Gilmore. Norman Chppell make a second Carry On appearance after having his scene deleted from Carry On Loving. There's even a Marjie Lawrence in this film although, having checked, it's not my Aunt Marjorie, which is a shame because I could have asked her all about the film at next week's family gathering. Anyway, the screenplay, yadda, yadda, Talbot Rothwell.
Yes, the Carry On team are tinkering with history in this tale of Henry VIII's other two wives. One (un-named)Queen (Rowlands) is heading off to the executioner and as the deed is done, Henry (James, of course) is away to marry his next bride, Marie of Normandy (Sims). Unhappily, she turns out to be a garlic-munching terror and the King is put off straight away. - he can't stand garlic, you see. He instructs Lord Chancellor Cromwell (Williams) and Cardinal Wolsey (Scott) that they must get rid of her. Having helped him dispose of at least four previous wives, they find the task is more difficult each time. They advise the King to delay consumating the marriage whilst they try to sort things out. In the meantime, the King's tester, Sir Rodger De Lodgerley (Hawtrey) has already tested the Queen out, so to speak. And elsewhere in the court Lord Hampton of Wick (Connor) is plotting against the King. There are some capers as the King tries to avoid getting into bed with Marie and a failed abduction attempt, but then news of the Queen's pregnancy becomes known. Her cousin, Francis, the King of France (Gilmore) is delighted with the news. Henry is not so, as he's not responsible. Also, he has become infatuated with Lady Bettina (Windsor), the Queen's new lady-in-waiting. Realising that if he gets Sir Rodgwer to confess to his part (ooh-er!) in the Queen's pregnancy, he can divorce her and marry Bet, the King gets Cromwell and Wolsey on the case. The Queen is locked in the Tower of London and Sir Rodger is tortured until he confesses. Unfortunately, it all goes pear-shaped when the Queen manages to get a message to Francis and he turns up with an army demanding to see the Queen. Cue capers as Francis discovers Bet in the Queen's bed and Hampton turns up with Marie, determined to expose the King's treachery. Henry manages to buy Hampton's silence, and throws Cromwell and Wolsey in the Tower to prevent them exposing his plot but has to accede to King Francis' and Queen Marie's demands in order to prevent a war with France. All's well that ends well and despite losing Bet to Francis, Henry is much taken with the Queen's new lady-in-waiting, Katherine Howard. Unsurprisingly Cromwell and Wolsey decide they'd rather be executed than go through all that again.
Well, apart from the diabolical liberties that Talbot Rothwell appears to have taken with history, this one is pretty decent. Still let down by the presence of cackling dwarf Babs Windsor, in my opinion, but even she can't spoil this. The team are back on solid ground doing what they did best - taking an already existing story and mucking about with it. Hawtrey gives one of his best performances and here James' lothario act stands up because he is the King - he can do what he wants. Williams is also excellent as the scheming Cromwell.
Overall, a good 7 out of 10 for this. It's edging towards an 8 and I think will definitely make the top ten at the end of the month. Good solid performances, a few good running gags and plenty of that innuendo we all like. And it features future Darth Vader, Dave Prowse, as a torturer, although his does use his own voice. If only they'd thought to call in James Earl Jones to overdub it...
Friday 20th June
Carry On Loving
Love is a losing game, so Amy Winehouse says and we're off on a loser here - it's Carry On Loving. The regulars performing their conjugal duties here are James, Jacques, Williams, Hawtrey, Sims, and Bresslaw. Butterworth also appears but blink and you'll miss him. Irregulars include Terry Scott, Julian Holloway, Jacki Piper and Patsy Rowlands. Joan Hickson returns for the fourth of her five Carry Ons, having last appeared in Carry On Regardless. Bill Maynard makes the first of his 5 appearances. Richard O'Callaghan comes in as a replacement for Jim Dale, with limited success (he only made two Carry Ons). Amd further down the bill, there's a turn for Mike Grady, better known as Ken in Citizen Smith, and Barry in Last of the Summer Wine. Screenplay by, yes, you guessed it, Talbot Rothwell.
Sidney Bliss (James) run the Wedded Bliss Agency with his partner Sophie (Jacques), and they use computer dating to match up their clients in the town of Much-Snogging-on-the-Green. Yes, that's about as subtle as it gets. Of course, Sid is also using the agency to play the field and string along his partner, who he promised to marry a long time ago but seems to have gone cool on. Anyway, the clientele of the agency are all a bit odd really, and the compuuter that supposedly matches them up doesn't actually work - it's a just a load of junk and Sophie in the back office actually does all the work. Cue a series of comic sketches as the clients come in, get matched up and go off on their dates, all with hilarious consequences. There's the naive virgin Mr Muffet (O'Callaghan) who accidentally picks up a model who is expecting a photographer. The Mr Philpott gets sent to meet a girl with a decidedly creepy family and makes an ass of himself. And Sid himself has a disastrous time with his bit on the side, Esme Crowfoot (Sims) when her boyfriend, the wrestler Gripper Burke (Bresslaw) returns home unexpectedly. Meantime, for those courting couples who need advice where better to turn than to Percival Snooper (Williams) the marriage guidance counsellor at the Citizens Advice Bureau? Well, anywhere to be honest - the man is a confirmed bachelor and he too is forced to seek out the services of the Wedded Bliss Agency. Having employed a private detective, Mr Bedsop (Hawtrey) to tail Sid and discovered the extent of his infidelities, Sophie herself makes a move on Mr Snooper. Just as Sid's love life starts fallng apart though Philpott's and Muffet's are blooming. Mr Muffet hits it off with model Sally (Jacki Piper) and Philpott discovers that his first date, Jenny (Imogen Hassall) has escaped the influence of her family and turned out to be a right cracker, and no mistake. In the end, after a few more comic misadventures, love finds a way and it all turns out right for Sid and Sophie, culminating in a massive food fight at their wedding. Obviously. The same food fight currently being used in them sodding Bounty adverts.
Well for a film with Loving in the title, there ain't any actual "loving" going on, although the action is frequently interrupted by a game couple who seem to be trying to set a world record for necking. This also has more of a feel of the early Carry Ons, with a number of set-pieces being built around a central point, but with little or no plot development. This time though the comedy and wit have been abandoned for lazy reliance on smut and innuendo, with whole sketches being premised on people talking at cross-purposes, usually about sex.
Overall, it's a disappointing 4 out of 10. There's nothing here to detain you - no exceptional set-pieces, very few genuine laughs and the Carry On team seem to drain all the sex out of, well, sex. If, like me, you're on a mission to get through the entire catalogue, then try to get this one out of the way early on, and if you're not a Carry On completist, then this one can probably be safely avoided.
Thursday 19th June
Carry On Up The Jungle
Lawks a-mercy it's off to the dark continent for the 19th caper in the series, Carry On Up The Jungle. The regulars on safari this time are James, Hawtrey, Sims, Bresslaw and a returning Kenneth Connor. The irregulars joining them are Terry Scott, Frankie Howerd, and Valerie Leon. Jacki Piper makes the first of four carry On appearances, taking the lead romantic role usually occupied by Angela Douglas. Absent from this production is Kenneth Williams, who was busy filming his TV show. And Jim Dale turned down the role of Jungle Boy and didn't appear in a Carry on again till the lamented Columbus in 1992. Screeplay once agian done by Talbot Rothwell, and despite his earlier purple patch, maybe it was time to try someone else.
It's Tarzan meets She meets Cannibal Holocaust. Well, maybe not the last one. Lady Evelyn Bagley (Sims) has organised a safari to try to find her long-lost son, Cecil (Scott). Joining her on the expedition are Professor Tinkle (Howerd) the ornithologist and Chumley (Connor) his assistant. Making up the party is June (Piper), Lady Bagley's maid. Their guide is alcoholic, hunter Bill Boosey, with his manservant Upsidaisi (Bresslaw). As they venture deep into the jungle (well, Pinewood set) they have a run-in with a gorilla, are followed by the Jungle Boy (Scott) and stalked by the Nosha tribe (they're cannibals, see). Young June finds a pool, goes for a swim alone and has a close encounter with Jungle Boy. He's instantly infatuated. The expedition party end up captured by the Noshas. They get away but then get captured by the all-female tribe, the Lubis. Turns out their king, Tonka the Great (Hawtrey) is Bagley's husband. Unfortunately for Howerd, Connor and James, the Lubi women have no other men and they are forced to mate with the women. Hard life, but there are a lot of women and they all want seeing to. Luckily, the faithful Upsidaisi has organised a rescue party. Which arrives just as Jungle Boy stages a rescue of his own. Our Carry On-ers escape but the rescue party gets captured after being bushwhacked by stampeding elephants. Oh well, the Lubis will look after them, I suppose.
This is an undoubted improvement on the last film, but there's almost too much crammed in here. Perhaps they could have cut out the Noshas and expanded on the other parts and made the film feel a little less rushed. On the other hand, if the pace had dropped a bit, perhaps we would have noticed that some of the characters are a bit rubbish, the jokes are screamingly obvious and that the Jungle set was less than convincing. We might also have mused on the un-PC-ness of Bernie Bresslaw blacking up and donning a curly wig. (Although Bernie did, apparently, learn his lines in a genuine African language. Which was a complete waste of his time as the genuine blacks in the film were all of Caribbean origin...) Whatever the pace of the film it was not hard to see why Jim Dale refused to play the part of the monosyllabic idiot, Jungle Boy. Incidentally, despite playing the mother of Terry Scott's Jungle Boy, Joan Sims was actually three years younger than him.
Score on the door? Well, despite my reservations, this passes the time really quite quickly and is amusing in places, so scores a solid 6 out of 10. A workmanlike outing for the team - never out-and-out hilarious but never quite falling back solely on smut and innuendo for laughs. If this is in the Top Ten at the end of the series it'll be number nine or ten I should think.
Wednesday 18th June
Carry On Again Doctor
It's off to Long Hampton Hospital for Carry On Again Doctor. On duty this time are James, Hawtrey, Williams, Dale, Windsor, Sims, Butterworth and Jacques. Irregulars include the dependable Peter Gilmore, Patsy Rowlands, Valerie Leon, and Frank Forsyth (in his last Carry On). Also appearing is Wilfred Bramble, meaning that both Steptoe AND Son have clocked up a Carry On. And making an uncredited appearance is the man that, according to Half Man Half Biscuit, 99% of gargoyles look like, Bob Todd. The screenplay is handled by the increasingly hit-and-miss Talbot Rothwell, who apparently adapted a rejected script that he'd done for the Doctor.. series of films.
It's a film of three halves, Brian, as Dr Nookey (Dale) the accident-prone-yet-loveable medic gets himself into a lot of trouble with Matron (Jacques), Dr Stoppige (Hawtrey) and senior surgeon Mr Carver (Williams). It all culminates in one final episode when, sabotaged by Dr Stoppige, he makes a drunken fool of himself and ends up losing everything, including his girlfriend, actress-model-whatever, Goldie Locks (Windsor). Mr Carver has, in the meantime been soaping up Mrs Moore (Sims) in the hope of getting her to pony up the dosh for his new clinic. In order to get into her good books, Carver packs off Nookey to Mrs Moore's medical mission in the Beatific Islands. The resident orderly at the mission, Gladstome Screwer (James) isn't exactly delighted to see the doc as he's got a cushy life going - no one comes to the mission for treatment (they all use the local witch doctor) and his wives and children are living in the ward. Still, he tries to help the doctor out and as a result of one good turn, reveals a miracle slimming serum created by the local medicine man. Realising it's potential Nookey strikes a deal for supplies with Screwer and flies back to England to make his fortune. Just in time to miss Carver who flies out to see him at Mrs Moore's request and gets stuck there for three months. While Carver is stuck on the Beatific Islands, Dr Nookey sets about making his fortune, setting up a lovely new clinic with backing from Mrs Moore. (Yes, it's the Moore-Nookey Clinic. Hilarious.) When Carver returns, he's shocked to see how succesful Nookey is and sets out to destroy him. Also turning up is Gladstone Screwer, and he's after a fair share of the profits. Cue the comedy capers as each man tries to get what he wants. And not only does Nookey have to deal with them but who should come back into his life but Goldie Locks, now known as Melody Madder and a successful film star in Italy. Can Dr Nookey satisfy all three interested parties?
With the, frankly, limp Carry On Doctor still fresh in our minds, there was surely no need for a return to the medical so quickly was there? Well, despite the fact that we have to put up with dumpy Babs Windsor exposing more flesh than a butcher's window, this isn't actually as bad as I feared it might be. There are a few decent gags in there and one or two classic set-pieces and a few dependable plot-devices. It's a bit sillier than the previous medical Carry Ons too - with Dale and others upping the ante on the stunts. Plus, this does at least have a plot of sorts, unlike Camping which was just a series of comic set-pieces based on a theme.
So, for not being as crap as I expected this gets 5 out of 10. It's not in my list of essentials but I'd certainly stay in to watch it on a rainy Sunday afternoon or even a rainy Wednesday evening. Perhaps the most worrying thing about this film is knowing that there are still 12 to go in my marathon and some of the remaining ones make this look like a work of genius. I'm quite tempted to wave the white flag now and pack it all in. However, having come this far, I'm determined to stick it out (Hyack! Hyack!). Just as long as I don't get arrested for it.
Tuesday 17th June
Carry On Camping
What can I say? Day 17, and it's time for Carry On Camping. The regulars packing up their troubles here are Williams, Hawtrey, James, Sims, Jacques, Windsor, Butterworth and Bresslaw. Irregulars helping out are Terry Scott, Dilys Laye, Julian Holloway and Michael Nightingale. Also, Valerie Leon makes the second of her six appearances (having first been in ..Up The Khyber). Also pitching up for her one and only Carry On is Betty Marsden, who was well-known for her work on the radio show Round The Horne. The screenplay is done by Talbot Rothwell, as per, and apparently went through several re-writes before they settled on the camping theme. Some of the unused material apparently got recycled in Carry On Behind.
It's the Swinging Sixties we're definitely in now (the film was released in 1969, by the way) and, hey, everyone's going camping. There's Sid (James) and Bernie (Bresslaw) trying to get their girlfriends to a nudist camp, there's Charlie Muggins (Hawtrey) the camping virgin, there's Peter Potter (Scott) and his dreadful wife Harriet (Marsden) on their annual holiday and lastly there's Dr Soaper (Williams) and Miss Haggard (Jacques) taking the girls of Chayste Place school on a summer trip. Needless to say, after some misadventures on the way, they all pitch up at the Paradise camp site. Sid and Bernie have the sort of comedy capers putting up their tents that my mate Kev and I used to have when we went camping, and then they promptly ditch their girlfriends (played by Sims and Laye) once the schoolgirls arrive, focussing in particular cackling sex dwarf Barbara (Windsor) and her friend, Fanny. Having been reluctant to embark on the holiday, Peter Potter finds himself further put out when he's attacked by a bull and then shot at by an irate farmer. It's the last straw when his wife "adopts" Charlie Muggins and lets him share their tent. Meantime Dr Soaper and Miss Haggard have trouble controlling the girls and themselves (well, Miss Haggard does). And presiding over all this is Josh Fiddler (Butterworth) the campsite owner, who spends his time either trying to screw money out of the guests or worrying about his hens.
I'm kind of ambivalent about this one - there are some great performances (Butterworth, Scott, Marsden) and overall the film is pretty amusing, BUT this film also clearly marks the decline of the Carry On franchise. There's the gratuitous nudity at the start, and Babs Windsor flashing her norks too. There's also less innuendo and more smut. If I was pushed, I'd say this is the film where the Carry Ons "jumped the shark". There's still some decent films to come but this one is definitely the beginning of the end. Perhaps it's a bit unfair to blame her personally, but whenever Babs Windsor is in a Carry On, it is, generally, a bit rubbish. You could argue that she only came into the series late on and the general quality of the scripts and films was decreasing anyway, but I'd say her increasing presence only underlines the decline of the series.
As this is acknowledged as one of the classic Carry Ons and does have it's high points, I'll have to give it 8 out of 10. I would have given it more - certainly Butterworth's scene with James at the camp gate deserves better - but the smut's laid on with a trowel, we've seen that relationship between Jacques and Williams at least once before and the idea that Sid and Bernie could pull some schoolgirls is frankly ludicrous. Oh, and that hippy festival scene towards the end is risible. Oh dear, still 13 days to go and things don't look good from here on in.
Monday 16th June
Carry On Up The Khyber
It's a return to form for this the 16th outing as the team Carry On Up The Khyber. Regulars on duty here are Williams, Hawtrey, James, Butterworth, Sims and Bresslaw. For the irregulars, Terry Scott returns to the fold, Angela Douglas plays the love interest (again) and Julian Holloway and Peter Gilmopre put in appearances. Roy Castle comes in for the unavailable Jim Dale and after a bit of a casting re-shuffle Cardew Robinson cameos as The Fakir in a role originally written for Tommy Cooper. Oh and Patrick Allen once again does a bit of uncredited narration. The screenplay is handled by Talbot Rothwell as per usual.
I'm sure I don't really need to give you a plot summary, but here it is anyway. India, 1895 and the British are lording it up. Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond (James), is Governer of Kalabar and maintains a diplomatic entente with the local ruler, the Khasi of Kalabar, Randi Lal (Williams). He is also Commander of the men guarding the Khyber Pass - the 3rd Foot & Mouth Regiment of the Highland Guards. A regiment feared for their refusal to wear anything under the kilt, earning them the nickname among the local Burpa tribes of 'Devils in Skirts'. They are so feared that the locals dare not rise against them. However, during a border encounter with Private Widdle (Hawtrey), Burpa chief Bungdit Din (Bresslaw) discovers that in this case something is worn under the kilt - woollen pants. It'd be a disaster if the truth came out so Ruff-Diamond heads off to the Khasi to quash any rumour. Unfortunately the two men he takes with him, Capt. Keene (Roy Castle) and Sgt-Major Macnutt (Scott) both have pants on, so that's ruled out. Calling an impromptu inspection, Ruff-Diamond discovers all the men are wearing pants, and what's worse Lady Ruff-Diamond (Sims) has photographic proof. Smitten with the Khasi she delivers the photo, and herself, to the arms of the Khasi. Warned of her betrayal by the Khasi's daughter, the Princess Djelli (Douglas), Keene, Macnutt and Widdle cross the border to Jaksi to mount a rescue mission, using dissolute missionary Brother Belcher (Butterworth) as their guide. Unfortunately, although they manage to make it back, they don't recover the photograph and the Khasi uses it to persuade the Burpas to attack the border post. After slaughtering the sodiers there, the Burpas advance upon the Governaer's palace in Kalabar. After assessing the situation, Ruff-Diamond decides to trust to the remaining soldiers to defend the palace, whilst he hosts a dinner party. His guests are all resolutely stiff-upper-lipped as the Burpas attack the palace, except for Brother Belcher, who is driven to hysteria by the rest of the party carrying on as if nothing was happening oputside. In the end Ruff-Diamond and his senior officers pop outside and join the fighting. And the Devils in Skirts win the day by proving that this time there really is nothing worn under the kilt.
Although this film featured the remotest location filming of any of the Carry Ons, they still never made it outside of the country. Instead, the mountainous scenes were all filmed in Snowdonia, around Llanberis. The Snowdonia shooting took a week and the rest of the film was filmed on sets at Pinewood Studios over the course of about three weeks. Allegedly, the Welsh mountains looked so much like those of Afghanistan that servicemen wrote in saying they recognised the place immediately. I fancy this may have been a bit of marketing guff. Another little known fact about this film is that it is this film that particularly influenced the naming of this website. Yes, it's all down to Bernard Bresslaw's dismissal of the magician with the immortal words "Fakir. Off!"
Back on form here, and this is an all-time classic of all time, so has to get 10 out of 10. The film neatly skewers the whole stiff-upper-lip culture of the colonial era. It also throws in plenty of decent gags about tiffin, has some quality lines and goodly helping of that saucy innuendo that later came to ruin the film series. If there's one quibble I have it is that I would have preferred to see Jim Dale play Roy Castle's part (ooh-er, missus!), but apart from that this is pure Carry On gold.
Sunday 15th June
Carry On Doctor
After the historical-slash-costume drama spoofs of the previous few films it's back to familiar territory for Carry On Doctor. Pretty much the complete line-uip of regulars is here - James, Williams, Hawtrey, Sims, Windsor, Jacques, Butterworth, Bresslaw and Dale. In fact only Kenneth Connor is missing. Further down the bill there are appearances for Peter Gilmore, Marianne Stone, Julian Holloway and Dilys Laye. Anita Harris makes a second appearance and the nominal guest star is Frankie Howerd. The screenplay is once again in the hands of Talbot Rothwell.
Dr Tinkle (Williams) and Matron (Jacques) run their hospital with a rod of iron. But for the patients of Fosdick and Caffin wards there is a litlle light in their lives in the shape of the personable, accident-prone Dr Kilmore (Dale) and, of course, the adorable nurses, including Nurse Clarke (Harris) who is madly in love with said doc. Things bump along with the various patients and their strange ailments (or non-ailments in James' case) until Dr Tinkle's life is disrupted by the arrival of Nurse May (Windsor) who has a crush on him because he once saved her life. He's caught in a compromising position with the nurse by Tinkle and the Matron, but persuades Matron to take his side. When Dr Kilmore is later caught in a compromising position on the roof of the nurses' home (don't ask) Matron and Tinkle seize the opportunity to dismiss the troublesome medic. The patients, outraged at the collusion btween the two senior members of staff and disgruntled with the unsympathetic treatment they've been getting, stage a revolt. They give Dr Tinkle and the Matron a dose of their own medicine before forcing them to re-instate Dr Kilmore.
After the high jinks and inventiveness of the previous few Carry Ons this one hits you in the face like a wet sock. It's largely identical to Carry On Nurse, with bits of the Doctor series of films thrown in, and seems to be going nowhere fast. There are some funny lines in it and some amusing characters but for the first time it feels like the Carry On series really is just repeating itself and recycling the same old jokes. There's even a reference to the daffodil scene at the end of Carry On Nurse.
I just don't like this one and think it's one of the few clunkers that Talbot Rothwell produced during this fertile period. I can only give it 5 out 10. If you must watch a medical Carry On this is probably the one to watch but once you've seen one, you can really have seen them all.
Saturday 14th June
Follow That Camel
It's the second of Rank's entries into the Carry On canon, Follow That Camel. The regulars on active service here are Williams, Hawtrey, Butterworth, Sims and Bresslaw. I've been referring to Jim Dale as an irregular, but as he did eleven films (including Carry On Columbus), I suppose he really deserves a place as a regular. Of the real irregulars, Peter Gilmore notches up yet another appearance, Angela Douglas stars as the love interest and Julian Holloway makes the first of eight Carry On appearances. John Buthal gets to work on his second Carry On but this is his first appearance, as in Spying he only provided the voice of Dr Crow. Phil Silvers joined the team as a late replacement for Sid James, who had television commitments to fulfill. As it turned out that was both a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing because Sid suffered a heart attack whilst the film was being shot, so it might have been scrapped, or at least seriously delayed, while he recovered. Yet it was a bad thing because the producers thought the American star might help the film in the US, not realising that Silver's popularity had declined since the end of Sgt Bilko.
We're back in society England in 1906 and, after a row about cheating at cricket, Bertram Oliphant West (Bo, to his friends) is disgraced. Fearing he has lost everything - his standing in society, his honour and his sweetheart - West(played by Dale) packs his bags and sets off to join the French Foreign Legion, accompanied by his loyal valet Simpson. Arriving in North Africa they encounter Sgt Bilko, er, Nocker in a cafe, enjoying a liaison with Zig Zig (Sims), and he directs them to the nearby garrison to enlist. The garrison is run with an iron fist by Commandant Burger (Williams) despite the wishy-washyness of his second-in-command, Captain Le Pice (Hawtrey). It is also a garrison constantly under threat from the native Riffs, led by Sheikh Abdul Abulbul (Bresslaw) and they can't afford to turn away recruits. West and Simpson though have trouble adapting to the Legion until they recognise Nocker from the cafe and use their hold over him to get an easy life. Meantime, back in Blighty, news of West's departure comes as a great shock to his sweetheart, Lady Jane (Angela Douglas), and when the truth comes out that West didn't cheat, she sets off to find him. Cue a number of vignettes in which men take advantage of a single woman, travelling alone, including Commandant Burger, who turns out to be Jane's old fencing instructor. Whilst this is going on, Sheikh Abdul is using his exotic dancing girl, Corktip (played by Anita Harris), to lure Nocker and West into a trap. A trap they willingly fall into. They are captured and taken to the Sheikh's desert camp. Jane turns up at the Cafe ZigaZig looking for West and is also captured by the Sheikh. Luckily, Simpson is on the case and attempts a rescue, which sadly fails. However, Nocker does get away but by the time he gets to the garrison, the truth about his lone patrols has been uncovered and no one believes his story. When the Legionnaires do set out on a rescue mission , it is too late. The Sheikh and his men have decamped, leaving West and Simpson staked out in the sun. Learning that the Riffs intend to attack Fort Soixante-Neuf (Hyack! Hyack! Hyack!). The Legionnaires set off for there. Along the way, there's a fight among the men and all the injured are sent back to get reinforcements whilst a brave handful march on to the Fort. When they get there, they find that all the men at the fort have been killed. Not only that but the Riffs have returned, intent on adding them to the tally of the dead. The brave few make a stand but, despite their tricks and traps, all seems lost until Le Pice turns up with the reinforcements to save the day. All's well that ends well and back in Blighty, Jane and West have settled down together, although that baby looks a bit odd. And just who is that chap bowling the explosive delivery on the cricket pitch...?
Phew! I've been trying to summarise the plots but it appears I've just described this one wholesale. I must remember to be more succint in my summaries. Anyway, this is another corker. Fairly obviously ripping off the Beau Geste legend, Talbot Rothwell delivers another quality script. There's a bit more obvious innuendo in this one but it's still not at the point where it overwhelms the film. (In fact, as you watch the films in order you can spot the gradual increase in the levels of sauciness.) Dale and Butterworth work together excellently and Williams does a surprisingly good turn as a sadistic German. Phil Silvers IS Sgt Bilko here, but then the role was written with him in mind, so that shouldn't be a surprise. Bresslaw gets a major role here, as Sheikh Abdul, and he hams it up, complete with comedy accent and funny foreign way of the speakings. These days, you wouldn't get away with it, of course. It also has to be said that Rye and Camber Sands do a good job of standing in for the Sahara Desert.
Overall another 9 out of 10 from me. This one has just about everything you want from a Carry On - misunderstandings, bumbling fools, a decent villain, an actual story that goes somewhere and a heap of innuendo piled on the top. Still no out-and-out rudeness on show here and, despite his absence, you don't miss Sid James' cackling at every piece of smut in the script. Definitely one of the top ten Carry Ons.
Friday 13th June
Don't Lose Your Head
Friday 13th wouldn't be a Friday 13th without something going wrong. So, after the nightmare of a journey home that took twice as long as usual, I was delighted to find that my PC wouldn't boot up. And when I did eventually get it going, I couldn't access my website to upload this update. So apologies for it's rather tardy appearance.
It's the first of the two films that didn't actually have Carry On in the title, Don't Lose Your Head. This was due to a change in distribution company, with Rank wary of legal issues and apparently uncomfortable with being associated with Anglo Amalgamated's successful franchise. Anyway, les regulaires ici are James, Williams, Hawtrey, Butterworth and Sims. Jim Dale and Peter Gilmore head les irregulaires. Further down the bill we find Marianne Stone making the fourth of nine appearances and Michael Ward making the last of five. Also on the bill is Jacqueline Pearce, who later played havoc with many a young boy's hormones as Servalan in Blakes 7. Screenplay duties in the hands of Talbot Rothwell again, thus notching up his seventh of the series.
This time we're in France. (But of course, we're not - the furthest they get from London this time is Aylesbury.) The Revolution is in full swing and the aristocrats are in it up to their necks. In Madame Guillotine, of course. And the feared chief of the secret police, Citizen Camembert (williams) is overseeing the executions, assisted by his faithful servant Citizen Bidet (Butterworth). News of the Revolution finally reaches the ears of bored, society fops Sir Rodney Ffing (James) and Lord Darcy Pugh (Dale) who decide to lift a finger, or two, to help their French cousins escape the tyranny. Soon Ffing ("Effing, with two f's") and Pugh are causing havoc with the executions and become known as The Black Fingernail, due to the distinctive calling card they always leave. Camembert is determined to catch him and eventually hatches a plan. Travelling to England is disguise, they lure him into a trap. And this time instead of fighting for someone else's lives, Ffing and Pugh must fight for their own.
It's a pretty obviously based on the Scarlet Pimpernel story and one wonders how they managed not to get sued by Baroness Orczy's estate for it. Probably because the estate believed them when they claimed it had nothing to do with the Scarlet Pimpernel, but didn't bother to actually check the film to be certain. Anyway, the film also features a first for the series when there is a scene where James and Dany Robin (playing the love interset) both speak direct to camera. It's not a technique I'm particularly fond of but it seems to work OK here. That aside, it's clear that once again things are on top form, with the cast having a great script to work with and clearly having a riot in this costume drama. Charles Hawtrey, in particular seems to be having a whale of a time as the Duc de Pomfritt.
That said, this is only gets an 8 out of 10 from me. It is quality, the puns are as good/bad as ever and the settings are magnificently done. However, Sid's turn from lisping fop to all-action hero doesn't quite convince me - I think it's his attempt at the fop that don't quite ring true. And although there's plenty to enjoy here, there are times when it seems to drag a little. This is still top ten material though. Vive La Farce!
Thursday 12th June
Carry On Screaming
No apologies if this turns out to be a bit gushy, but Carry On Screaming is my all-time favourite Carry On film of all time. It's a hammy Hammer Horror spoof. Regulars providing the thrills here are Williams, Hawtrey, Sims, Butterworth and Bresslaw. Jim Dale leads the irregulars, there's a sizzling return for Fenella Fielding, Jon Pertwee makes the last of his three appearances and further down the bill Tom Clegg makes the fifth of his six. Completing the link between the Carry On and Hammer, Frank Forsyth appears in the seventh of his eight Carry Ons, having also done Hammer's The Evil of Frankenstein, with Peter Cushing. Harry H Corbett comes in to do his only Carry On, replacing a sadly unwell Sid James, and frankly, does a splendid job. Screenplay once again in the capable hands of Talbot Rothwell.
In Edwardian England, someone (or some thing) is kidnapping young ladies down in Hocombe Woods. When Doris Mann (Douglas) disappears during a late night liaison with Albert Potter (Dale), Detective Sergeant Bung (Corbett) investigates. The kidnapper has at least left them a clue this time - a finger. A great, hairy finger. The question is, who does it belong to? And does it have anything to do with the suspicious characters inhabiting the nearby Bide-A-Wee Rest Home? Well, of course it does. Dr Orlando Watt (Williams) and his vampish sister Valeria (Fielding) are using Oddbod (a re-animated homo gigantus), to kidnap the girls and are turning them into mannequins. Valeria tries to distract Bung by seducing him but the situation becomes a lot more complicated after Police forensic scientist, Dr Fettle (Pertwee) manages to create a whole new being from Oddbod's finger. With Oddbod and Oddbod Junior now on the loose, no woman is safe in Hocombe Woods. Nor indeed, any man disguised as a woman, as Constable Slobotham (Butterworth) finds to his cost. Luckily Bung and Potter come to his rescue. They solve the mystery, Dr Watt meets a grisly end and Bung gets the girl. Or at least he gets Valeria, who, quite frankly, apopears to be more than adequate reward.
This is, for me an absolute treat. It skewers the Hammer genre pretty much perfectly and has genuinely funny moments in all the way through. Fenella Fielding looks absolutely gorgeous, Harry H Corbett is splendid and the rest of the cast are on top form with not a duff performance to be seen. In fact, the only jarring note of the whole thing is struck by the opening tune, in which an uncredited Ray Pilgrim exhorts his girl to carry on screaming because "when you're screaming, I know that you're dreaming of me." Take it from me chief, if your girlfriend wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, that's not usually a good sign.
It'll come as no surprise to find that this gets a big 10 out of 10 from me. If it was possible I'd give it 11, to be honest. (Mind you, I realised the other night that I need to go back and revise my scores, Cowboy is only an 8 really and Spying a 6, so I'll have a think about that over the weekend.) There's a lot to enjoy here, from spotting the Hammer references to picking up on the musical in-jokes. Like I said, my personal favourite. It's brilliant.
Wednesday 11th June
Carry On Cowboy
Yee-haw! It's off to the Wild, Wild West of er, Surrey (Chobham Common, to be precise) for the western spoof, Carry On Cowboy. The rootin', tootin', regulars here are Williams, James, Hawtrey and Sims. Plus there are debuts for stalwarts Bernard Bresslaw and Peter Butterworth. Connor goes AWOL again, presumably kidnapped by his agent for ignoring his advice... Irregulars on show here are Jim Dale, minor players Peter Gilmore and Percy Herbert, Sally Douglas finally gets a credit in her fifth Carry On appearance and Angela Douglas gets a main role for the first of her four Carry Ons. Script duties still in the more than capable hands of Talbot Rothwell.
Stodge City is a pretty peaceful kind of place till The Rumpo Kid (James) rolls into town. He teams up with saloon owner Belle Armitage (Sims) and pretty soon they're running the rowdiest joint in town. The Rumpo Kid also finds time to assemble a gang and do some cattle rustling. When Judge Burke (Williams) finally convinces the Sheriff to run Rumpo out of town, Rumpo guns him down. Now he's got the town in his pocket. Burke wires Washington for help cleaning up the town and they send him a Marshall. Marshall P Knutt (played by Jim Dale), sanitation engineer, to be precise. Holy misunderstanding, Batman. For a while though he colludes with Judge Burke and manages to convince Rumpo that he is a real Marshall. Only other person knows the truth - Annie Oakley (Angela Douglas), who came into town on the same stagecoach. She's looking for the man who shot her pa. Along the way she anonymously helps Marshall out of a couple of scrapes with Rumpo and teaches the sanitation engineer how to shoot. Just in time for the final showdown between Marshall and Rumpo and his gang, when Marshall's knowledge of drains comes into its own. This being a Carry On, you can't kill Sid James, so he's saved by (the) Belle and they ride off together.
Another corker from the Carry On guys and worth a 9 out of 10 from me. It probably suffers a little in comparison with the films that came before and after, but it's clear that the cast are having great fun and they've got some quality material to work with. If you're at all a fan of Westerns and, in particular, comedy Westerns this is a treat, up there with Blazing Saddles. Ride 'em Cowboy!
Tuesday 10th June
Carry On Cleo
The series hits double figures with Carry On Cleo. And frankly it's tens all round for this marvellous comedy based on the stories of Cleopatra (naturally), Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The phalanx of regulars here are James, Williams, Hawtrey and Sims. Kenneth Connor makes a return, presumably having sacked the agent who advised him to give the last two films a miss. Jim Dale leads the irregulars whilst further down the bill, Peter Gilmore racks up the third of ten Carry On appearances, Ian Wilson makes the last of his six and, almost unnoticed, Michael Nightingale racks up the third of thirteen. Back up the top of the bill there's a welcome return for Amanda Barrie and Warren Mitchell has a cameo as slave merchant Spencius (of Markus and Spencius, of course). Talbot Rothwell is once again in charge of the screenplay, although Shakespeare clearly had the original idea. And is also worth noting, trivia fans, that the film's most famous line, "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" wasn't actually written by Mr Rothwell, but was lifted wholesale, albeit with permission, from the radio series Take It From Here, written by Frank Muir and Dennis Norden.
The Romans are in Britain and it's raining. Caesar (Williams) is having a horrible time and back in Rome the Senate are moving against him. His friend Mark Antony (James) advises him to return home to look after the affairs of state. Before they go though, there's just time for one last raid to pick up some more British slaves, including the useless Hengist Pod (Connor) and his neighbour Horsa (Dale). Back in Rome, Caesar decides that, in order to pacify the Senate, he needs to sort out the trouble in the East of the Empire, so dispatches Mark Antony to support Ptolemy in his attempt to overthrow Cleopatra. Of course, on his arrival Mark Antony is much taken by Cleo and switches sides, so to speak. Meantime back in Rome, Hengist and Horsa escape the slave merchants and hide out with the vestal virgins. When Caesar comes to consult, they end up saving his life by killing his would-be assassins. Horsa takes his chance and flees whilst Hengist hangs around and takes the glory, becoming Caesar's personal bodyguard. Caesar then decides to go to Egypt to meet Cleo for himself, in order to "forge an alliance" but Antony plots with Cleo to kill him. It takes a bit of cunning and the intervention of Horsa for Caesar and his bodyguard to escape back to the relative safety of Rome. Where he is stabbed. And lucky old Mark Antony gets to live happily ever after with Cleo. All of which makes the film sound dull but it isn't - this is one of the most watchable throughout with nary a duff moment.
It's worth noting that this was filmed and released not long after Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's epic Antony and Cleopatra. A film which cost a staggering £35million at the time. The Carry On version cost about a two-hundredth of that, coming in at little more than £165,000. And I know which I'd prefer to watch.
And although this is not my personal favourite, I have to give it 10 out of 10. It's got everything - great characters, great script, funny jokes, a bit of the trademark sauciness and of course, Amanda Barrie. There is little doubt that this is the first of a little run of outstanding Carry Ons - seven out of the next nine join this in my top ten list. Carry On Cleo though is almost flawless; an absolute classic.
Monday 9th June
Carry On Spying
Why? Why? Why? After another quality outing in colour, why on Earth do they flick back to black and white for Carry On Spying? I've looked on t'Internet but not even the normally reliable Carry On site can give me an answer. You could make a case that it's an homage to the films noir parodied here (Third Man, Maltese Falcon, etc) but I reckon it's just because it was cheaper than colour. For all the invention, humour and flair on display in this series of films it's worth remembering that they never got further from London than Snowdonia for location filming and the studio were always keen to keep the costs down. Fortunately, they didn't try to reduce costs further by sticking with the original Norman Hudis script (he later claimed his script was terrible) and Talbot Rothwell knocks up the screenplay. Regulars on duty here are Williams and Hawtrey and Barbara Windsor makes the first of her nine appearances. For the irregulars Eric Barker and Jim Dale take lead roles and Dilys Laye gets a second lead role. Further down the bill, Victor Maddern gets a significant role in the fourth of his five Carry Ons and Frank Forsyth notches up the sixth of eight appearances.
The clue is in the title here - this is basically a spy spoof; a concept Peter Rogers clearly had in mind when he first registered the title around the time of the first James Bond movie. Foreign agent Milchmann (Maddern) steals a top secret formula andsets off to deliver it to the mysterious Dr Crow (played by Judith Furse but voiced by John Bluthal, fact fans), head of the Society for the Total Extermination of Non-Conforming Humans (S.T.E.N.C.H.) Owing to a shortage of agents, the chief has to send bumbling idiot Williams, alongside new recruits Cribbins, Hawtrey and Windsor. They stumble from one crisis to another as they tail Milchmann and The Fat Man, trying to get their hands on that formula. Agent Carstairs (Dale) is also trying to retrieve the formula but is frequently thwarted (and injured) by his colleagues. In the end they need the help of double agent Dilys Laye to save their bacon and get home safely with the formula.
Having expertly lampooned the swashbuckling genre in Carry On Jack, Rothwell displays a deft touch here with a masterly Bond spoof and, honestly, there are few better examples - Casino Royale (David Niven version) and the first Austin Powers movie, maybe. This has it all, exotic settings, dangerous liaisons, secret rendezvous and sinister villains. And some pretty good performances - Williams is instantly likeable as the clumsy but well-meaning agent and Babs Windsor doesn't get her clothes off and run around giggling like a loon all the time. Cribbins and Hawtrey underplay their roles to perfection and there's an excellent turn from Richard Wattis as the sour Head of Security.
All that said, this still only gets 7 out of 10 from me - mainly because it's in black and white but also because the climactic scene features two minutes of footage we've just seen being run backwards. And yes, I know that was on purpose. It manages, despite the money and invention that has obviously gone into it, to still look just a little bit cheap and tatty. It's a minor quibble but one that, for me, just stops this being a classic Carry On.
Sunday 8th June
Carry On Jack
Hurrah! It's back to colour film stock for Carry On Jack, the first Carry On that Talbot Rothwell developed a screenplay for but beaten into production by Cabby earlier in the year. Of the established regulars there's only Hawttrey and Williams on board but they're ably supported by Bernard Cribbins and Juliet Mills in the other lead roles. There's a smattering of irregulars further down the bill including Patrick Cargill, Anton Rodgers and Ed Devereaux, who makes the last of his five Carry On apearances. Solid support work comes in the form of established actors Donald Houston, Percy Herbert and Cecil Parker, who all lend this enterprise a bit more gravitas. Oh, and Jim Dale makes his second Carry On appearance.
Set not long after the death of Nelson, this film sees Midshipman Albert Poop-Decker (Cribbins) finally make it out of Naval college after eight-and-a half years. He's posted to HMS Venus, but before he gets there his identity is stolen by Juliet Mills, who wants to get to Spain to find her childhood sweetheart. Luckily, he's press-ganged on to the ship anyway. Fearsome officers Howett (Houston) and Angel (Herbert) run a tight ship but, sadly, their new commander, Captain Fearless (Williams) doesn't live up to his name. Faced with the the prospect of spending their time running away from the enemy, the officers trick the Captain (along with the two Poop-Deckers (real and impostor) and Hawtrey) in to abandoning the ship, and then set off to attack the Spanish fleet. They are attacked, their ship stolen and they end up locked in a Spanish jail. The castaways meanwhile manage to land ashore but are then taken captive by the pirates who have HMS Venus. Pirates led by Mills' childhood sweetheart. The four castaways somehow manage to beat the pirates and set sail home. Back in Spain Howett and Angel and their men have escaped the jail and are sailing back to England with five captured ships. Cue the comic encounter when a falling lamp starts a fire and sets off the Venus' cannons, sinking the Spanish vessels. The Venus' crew though are blissfully unaware as they're down below cutting off Ken Williams' gangrenous leg. They are, of course, proclaimed heroes when they reach Plymouth harbour.
Phew! There's more of a story in this than in previous films, and it has a darker tone, even though the motif of bunglers triumphing over the odds is retained. And given that, the lack of regular cast members and the absence of the innuendo that eventually overwhelmed the whole enterprise, this film does seem like an oddity in the series. It's not that it's a bad film - far from it - it just doesn't quite feel like a Carry On. Still, it's one that I like and will seek out to watch if it's on. So for that alone I have to give it 7 out of 10.
Saturday 7th June
Carry On Cabby
After the colour-tastic last hurrah for Norman Hudis, it's back to black and white for Carry On Cabby This is the first production of a screenplay by Talbot Rothwell, although, fact fans, this was actually the second Carry On what he wrote. (Incidentally, I'm sure my Dad drove a Talbot Rothwell for a couple of weeks in the 1970's while he was waiting for his new Ford Cortina.) The regulars on duty here are James, Hawtrey, Connor and Jacques. Esma Cannon and Liz Fraser are the irregulars who get top billing and Bill Owen makes a brief appearance. Cyril Chamberlain makes his last Carry On appearance before retiring to run an antiques shop in Wales. This film also features debuts for Amanda Barrie and Jim Dale, who appear in my favourite Carry On films later in the series. Kenneth Williams misses out here, meaning that Connor and Chamberlain set the pace for consecutive appearances with seven apiece.
The change of scriptwriter brings a change of focus and here the Carry On films move away from "bungling new recruits" theme of much of the earlier films. Now it's the battle of the sexes that concerns us. Sid James spends more time with his cab firm than with his wife, Hattie Jacques, and after one mucked-up anniversary too many, Hattie resolves to find herself a job. A chance meeting leads to her setting up GlamCabs in direct competition to Sid's Speedee Cabs. There's no way Sid's ageing fleet of black cabs and rough-and-ready drivers can compete with the attractive girls driving the swish new Ford Consuls and pretty soon they're resorting to dirty tricks to try to force GlamCabs off the road. All of which fail, of course, because Hattie has got Liz Fraser tipping her off. When Sid finally throws in the towel and faces up to the mysterious owner of GlamCabs, he's devatated to find it's his own wife who has "betrayed" him. They split up and it looks final until Sid redeems himself by mobilising his cabs to rescue Hattie and Liz from a hold-up.
I'll give this 6 out of 10. It's a fairly solid script, and it has the elements of a classic Carry On but it's in black and white and after Carry On Cruising that's a bit of a let-down. On the other hand, you do get Amanda Barrie giving a great turn and it's hard to argue there's anything actually wrong with it. I'll do a list at the end of the month of giving you a guide as to which Carry Ons you must see and which you must avoid and so on, but at the moment this is one that I think you should watch if it's on but don't go out of your way to find it.
Friday 6th June
Carry On Cruising
Hurrah! It's 1962 and it's the first of the Carry Ons in colour. That can only mean it's time to Carry On Cruising. Of the regulars only Williams, Connor and James make it on board the SS Happy Wanderer, although Cyril Chamberlain continues his run of appearances, thereby matching Connor and Williams as the only actor to appear in the first six films of the series. Liz Fraser and Esma Cannon are about as good as you get for irregulars, beyond that we're heading towards the bottom of the bill for the likes of Willoughby Goddard and Ed Devereaux, who both appeared in more than one film. Lance Percival, who seemed to make a career out of turning up in nonsense like this, in fact make his one and only Carry On appearance. Take note though, trivia fans, Ronnie Stevens who plays the drunk passenger (one of my favourite characters, surprisingly) was also one of the narrators for the fantastic Noggin the Nog (Why hasn't that ever been released on DVD?).
One of the other ever-presents in this lot is scriptwriter Norman Hudis, churning out his last, and arguably best, script of the series. Captain Crowther (Sid James) sets sail on a Mediterranean cruise, his last before a promotion to a bigger and better ship, but does so with a handful of new faces replacing key members of his crew. Yes, step forward Connor (ship's doctor), Williams (First Officer), Percival (chef) and Chamberlain (steward). And not only do these new faces have to settle in rather quickly but they also have to deal with some of the strangest passengers too. Of course, Connor doesn't help himself by courting one of the passengers (a definite no-no) but, as with Carry On Sergeant, the chaps find it in themselves to pull together for the Captain's final voyage. Lance Percival's cake for the Captain's farewell dinner is a piece de resistance, but even a concoction containing sardines and spaghetti, amongst other things, can't dampen the Captain's spirits and he turns down the promotion to remain in charge of his band of happy wanderers.
This gets 7 out of 10 - the best of the series so far and with fewer lead characters there's time for all of them to develop their parts and get the most out of the story. You don't notice the absence of regular Carry One-ers and the film rattles on. I don't think there are any duff scenes in it and for me this is one of the Carry Ons that you must see.
Thursday 5th June
Carry On Regardless
Apologies for the poor spelling in yesterday's posting (all corrected now, I hope) but I didn't do it till late in the evening and was pretty much cream-crackered by then. Given that I nodded off twice whilst trying to upload it, I'm surprised that I didn't mangle it a bit more to be honest. Anyway, that out of the way, time to discuss tonight's offering Carry On Regardless.
Probably better known for being a prominent, repeated line in 'Good as Gold' by The Beautiful South, Carry On Regardlass is number five in the series and we've hit the swinging sixties. 1961 to be precise. Made against the backdrop of other film companies apparently trying to cash in on the Carry On phenomenom, Anglo Amalgamated's budget still doesn't stretch to colour film stock or another scriptwriter as Norman Hudis does the honours once again. The regulars on parade here are Williams, Connor, Hawtrey, James, Jacques and Sims, although Hattie Jacques was limited to a minor appearance due to illness. Irregulars include Liz Fraser, (4 films), Terence Longdon and Cyril Chamberlain. A suprising number of familiar faces also pop up in cameo roles (Nicholas Parsons and Charlie from Bergerac to name but two) and there's also the only other Carry On appearance by Fenella Fielding. Boxer Freddie Mills makes his second appearance and Stanley Unwin gets a lead role and the chance to much goobledygook speaky-holen.
Plot? Any pretence of plot has been abandoned for this one There's a running gag with Stanley Unwin repeatedly failing to make himself understood (indeed much confusey-mold of the earyholen aboundens) but that's as close to a plot as it gets. Otherwise, Sid runs the Helping Hands agency - if you've got something you need doing, they've got someone to do it. And because this is a Carry On, they usually muck it up, so cue the comic scenes. From Joan Sims getting drunk at a wine-tasting to Kenneth Williams having trouble with a monkey, to Charles Hawtrey getting involved in a boxing match, the hilarity never starts. Even when they get their assignments mixed up, with predictable consequences, it all seems a bit routine. Perhaps, that's because I have seen this one a fair few times, so I know what's coming next. Or perhaps because, for the first time, I've compared it at close quarters to the other early films and realise how similar they are.
That said, if Nurse and Constables are fives, then this has to get 6 out of 10. You get more bang for your buck in terms of comic set pieces and Stanley Unwin speakalo frankly goobledygook a load and hilarimold is ensued therefore muchly in the following of. Deep Joy.
Wednesday 4th June
Carry On Constable
So here we go, the fourth in the series, Carry On Constable and the third in a year penned by Norman Hudis, who was obviously on something of a roll. Or perhaps on a pay-per-script deal. Released at the end of 1959 or early in 1960, depending on which source you believe, it still has the air of being filmed on a shoestring and the studio are still using Black & White film stock. The regulars in full effect are Williams, Hawtrey, Connor, Jacques and Sims and Sid James makes his debut (the first of 19 appearances, fact fans). Eric Barker and Leslie Phillips do the duties for the irregulars and there's a final appearance for Shirley Eaton, who goes off to do a few other things before getting bumped off in Goldfinger. There's also the first of four Carry On appearances for Esma Cannon, who specialised in playing slightly dotty, old ladies. No real star appearances but there is a cameo by boxer Freddie Mills, who plays a jewel thief.
Gruff Sergeant Wilkins (Sid James) is having a hard time running the police station. Not only does he have to deal with the manipulative Inspector, but half his staff are off because of a flu epidemic. Cue the arrival of Connor, Phillips and Williams straight from training school to help out. They are joined by Hawtrey as the eccentric-slash-camp (shocker!) special constable and by Sims as the ultra-efficient WPC, who's job is to provide the love interest for Connor's superstitious bobby. Needless to say, the four boys get into a right load of trouble, incurring the wrath of the Inspector, who threatens to get Wilkins transferred if he can't maintain order. Luckily, it all turns out alright in the end - the boys prove they are up to the job and the Inspector gets his just desserts. Oh and Sid James gets together with Hattie Jacques, who plays his right-hand woman at the station.
It's not too difficult to see how Norman Hudis could churn out three scripts in a year - once you've got your stock characters, all you need is a setting and the rest writes itself. The comic situations just need to be tailored for setting/profession of the film and the appropriate amount of innuendo inserted (ooh-er!). For example, you could just transplant those characters to, say, a modern call-centre and churn out something fairly close to these early Carry Ons. Although, of course, you'd have to throw in a lot more alcohol and sex to make people watch it. You might have to put some of that stuff in the film too...
Overall, another 5 out of 10. Not a classic by any means, but notable for the first appearance of Lord Sidney of St James and for it's attempt to make the police force the subject of comedy. Something the Police Academy films never managed....
Tuesday 3rd June
Carry On Teacher
It's only Day Three of the CarryOn-athon and already I'm feeling weary. Whether that's down to the films themselves or the fact that, due to a very pleasant day's drinking in Chester on Saturday, I was too hungover on Sunday to implement my plan to watch a few films and get ahead of myself. If I'd managed that I could have the occasional night off and not have to watch each one and then do the write up. My own fault of course, I should have been a good boy and stayed in, but when a young lady invites you out on her birthday, what can you do?
Anyway, here we go, the third in the series, Carry On Teacher. Made in 1959, hot on the heels of Carry On Nurse and the first that was written specifically with a Carry On team in mind. The team consisting of regulars Williams, Connor, Hawtrey, Jacques and Sims supplemented by Leslie Phillips, Ted Ray and Rosalind Knight (who later went on to appear in the fantastically titled 'Can Hieronymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?'). Also appearing, in his only Carry On, is Richard O'Sullivan, who made his name appearing alongside Cliff Richard in his movies, and Carol White, who went on to be Cathy in Ken Loach's seminal piece, 'Cathy Come Home' as well as taking the lead in 'Up The Junction', a controversial drama tackling abortion. Honourable mention too for Cyril Chamberlain, in a minor role but appearing in the third of his seven Carry Ons.
The plot of the film is fairly straightforward. Acting headmaster Ted Ray decides that after 20 years and one term at Maudlin Street school he wants a change and is going to apply for the post of Headmaster at a brand new school opening near his home. He gathers his staff together to inform them of his decision. The only possible fly in the ointment is the impending visit of school inspector Rosalind Knight, who is accompanying child psychologist Leslie Phillips on a research trip to the school. If she gives the place a bad report, Ted will never get his dream job. Of course, smart-arse pupil, Richard O'Sullivan overhears all this and rallies the troops to disrupt classes and sabotage the teachers, so that the kids don't lose their beloved teacher. In the midst of all this there's still time for Phillips to hit it off with gym teacher Sims and bumbling science teacher Connor to overcome his nerves and warm up frosty inspector Knight.
It's a feelgood movie because, you know, the kids are behaving outrageously for a perfectly good reason and those dumb teachers get what they deserve. For example, the pompous manner in which Hawtrey and Williams approach the school play, as if it were the highest of high art, means that it's ripe for demolition and sabotage. On the other hand, spiking the staff tea and boobytrapping the staff room are ideas that are just a bit too silly and stretch credulity. Not that the central plot idea doesn't do that anyway, of course.
Overall, it gets 5 out of 10 from me. It's a nice little film with a happy ending but inevitably will suffer comparison with any other school-based comedy, such as the St Trinians film series, for example. Plenty of amusing moments but none that are truly "laugh out loud". On the other hand, there is something strangely alluring about the young Hattie Jacques in schoolma'am drag, wielding a cane. Oh dear, perhaps I've said too much...
Monday 2nd June
Carry On Nurse
The second in the series and the first of the hospital-based capers, Carry On Nurse. The year is 1959 and, like its predecessor, it's filmed in Black and White and made on a shoestring buget. The plot? Well, there isn't one really. It's set in a hospital, there are a series of comic episodes and a little romantic tosh thrown in too and that's it. Based on an idea by Patrick Cargill and Jack Beale, apparently. I reckon their idea was "make a comedy set in a hospital" and that was as far as they got with it.
Regular Carry On-ers here are Williams, Hawtrey, Connor and Jacques and Joan Sims (24 films) makes her first appearance. Of the irregulars, Norman Rossington and Bill Owen from the first film put in an appearance and Shirley Eaton gets the romantic female lead opposite Terence Longdon. This is also Leslie Phillips first outing in a Carry On film and he went on to appear in three more, including Carry On Columbus, which we'll not hold against him even though it was shite. In the first case of obvious stereotyping Hattie Jacques plays the stern Matron (shocker!) and Charles Hawtrey a camp eceentric (shocker number two!). Stars, as such, were Wilfred Hyde-White as a bossy Colonel, who spends all the film running the nurses ragged with trivial requests but gets his comeuppance, and Michael Medwin, who was big at the time.
The problem with this film is that it is just a series of set pieces, without much of a central storyline holding it together. Some the vignettes are funny, some aren't. The patient going loopy, for example, is a bit ropey, but the operating theatre scene, when a drunk Leslie Phillips persuades fellow drunk patient Kenneth Williams to operate on his bunion is pure Carry On gold. And Wilfred Hyde-White's comeuppance is both hilarious and (for it's day) very risque but it almost gets lost at the end of the film.
Overall, this one gets 5 out of 10. It has it's moments but the lack of a central plot to drive the story along means that occasionally it just drifts.
Sunday 1st June
Carry On Sergeant
So, here we go - the first of the series. The one that started it all. Carry On Sergeant. Based on the novel The Bull Boys by R F Delderfield, fact fans. It's a simple tale of civilians called up for National Service and transforming themselves from a ragtag bunch of no-hopers into a champion platoon. And all because the gruff sergeant charged with training them has bet fifty quid he can turn out a champion platoon before he retires. There's also a sub-plot based on one recruit being called up on his wedding day, but to be honest, that fizzles out about halfway through the film.
As it's the first in the series, it'd be a bit much to claim that there are any regulars in the cast but of the usual suspects Kenneth Williams (25 films), Charles Hawtrey (23), Hattie Jacques (14) and Kenneth Connor (17) are in there. Other irregulars include Eric Barker, Norman Rossington and Terry Scott, who makes a brief appearance and then has to wait ten years before he appears in another Carry On film. The top billing though goes to William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse and Shirley Eaton. Hartnell plays the gruff Sgt. Grimshaw, ably assisted by Bill Owen (Compo in Last of the Summer Wine) as Corporal Coppin. Monkhouse and Eaton play the harshly-parted newly-weds.
So that's (some of) the facts about the film, but the key question I suppose, is 'Is it any good?' Well, seekers of cheap innuendo, saucy-postcard-smut and acres of cleavage will be sadly disappointed. This one belongs to a gentler age. It's a light, comedy, less sophisticated than the Ealing comedies of a few years previous but with a good heart at the centre of it. The plot and story are fairly simplistic and the resolution is a bit glib and slick for my liking, but it is genuinely amusing. It might not make you laugh out loud but it will help you while away a rainy Sunday afternoon. (Well, it did for me!)
Overall, I'd give it 6/10. Not a "classic" Carry On, but a decent little film in it's own right.
Saturday 31st May
Bread and Shoelaces
Think of all the animals you've ever heard about - rhinoceroses, tigers, cats and mink. There are lots of funny animals in all the word, but have you ever seen a panther that is pink? Think. A panther that is positively pink? No, me neither, but that's probably because there's not really any such animal as a panther - the name is used to described any one of a number of big cats, depending on which part of the world you're in. All of which, fact fans, signifies absolutely nothing but does serve as an introduction to this belated update.
The more observant of you can't have failed to notice that there was a by-election in the Crewe and Nantwich constituency last week. Actually, I suppose you can if you don't live in the UK. Anyway, this has affected me because I live within the constituency and have, therefore, some vested interest. Unfortunately this vested interest saw me (and everyone else) being subject to a daily barrage of promotional material through the letterbox and regular telephone canvassing. I managed to avoid the door-steppers mostly, thanks to work, but did have a Lib-Dem guy catch me on a rare day off. Luckily, I still hadn't got dressed, so he was reluctant to stand around chatting to a man wearing pyjamas in the middle of the afternoon. Thanks to work (again), I also only saw two of the candidates in the flesh - Tamsin Dunwoody one morning outside Crewe station (when I was still half-asleep and didn't realise it was her until I got halfway down the stairs to the platform) and The Flying Brick (Official Monster Raving Loony) twice on polling day as he was driving around. I did see David Cameron at Crewe station one evening - he on his way home and I on mine - and what was interesting about that was that he was on his own. He didn't have an entourage of fawning Tory party luvvies or a phalanx of bodyguards. I should have taken my chance and chinned him... Ah, maybe not; last time I got in a fight, I lost fairly comprehensively.
Pretty much like Tamsin Dunwoody, in fact, who saw the 7,000 plus majority won by her mother converted to an 8,000 plus majority for the Conservative candidate, Edward Timpson. No great surprise, of course, as the Government shot itself in the foot over the abolition of the 10p tax rate, made a balls-up of extracting themselves from that mess and were also taking a beating over fuel prices and the slowdown in the economy. Without actually having to outline how they'd stop the price of oil from going up (invade the OPEC countries perhaps?) or how they'd persuade banks and building societies to keep lending people money, the Conservatives took advantage of the situation. They were aided in this by the Labour Party's inept and negative campaign, which was mostly based on the allegation that the Conservative candidate was a "toff". Accusations of hereditary privilege that were totally undermined by parachuting in Gwyneth Dunwoody's daughter as candidate, complete with her entry in Burke's Landed Gentry register. D'Oh! And the Lib-Dems successfully relegated themselves to third place by ditching their original candidate in favour of a woman with scary eyes, who paraded the most garish selection of tasteless jackets outside of Elton John's wardrobe. As if this wasn't enough, they also overwhelmed people with junk mail. So well done Teddy Timpson for being the least worst of a bad bunch.
Outside of the main parties, the voters of Crewe and Nantwich also had an interesting selection of fringe candidates. There was the aforementioned Flying Brick of the Monster Raving Loonies. They so nearly got my vote for their manifesto idea that, in order to help the Iraqi government raise the money to pay for the country's infrastructure, we should send our traffic wardens out there to book all the American tanks and Jeeps that are illegally parked there... Alongside him, in terms of coherent policies, was the Green Party. All very nice but, never trust a hippy. Then it started going a bit pear-shaped. There was UKIP (the UK Independence party) who want to pull us out of Europe, the English Democrats, who want us to pull out of the UK, the one-issue Fuel tax protester and the local Independent who had no issues and, judging from his advert in the local paper, no clue either. Worst of all was Gemma Garrett, Miss Great Britain, who appeared to be using the by-election as part of her campaign to move from beauty pageant winner to Z-list celebrity. Heavily backed by the Daily Star and currently featured in a "lads mag" near you (Zoo was the latest one I saw.) So, after all the hype and promo stuff and with that line-up to choose from, I found myself in the polling booth with a very heavy heart - ten candidates and not one of them worth voting for. In the end I went with my political convictions, but I kind of think I'd have been better off writing 'None of the Above' on the ballot paper.
On a lighter note, my brother Mark, and his wife, Kate, came over for a visit a couple of weekends ago. So I gave my house a bit of a tidy before they arrived. well, I say bit of a tidy, but actually it was the first serious tidying since Christmas. After a couple of days struggling with the inadequate vacuum cleaner in the house, I bit the bullet and bought a Dyson. A nice, red DC07i. The difference between that and the ancient cleaner I was using was obvious and after a brief whirl round my little pad it was almost full. (Although that might say more about the regularity of my vacuum cleaning than the efficiency of the Dyson...) Anyway, I still had the stairs to do and the kitchen floor to mop when Mark and Kate arrived an hour earlier than expected. That was slightly frustrating but as we don't see each other often enough I can't really complain about getting an extra hour, can I?
We went out for dinner on Saturday night with my sister Liz and her hubby, Roger. Now, I'm not one for fancy dining (yes, I know that's surprising) so I didn't really have much clue about where to go. I tried to get a table at Oscar's but they weren't answering their phone and were locked up and closed on the evening I went round to try to book in person. (I've since discovered that they've shut down permanently.) I then tried The Residence, which looks swish but they didn't have a table available till late. So, rather than go for fish and chips and a bottle of White Lightning on a bench on the town square, as a third choice I booked us into Bistro Bon Amis, which, despite the name actually does a range of European fare. It turned out to be first class - the food was excellent and the service was good - attentive without being intrusive. There's plenty on the menu to go at but they also had a large specials board. Unfortunately, by the time it came to order I'd forgotten what was on it and couldn't see from the table (it was round a corner) so had something off the menu. Anyway, we had a great time and the price wasn't that bad considering we'd had a bottle of champagne to start with. Not that the price really bothered me - Mark paid. Cheers, bro'! I'd definitely go again, although I need to find someone to go with.
Following our Saturday night stuffing (ooh-er!) we had a stroll round the Reaseheath College Family Fun Day on Sunday. Reaseheath College has long been established on the outskirts of Nantwich and has grown from being simply an agricultural college to an almost state-of-the-art facility with an emphasis on animal sciences. (In fact, my other sister, Crow, sent me a job ad for a Fisheries lecturer there last week - if only I'd kept my hand in, so to speak, I'd have put my CV in.) Anyway, they have an anual open day, and lay on a load of entertainment and give you the opportunity to wander round looking at the exotic animals. There's also the chance to try your hand at a few activities, although my favourite activity was standing around looking at things, to be honest, and I did a lot of that. The food concessions and the market stalls selling tat weren't cheap but most of the activities were only a quid a go. Anyway, whilst standing around I also took a lot of pictures and you can see them on my Reaseheath flickr set. I haven't included the hilarious picture of my nephew Will sulking at the end of the day because we had to go home and he hadn't had a chance to have a go on absolutely everything. His bottom lip is sticking out almost as far as that wood carving! Apart from that little paddy though, we had an enjoyable, if slightly long day.
Apart from my hectic social life (see above) and the distraction of the electoral campaigns, one of the other reasons I haven't posted for a while has been that I've got involved in a spot of DIY. When I moved into my house, the downstairs front room curtains were hanging at an angle. The right-hand side fixture for the curtain pole had obviously fallen out at some point in the past and been bodged back in. It may have been bodged in level but by the time I moved in it was drooping about two inches lower than the left-hand side fixture. However, the repair itself seemed fairly solid and for the last two years it showed no sign of getting worse. Until about four weeks ago, when the whole fixture just dropped out of the wall late one Saturday evening, bringing down the curtains and a substantial amount of plaster. No worries, thought I, just get some plaster, fill the hole and screw the thing back in. I can even use the paint in the shed to cover the repair. Good plan, but the execution was a little flawed. The hole in the wall was fairly deep at one point, so I had to do the plaster in two stages. Then I found that all the paint in the shed had turned to plastic, so I had to go and buy some more. I bought two of the smallest tins of paint I could find (one of primer and one of paint, really) and they still cost me about eight quid! When finally everything was ready, I made the rookie mistake of not putting in a rawl plug, so the fixture just fell straight out of the wall as soon as I put any weight on it. Unfortunately it also pulled out a fair chunk of my new plastering too. Still, lesson learned, this time I filled the hole in two stages, left it a few days, painted and drilled it, inserted rawl plug and screwed in fixture. This time the thing stayed up for about two minutes. I'd now been without curtains for about two weeks and my sister was encouraging me to call the letting agents and get them to send someone to fix it. Well, as it took them six weeks to replace my guttering after that fell down, I had no confidence they'd get my curtains up any quicker. And third time's the charm, of course. So, after another bout of re-plastering, painting and drilling, this time I made sure the rawl plug was snugly inserted into the wall with extra filler around it and added some industrial-strength adhesive on the fixture base to stick it to the wall. The curtains stayed up for about twenty minutes. Well, at that rate of progress, I'd get my curtains to stay up all night by about 2012, so finally, I bodged it by screwing the fixture directly into the wooden window frame. So far, so good. I just need to fill the hole in the wall now and it'll look fine. And at least I know what to do when the fixture on the other side of the window falls out. And that only took about four weeks and cost me about eighty quid for the plaster, paint, drill, tools, brushes, filler, glue and rawl plugs... Bargain.
In between the spells of plastering, painting and drilling I still managed to make time in my busy schedule to pop along to the inaugural day of the CreweLive08 festival. This is a new thing, run over the late May Bank holiday and featuring a number of bands, local and not-so-local, playing in the pubs and clubs of Crewe. Sort of like Nantwich's jazz fest but with rock and indie bands instead. It's a cracking idea and I'm surprised no one thought of doing it before. First band of the day for me was The Lockdown at The Express. Now you know I've banged on about this lot before, but seriously, they are good. They had a bit of a shaky start, but once they got past that, they really took off and won the crowd over. It was the first time in a long time I'd seen a pub band get an encore. Not bad for half past two in the afternoon! After them I hung around for the start of Kick The Cage, but they weren't my cup of tea so I moved on to catch the end of Sgt Wolfbanger's acoustic set at Square One. More on them later. Once they'd finished, it was round the corner to The Bank to see Days of Attrition, a hardcore metal band. They were very good at what they do, but the size of the Bank and the acoustics weren't conducive to staying inside to watch them - they did sound excellent from the beer garden though! Then it was back to Square One to catch Smart Girl and the Traxx. Again not really my cup of tea but there's no denying that lead singer Chloe has a fantastic voice. Wonder if she'd fancy singing on my ukulele album..? From Square One it was a gentle stagger to The Imperial to catch Flux, a band made up of stalwarts of the Crewe scene. They delivered a quality set that went down a storm with the packed pub. As the day was wearing on my money was running out, so I made a quick diversion to the cash point on my way back to the Bank to see The Sumo Kings. Clearly the name was ironic - there was no way any of those skinny indie kids could have won a sumo tournament. I reckon I could have taken them all out at one go. On the other hand, in the dojo of banging, melodic pop, they would give me a kicking. Their set also gave rise to the appearance of the grooving granny. I thought she must be related to the band, but apparently not. She also popped up in The Box, which was my last port of call for sets by Sgt Wolfbanger and The Tommys. Sgt Wolfbanger are the up-and-coming band of the moment in Crewe and you can see why - easy-on-the-ear melodies, catchy choruses and decent tunes, uncluttered by guitar-wankery. They're not earth-shatteringly original but that's no barrier to success. The Tommys are also not breaking any new ground - all girl feisty power-pop-stroke-punk-slash-rock - but are pleasing on the eye and deliver a cracking set. It's a mystery why they haven't achieved more as they seem to tick all the right boxes. Anyway, once The Tommys finished that was it the night was over. I caught the last train home and bought a curry on the way back from Nantwich station. I only managed to eat half of it, but the rest made a delicious cold lunch. I did want to get back to Crewe for the Sunday and Monday performances, but a hangover wiped me out for most of Sunday and then I had other commitments on Monday. Overall though, from what I've seen on Jules' excellent blog, it was a great success and the organisers are already planning for CreweLive09. I can't wait.
Changing subject somewhat; one of my colleagues was bemoaning the state of his car and, with an MOT due, was considering getting rid of it altogether and taking up public transport. His basic theory being that, given the cost of repair as well as running costs (fuel, tax and insurance) it would be cheaper for him to get the bus or train into work. Having never owned a car I couldn't really argue the economic case convincingly, although I did point out that it costs me about £30 a week to get to and from work, which comes to about £1500 over the course of a year, so maybe it wasn't that cheap. Plus, I have to pay to go anywhere at the weekends, for example and I have to carry my shopping home from the supermarket (apart from when my sister gives me a lift, of course) so there are advantages to having a car. Plus, if you go anywhere in a car you're not going to have to put up with random tramps who look clean but smell like they haven't washed in a year, or chavvy teenagers listening to shonky music on their mobile phones at top volume. Unless you pick them up, of course. Of course, you do also get the occasional lovely lady on the bus too, and the entertainment of seeing some other passenger suckered into the strange world of the mad, old bat. But it was on my journey home last night that I realised I'd forgotten to mention the fellow passenger who disgusts me the most - Ear Man. Ear Man gets on the bus a couple of stops after me, invariably sits somewhere within my eye line (not difficult on a bus, I know) and proceeds to pick at his ears for the entire journey. He even rolls up his ticket and uses that as a digging implement. I don't know why this really irritates me but it does. I just want to lean across the bus, slap his hand and tell him to stop, but my British sense of reserve prevents me. Last night he sat in the seat directly in front of me, but I must have been radiating bad vibes because he moved when another seat became vacant a couple of stops later. And he lulled me into a false sense of security by not starting his excavations till we were halfway through the journey. I almost screamed out loud. Arghhh! I think I ought to get on with that learning to drive thing I mentioned back in January...
And I think that'll do for now. I was going to mention the football, but after Crewe's dismal finish to the season, it's probably best to gloss over that. Although I must extend my congratulations to Nantwich Town who achieved a second successive promotion and will be playing in the Unibond Premier league next season. For those of you who want more regular updates then worry not, for the promised June Carry On marathon begins tomorrow. I shall watch all the classic Carry On films in order, one a day and upload my review-cum-opinion. I'm calling it my CarryOn-athon. I bet you can't wait.
Wednesday 30th April
Just for a change, I thought I'd answer some of the questions that I've been asked over the last couple of weeks. And share my thoughts on some of the subjects discussed at work and in the pub.
Why isn't anybody going to Glastonbury?
Firstly, let me just point out that 100,000 people are already going to Glastonbury and that's plenty of people, even in a 900 acre site. Bad weather, Jay-Z and too many of "the London set" (whoever they are) have variously been quoted as reasons for the failure of Glastonbury to sell out in a day or so. And whilst some of it might be true, there has been too much made of the fact that Jay-Z is headlining. Let's face it, he's not the first hip-hop act to make the main stage, is he? And bad weather? Well, the weather hasn't been particularly good at Glastonbury on several previous occasions and that's had negligible effect on ticket sales. I think the real reason that the festival hasn't sold out as quickly as previous fests, is simply because the complicated registration process pretty much eliminates the possibility of selling on your precious Glastonbury ticket. Yes, having put up the fence to stop you getting in cheap, they've now found a way of stopping you getting in over-expensively. Simply, they've found a way of stopping the touts. So all those bleedin' students and middle-class chancers who would otherwise be flogging their tickets on e-bay in order to fund their two weeks in Faliraki or Goa, or wherever, have switched their focus to the other festivals. Indeed a quick search on e-bay for V, Reading/Leeds or Download festival tickets, shows this to be the case. Of course, there's not much of a story in a successful ticketing system stopping touting though is there?
Is Max Mosley really a closet Nazi?
He's a powerful old man with a strange sex life. And he's not the first member of the upper classes-slash-Establishment to have been caught out like this. I've only seen the edited highlights posted by the News of the World, but as it is heavily-edited and does not contain much dialogue, it's inconclusive. There's no obvious Nazi regalia on show (that I could see) and the "concentration camp prisoner outfits" worn by two of the participants look like the generic stripey prison uniforms we've been seeing in films since the Keystone Kops chased their first criminal. Mosley is, of course, son of Oswald Mosley, who was once, I believe " the most hated man in Britain" and leader of the British Union of Fascists. It does not necessarily follow, however, that he inherited his father's political beliefs. On the basis of the evidence available I'm not convinced he has. That said, he has been made to look a bit silly and if I was advising him, I'd suggest a tactful withdrawal from public life for a while, especially if he's going to take legal action.
Where are you going to be on Saturday?
This is a fairly specific one - on the forthcoming Saturday, 3rd May, both Crewe Alexandra and Nantwich Town are at home. Crewe play their final game of the season still needing a point to be mathematically certain of not being relegated. Nantwich, on the other hand are playing host to Sheffield FC in the play-off final to determine which team will be promoted to the Unibond Premier League. Having split my time fairly evenly between the two clubs over the last couple of seasons, it was a bit of a dilemma. But then, to thine own self be true and all that, and I've been following the Alex a lot closer and a lot longer than I've been watching Nantwich. So in the end there was really no dilemma. I'll be up there at Gresty Road, cheering Crewe on as usual. Anyway, my mates Ian and Lee (true Nantwich fans) will be there, so they'll be giving me text updates. I hope.
Where's that Unofficial Guide to Nantwich Town FC banter that you keep promising me?
To be honest, I keep telling you I 'm working on it, but really it amounts to nothing more than a few phrases jotted down on a notepad at home. A notepad that I keep looking at and thinking that I ought to be working that up into a webpage. Maybe I'll get round to it in the footy-free summer. Don't go holding your breath though.
Why the cryptic headings to your posts?
They're not all cryptic. In fact, I often try to make them relevant to the following post and refer (albeit obliquely) to them during the post. It is true though that some of them have referred to in-jokes that I haven't exaplained. For example, "Hale & Pace and The Anthill Mob" referred to a couple of things that arose during the course of a Nantwich Town home game. The first was the uncanny resemblance of one of the Nantwich stewards to Gareth Hale of aformentioned comedy duo. And the other was the lack of height in Nantwich's team leading to the suggestion that from the next corner a few of them were going to gang up to form one big player, in the style of them animated gangsters, or indeed the Bash Street Kids. I'll try to remember to explain them more often in future.
Those embedded youtube videos are breaking your W3C validation, are you going to fix that?
Yep. I've got some valid code but it seems to automatically start the videos when you load the page. As soon as I've worked out how to get round that, I'll post it up. If the videos aren't showing up, a search for 'Wedding Calypso' on youtube will turn up one, which has a link to the other.
Are you meant to be broadcasting that on your flickr site?
Err, no. Oops. What a lamer, n00b mistake-a to make-a! All dealt with now, I hope. I'll never be a l33t h4x0r though...
Why don't you update your site more regularly?
Because I'm a lazy so-and-so and I haven't got a decent software program that'll let me do it all automatically. I've had a play around with a few things but I've not found anything I like yet. So, I have to do it all by hand and it's hard work. As a result, you only get something when I can knock it up in my spare time or have done something really worth posting on the site.
Are you going to do any work today?
Er, fair point, boss. I'm just, erm, going to get on with that now. As soon as I've had a cup of tea. Do you want one?
Friday 4th April
Six deep at the bar
I've got to wonder what sort of grumpy old man I'm in danger of turning into. I saw the weather forecast for the Easter weekend and thought "Good, that'll limit the numbers turning out for the Jazz Fest." As it turned out, despite being freezing cold and there being a half-hearted attempt at snow during Sunday, the town seemed just as packed as it was last year. If not, more so, because everyone was trying to get into the warm pubs, rather than standing outside, freezing their proverbials off. Anyway, undeterred by the cold weather myself and armed with a bright yellow wristband, purchased from a booth on Nantwich square for a mere five pounds, I went out on Sunday morning to see The Sugardaddies playing at the White Horse. Even despite the relatively early hour of the aftwernoon there were plenty of people milling about. Having had a couple of refreshing beers and a listen to the band, I headed off to The Railway to have a gawp at the Manchester United vs Liverpool game. Again there were plenty of people about and getting a beer was a time-consuming process. Fortunately, Liverpool played so badly that I left at half-time because it was obvious they weren't going to get anything out of the game. I had a wander back through town but there wasn't really anyone I wanted to see playing and the numbers of people crowding into the pubs rendered the idea of a lazy Sunday session on the ale a bit of a non-starter so I nipped home for a bite to eat and a kip, hoping the crush might die down later in the evening. I was, of course, wrong. Things seemed even worse when I went back out to town. However, I managed to get into the Talbot to see an ex-colleague's band - the Slowhand Blues Band. The queue at the bar was horrendous early doors but even so I made that rookie error of ordering two pints when I finally got there "to save queueing again" and then drinking them in half the time. D'Oh! Later on, the bar cleared as people moved on to other venues and I took advantage to the extent that I was somewhat overly-refreshed by the time the band finished. Still, the music was excellent (what I remember of it) and if you're a fan of the blues, I thoroughly recommend you check them out.
Whilst talking of the Jazz Festival, I have to admit that this year, there weren't actually that many bands that I wanted to see. And prior commitments (i.e. football) prevented from catching one of the few acts I did fancy seeing. Not that it really mattered in the grand scheme of things - despite the grim weather and the wristband scheme there were still around 30,00 people in the town over the weekend and the vast majority of them had a good time, regardless of whether they went to see some music or just enjoy a day's drinking. There were nine arrests over the weekend, which is probably six or seven more than a usual weekend but given that were ten times the usual amount of people in the town, that's not bad. There were also some complaints about wristbands not being checked and pubs letting in people without bands on but as with all new schemes I'm sure that was just down to teething problems. I certainly had mine checked everywhere I went, but perhaps that's because I was on my own. Whatever, the wristbands will be in force next year, apparently. so if you fancy braving a crush at the bar and catching some decent music for a ridiculously low price of five quid for a whole weekend, make sure you've got next Easter free.
Still on a music tip, I went to see The Young Knives playing at The M Club in Crewe last Friday. My younger brother, Eddy, got me on the guest list and I took my brother-in-law, Roger. Well, Roger took me actually, as he was the one driving. And actually, I wasn't on the guest list, but luckily Eddy was and we got in free anyway. We arrived about three-quarters of the way through the first support band, who were apparently Lucifer Over Lancashire but from here on will be referred to as The Ray Winstones because all their songs involved a lot of shouting, or more accurately "SHAARTIN'!". And that wasn't a good thing. Once the Ray Winstones had finished, we were treated to Norwegian prog-rockers Ungdomskulen. I was almost prepared to forgive them their bass-heavy, feedback-laden indulgences on the basis that they're from Norway and the 21st century probably hasn't permeated their music scene yet, but they comprehensively drained my goodwill by turning into Hawkwind after about two songs and then slowly mutating into a sort of angular-riffing Converge-cum-Dillinger-Escape-Plan-mathrock band, minus the shouty vocals. They don't sound quite as heavy a proposition on their website but clearly the live experience is a different beast. Anyway, once they were done, it was time for the headline act, The Young Knives. They were, quite simply, excellent. Obviously influenced by '80s indie guitar pop, they take their influences and weld them to some magnificent songs. Curmudgeonly types might point out that we've heard this stuff before (and I did spot songs that sounded like Pere Ubu, Gang of Four, Teardrop Explodes, early James, and Orange Juice) but I don't think I've seen one band re-hash ALL of them in one set. Further curmudgeonly moans could be had about the comedy banter on stage, but hey-ho, they're young, they'll learn. I hope. These things though are just minor points. If you want good songs, with hummable tunes and decent lyrics, you can't go wrong here. Top stuff
Sticking with the musical theme; last weekend my sister, Liz, and her new husband, Roger, held a party at Nantwich Town Football Club to celebrate their recent wedding. They actually got married a couple of weeks ago, on a beach in Antigua, but sensibly waited till the Jazz Festival was over before having a party back home for friends and family. My wedding present to them was to book Disarm, who put on an excellent show. (And polished off all the brandy in my sister's house at her after-party party.) You can see a brief clip of their performance below.
I then undid all the goodwill by accompanying Roger's dad on my ukulele for his wedding calypso song, which, I believe should also be embedded below.
Apologies if that's spoiled your browsing experience. And if you can't see it, you can watch it on youtube.
Anyway, as is usual at wedding parties, much drink was partaken and many photos were taken. Some of which survived to see the light of day. Apologies to all those who were there though, as the vast majority seem to feature some combination of me, my siblings and partners and Disarm... Anyway, just five years after everyone else, I've signed up to Flickr and have uploaded my photos there. So get your bad self over to My wedding party Flickr page to see the pictures and read my amusing captions. They took me ages, you know.
The actual party went really well, apart from one or two aged relatives finding the band a bit loud (hey, that's rock'n'roll) and everyone seemed to have a great time, despite the ukulele... Liz certainly had a good time, as you can see from the Sunday lunch picture - she was so rough she had to go home and have a lie down before we got to dessert! The only downside of the entire weekend was finding that, with typical efficiency, my Dad had booked a Sunday lunch party and totally forgotten to invite my brother Mark and his wife Kate, despite including them when counting the numbers. D'Oh!
After all the drinking, chatting, entertaining and running around of the weekend, I was glad that I'd booked the Monday morning off. I'd fully intended to have a bit of a lie-in and then spend a lazy day updating the site. Well, I managed the lie-in bit OK and the lazy day bit, but only got about a third of the update done. I spent far too long faffing about with the video and pictures from my camera and as a result never got them uploaded. To be honest, my video processing capabilities at home are fairly limited and in the end I had to use my work PC to sort things out. I really ought to buy a new PC for home, because they are fairly cheap these days, but at this very moment in time, I'm still hankering after some recording gear...
Having had my lazy day on Monday I was back at work on Tuesday, and then on Tuesday night, got a lift from my mate Lee up to Northwich to watch Nantwich Town take on Altrincham in the Cheshire Senior Cup. Altrincham are a few divisions higher in the league pyramid so a tough game was expected. We weren't disappointed. In a first half that was long on effort and short on true quality, Nantwich had the majority of the possession and created more chances, but Altrincham took the lead against the run of play. In the second half, Altrincham started quickly, looking for the second goal to kill the game off. Nantwich got back into it slowly and then came the pivotal moment. Emerging from the bench, to much general apathy, Pavol Suhaj, turned the game round for Nantwich. First up he bundled the ball in to the roof of the net when finding himself unmarked at a corner, and then he latched onto a through ball from Andy Kinsey and slipped it past the keeper to put Nantwich ahead. The Dabbers (that's Nantwich) then had further chances but spurned them and paid the price when Altrincham equalised just as three minutes of injury time were being announced. Into extra-time and 'Pav' put Nantwich ahead when holding up the ball on the edge of the area, turning two defenders and then curling it in to the far corner with the keeper stranded. Sadly, he was then forced off through injury and Nantwich were back to hanging on. They just couldn't manage it and Altrincham levelled again in the second half of extra time. Altrincham then nearly pinched it, but Nantwich scrambled the ball away and it was down to penalties. Nantwich went first and Andy Kinsey scored to put them ahead. The Nantwich keeper Lee Jones saved the first Alty penalty. It was nail-biting from then on as each side scored their penalties but, with Nantwich ahead from the off, it was left to Danny Griggs to bang his spot-kick home and win the cup. I've got a few pictures that I took on the night, that I've put on my Cheshire Cup Flickr page. Enjoy.
Crewe Alexandra news now, and, with perfect timing, no sooner had I suggested in my last update that Huddersfield, Yeovil and Hartlepool could get dragged into the League One relegation battle, than all three teams have picked up enough points to ensure they'll be safe from the drop this time round. My own little smashers, Crewe, also picked up their form and briefly managed to open up a five point gap on fellow strugglers, Gillingham. However recent results have gone against them and now we're only ahead of them on goal difference. With just four games to go now, it's squeaky bum time for us, Gillingham and Millwall. I think that if any of the teams can manage more than one win, they should be safe. Of course, having mentioned that now, you can rest assured that both Millwall and Gillingham will win their four remaining games! I'm not sure the Alex can manage that though and they might have to rely on other teams doing them a favour. One of those other teams could be Bournemouth, who are facing the very real prospect of being the first club to go out of business during a season since Aldershot in 1992. If they fold before the end of the season, their record will be expunged and all the teams that have taken points off them, will lose them. Which is good news for Crewe as we've only played them once and lost, whereas Millwall and Gillingham have both beaten Bournemouth once, so would lose the three points for that win. Not that I'd want that - I'd rather Bournemouth stayed in business and the Alex managed to stay up on their own merits. Fingers crossed they can manage that...
On a final musical tip - I've got two new albums this last week and both of them are brilliant:
- REM -Accelerate Quite simply the best thing they've done in ages. They've stopped sounding like a bunch of tired, old, men and re-discovered the spark that made albums like 'Automatic for The People' and 'Document' so vital. Most of the songs are uptempo and guitar-based and the band sound like they enjoyed playing them. Well worth checking out, in my opinion. I like it so much I might yet change my mind about seeing them live...
- Disarm - By Any Means Necessary Not officially available till June, apparently, but, in a shameless plug, this is the cracking new album from Mexborough's metal monsters and all-round nice guys, Disarm. Top quality sleazy, metal.
And that'll do for now - it's taken me more than a week to get this done and even so there are bound to be some spelling mistakes in there and some things I've forgotten. I haven't explained the references to Hale and Pace and the Anthill Mob in my last update, for example. On the other hand, you'll be reading this in stages if I keep going on and on. I'll try not to leave it so long till the next update, but I ain't promising nuffin'.
Thursday 6th March
Hale and Pace and the Anthill Mob
I've been a busy man, alright? Well, actually, I've not been that busy but I have been doing stuff or working late or recovering from hangovers; all things that take up my valuable time. First of the things that have been occupying my time was a trip to sunny South Yorkshire for a family gathering to celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday. It was a lovely day - the weather was fantastic and there was a decent turn out. The usual suspects were missing although Eddy did at least have the excuse that he was in France. We had a lovely, long, relaxed lunch at the Holiday Inn, Warmsworth and you can see pictures of the day on the February 2008 pictures page.
One of the other things that kept me occupied for a weekend was Roger's stag do. The aforementioned lucky man is due to marry my sister in eight days, on a beach, in Antigua, as part of their cruise. Roger's parents have paid for the cruise and are travelling with them - the rest of us will have to make do with an official photograph or two. Anyway, in the tradition of these things, Roger had a stag do which involved a minibus full of his workmates plus me and his brother-in-law on his sister's side, traipsing up to Manchester for an afternoon-slash-evening of alcohol-related japery. Roger had to wear a dress for an hour or so and we did a grand tour of quite a few pubs, including one not far from the Manchester Wheel. Buggered if I can remember the name of it though. We all eneded up in Jilly's Rockworld where unfortunately, Roger got thrown out (he was an innocent bystander in the whole affair though) and I fell asleep standing at the bar. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, to be honest, and I couldn't manage another drink after about 11pm, although I hardly helped myself by having bombed down to Birmingham the night before for a stupid number of beers in a short space of time with a couple of ex-colleagues from my JBA days. Needless to say, I had to spend the following Sunday recovering. Anyway, there are a couple of pictures of the motley crew on the February 2008 pictures page. Enjoy.
Well, who knew? Apparently, using your credit card three or four times more than usual will flag you up as a potential fraudster. Having used it sparingly in the run-up to Christmas and then spanking it a bit for the festive season, I then used it a bit more in the post-Christmas period, splashing out on a few personal items (making the most of the belated payment of the Christmas bonus). I bought a couple of mp3 players, a few albums that I wanted and some DVDs (more of both of those later) and even put my Pa's 70th Birthday present on it. It was whilst buying said present that I got the first inkling that something may be awry. After entering my card details the shop had to ring and get authorisation for the transaction. The following morning, entirely coincidentally, I received a letter from my card issuer asking me to call them about my account. (They'd been trying to contact me urgently apparently - so urgently they didn't bother trying my home phone in the evening or my mobile...) Anyway, I called them and the upshot was that my increased card usage had been flagged up as potential fraud, so I had to confirm that the last few transactions were of my doing. Even so, it is clearly easier to cancel my card than get the "potential fraud" flag removed, so I've ended up with a new card and account number. Luckily they were quicker to send out the card than they promised, so I wasn't without plastic for too long. Not that I've used my new card yet - I'm torn between getting a digital camera and an 8-track digital recorder and can't decide which I want first...
Anyway, as mentioned, I've splashed out on a few CDs, mostly ones that I've been thinking of/hankering after for a while:
- British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music? The latest one from Brighton-based indie merchants, which bears as much resemblance to Rock Music as their previous offerings. It's had mixed reviews in the press and after having lived with it for a few weeks now, I can see why. I'm not sure this one has as many memorable tunes as the previous two - sure 'Raving Fags', er, 'Waving Flags' will be the festival anthem of the summer and 'No Lucifer' starts off with a beguiling chant of "Easy! Easy!" but a lot of the songs seem to go nowhere in particular. It is perhaps harsh to criticise the band for doing pretty much the same things as they've done on their first two albums, but this third one seem to be lacking the hooks of the previous outings. Perhaps I made the right decision not to go and see them live...
- The Fall - Complete Peel Sessions One I've been promising myself for a long time and I finally got it at a reasonable price. Six CDs containing 24 sessions for the late, great John Peel, spread over 26 years and comprising 99 tracks in total. From the primitive garage rock of 'Rebellious Jukebox' all the way through to the er, primitive garage rock of 'Blindess' via all points high and low in the The Fall's long career. Not one for the faint-hearted or beginner, but a valuable an interesting historical document for Fall aficianados.
- Cocteau Twins - Garlands The first album from a band whose music will forever be labelled "ethereal", due to the chiming, bell-like guitars and swooping, almost unintelligible vocals, which (for me) reached a pinnacle on their third album 'Treasure'. This debut finds them laying down the foundations of their trademark sound, although Liz Fraser's vocals are more conventional here and the guitars are less treated so the end result is a sinilar to that of Souixsie and The Banshees, but without a less dark undertone. This original re-release weighs in at just over 35 minutes long and doesn't spoil us with any added bonus tracks.
- Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels Minus original bass player, Will Heggie, but before the arrival of Simon Raymonde, Liz and Robin go further towards what became their trademark sound, although you can still make out most of what she's on about on this album. Walls of shimmering, treated guitar, throbbing bass underpinning it and on top, Liz's extraordinary voice. Plus a whole album full of slightly esoteric song titles. Just over 37 minutes long and no bonus tracks to dilute the experience.
- Wolfhounds - Lost But Happy Proper indie, as those of us old enough to remember the 1980s would describe it. Jangly guitars, straight 4/4 beats and angst-ridden vocals. Again, it's one of those purchases that was on the back burner - mainly because I'm only familiar with two tracks by them - 'Anti-Midas Touch' and 'Rent Act', both of which I first heard on John Peel's show. Still, when you've got money to burn you can afford to indulge. To be honest, those aforementioned tracks are probably the best two on the album, even though it is a 'Best Of..'
- June Brides - Everyday Conversations. More indie from the Eighties. This time of the gentler, strummed guitars variety, with winsome vocals and added trumpet. Sadly, forever tarred with the brush of being a C86 band despite not appearing on the original cassette. It's a double CD and to be honest, it could have been trimmed - a lot of this sounds the same. My personal favourite though is 'This Town', another track I remember first hearing on John Peel's show, and it's probably worth the reduced price of purchase on it's own.
Likewise, I have also splashed out on a few DVDs, although this really is my usual mix of cheap tat from the supermarket and the odd full price purchase...
- A-Z of ITV Wrestling Picked up cheap in the supermarket and thank the Lord for that because if I'd paid the full retail price I'd be demanding a refund. The main feature is an A to Z run through the characters from ITV's decades of covering the British wrestling scene. although most of the action seems to come from the late 70s/early 80s period. For each letter of the alphabet there's a bit of chat and highlights of the chosen wrestler in action, mostly action from one bout. As a massive fan of classic British wrestling, I was very disappointed with it. There's no depth to it at all, and not much focus outside of the main characters (Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki) In fact, there's very little on here I didn't know already. Worth the £2.50 I paid for it, but no more.
- Chopper - Eric Bana's breakthrough role as the eponymous Australian "crimmo" in this rollicking bio-pic. Romanticises the grubbiness and brutality of the small-time crook's career but still compelling viewing.
- Accion Mutante - those crazy Spaniards. Produced by Pedro Almodovar and directed by Alex de La Iglesias, it a sci-fi comedy-cum-morality tale, set in a near-future world where the beautiful are rich and the poor are ugly. Leading the class struggle are terrorists Accion Mutante, but with their charismatic leader in jail, they're proving to be somewhat inept in the kidnap and extortion game. Leader Ramon returns to lead them on a high profile mission but it all goes a bit wrong. Amusing and with a social comment too.
- Day Watch -very disappointing - not a single hint of Pamela Anderson or The Hoff in the whole two hours... No, of course, I did n't get confused. This is the sequel to Night Watch, a Russian take on the struggle between Good and Evil. Moving on from the first film, the uneasy truce between the two sides is once again in danger of being broken and Anton is being fitted up to take the fall for it. He must somehow prove his innonence and reverse the chaos that is about to ensue. I won't give away the rest of it except to say that the end might not make much sense if you haven't seen the first film.
- Carry On Box Set - YESSS!!! All the classic Carry Ons plus the That's Carry On clips compilation, Thirty films to watch and review - definitely a one-a-day project, to be saved for June, when the footy season is over and the long, light evenings stretch ahead of me. Not that they need reviewing, really, as everyone is surely aware of the plots and characters, surely? On the other hand, no one has had the benefit of my analysis yet though.
Moving swiftly on to football matters - it's been a somewhat disappointing end to the month for both my teams. Crewe Alex picked up unexpected points against Swansea, Leyton Orient and Leeds and then lost rather tamely to Carlisle. Any other result and they would have climbed out of the bottom four. A decent draw at Northampton (who have been on a decent run) was of little comfort as the other teams around us picked up points. The Alex have popped up out of the bottom four though thanks to Gillingham's midweek defeat. Luckily for us, there are three other teams fighting to avoid the final relegation slot and Huddersfield, Hartlepool and Yeovil could also yet get drawn into the dogfight. Not only that, but once we get past Nottingham Forest on Saturday, we only play one other team in the top half of the table during the last ten games. But it always good news/bad news with the Alex and unfortunately though, Nicky Maynard has got himself injured again and will be out for a couple of weeks or so. We're having a lot of trouble attracting players to come to the club, so may depend on Pope, Moore and the rest to score the goals required to keep us up. Oh joy.
In other Crewe-related news, I went to the AGM last week. I've been to a few before and all that usually happens is that the board present the accounts and the shareholders vote to accept them, there's a bit of A.O.B. (Any Other Business) and then the meeting is thrown open for a general Q&A session. This year, with yet another series of loans being made out of the club accounts, the balance showing a small loss despite the sale of Luke Varney and the team performing poorly on the pitch there were plenty of questions that needed asking. Unfortunately, none of the questions really got asked - the board were prepared for anything that was likely to be thrown at them, and pretty much torpedo-ed any questions on financial integrity by revealing they'd been given a clean bill of health by the FA Financial Compliance Unit. There were plenty of other pre-emptive strikes in the reading of the accounts and in the end, the questions, when they came, were fairly tame and easily dealt with by the board. The board also made sure that there weren't too many awkward financial questions by having the football management team on hand to answer the footy-related questions. Most fo the footy questioons centred around why we are doing badly and what measures the management were taking to improve the situation. There was some interesting stuff about the long list of players we've tried (and failed) to get in, the goalkeeping situation and the development of Eugen Bopp, but largely it was the usual questions, which elicited the usual answers.
Nantwich Town have been up-and-down. They managed to win their much-postponed Cheshire Cup tie with Cammell Laird and have had mixed fortunes in the league but the real blow came after they spanked the botties of FC United in the Unibond Presidents Cup, only to get themselves disqualified for fielding an ineligible player. An ineligible player, who came on late in the second half when they were already 4-1 up. Still rules is rules and if the proper paperwork hasn't been done, it hasn't been done. Very disappointing for the fans, who enjoyed a terrific atmosphere and fantastic win and for the team who played as well as I've seen them this season. Ah well, there's always next season. Besides, they're concentrating on the league...
Following last instalment's news of the cock-up and farce surrounding the Acoustic Festival and Phil Martin's attempts to provide an alternative, I'm delighted to announce (or at least share with my readership, most of whom have probably read it elsewhere already) the news that McFly and Girls Aloud are both headlining gigs in the slot earmarked for the Acoustic Fest. Well done, Mr Martin for getting that calibre of headliners on. No word on who else is on the bill on either of the days, but you can follow the links for McFly tickets or for Girls Aloud tickets. Only £25 each day, it's a right bargain and no mistake, guv'nor.
Unlike the 45 quid REM are charging to see them on their forthcoming tour. Regular readers will recall that I went to see them a few times on their last tour. (Newer readers can check out the archives from summer 2005.) Unfortunately for me the nearest gig will be at the Lancashire County Cricket Ground in Manchester, which was my least favourite of all the gigs I saw that summer - too hot, too crowded, too big a queue at the bar and the sound wasn't particularly good where I was - so despite liking the single 'Supernatural Superserious' and looking forward to the album, I might give it a miss. I can't say I'm overly excited by the other venues they're playing at in the UK either, so I might miss out on them altogether. They are playing at the Royal Albert Hall in a couple of weeks and that gig will be broadcast on Radio 2, so I'll probably end up listening to (and possibly recording) that and then change my mind. On the other hand I have got comedy capers with my mate Kev to be thinking about this summer instead.
Monday 4th February
Carry On Catering
Well, so much for my resolution to get to more gigs this year - I managed to blow out both the gigs that I had lined up. Firstly, following the onset of a very heavy cold, I decided to skip the Rig Up Explosive gig and then I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to battle the vagaries of public transport to get up to Manchester on Sunday night for British Sea Power. On reflection, not going to the Tuesday night gig was a bit wimpy, although I did feel pretty rough at the time, but the Manchester gig turned into such a faff - there were no direct trains between 3 and 6 from Crewe and the return train that I thought left Manchester at 11.30 turned out not to run on a Sunday, so I would have had to leave the gig about 10 past ten to get the last train, or book a hotel. All of which I could have coped with if I'd found it out before Saturday evening, but for one reason or another I didn't get round to checking travel arrangements till then. Arse.
To tell the truth, I wasn't really in the mood for going anywhere anyway, as I'd been to see my mate Muzz, up in the psychiatric ward at Leighton Hospital and that had put me on a bit of a downer. I've no idea how those wards make you feel if you're mentally troubled, but it made me feel really low. To be fair, it probably wasn't the ward that did that to me but the state of my old friend. I've known Muzz a good few years now and have seen him through the good times and the bad, so it really shouldn't have affected me so much, but he seemed so remote and disconnected and at times he just drifted away, not listening to the conversation I was trying to have. He just seemed to be back in the same place he was almost twenty years ago, after his first breakdown. It's not all bad though - he's been fairly stable for a while and they're moving him on to a rehablitation centre in preparation for him moving into his own home - so I could have just caught him on a bad day. I'm going back to see him this week, so hopefully things will be a bit better.
Anyway, enough of the misery, here's some relatively good news - my corrupted Word document turned out not to be corrupted at all. I made a copy of the "corrupted" .docx document and changed the extension to .doc and it opened perfectly. Not sure why that should be the case, as I converted the document to docx format ages ago and had had no trouble with it previously. That said, when checking the Save default in my Word settings, it was showing "Save as Word 97-2003 format (.doc)", but I'm sure I changed it to save as .docx... Ah well, I saved the .doc and created a brand new .docx document and copied everything except the last paragraph mark into this new .docx document. (The last paragraph mark in your Word document includes a hidden container in which Word stores all document properties including formatting information, fact fans.) I even attached the updated .dotx template I've been working on. I had to go through and re-apply some formatting and stuff but there was no major damage in there. This has saved me a week of extra work and so far, touch wood, I've had no problems.
I note from my recent shopping trip to Morrisons that Heinz appear to have started giving all their new products faintly rude, carry On-style names. Hot on the heels of the Red Hot Balls, come the Big Saucy Bangers:
Ooh no, missus! "Fancy some Saucy Bangers, Sid?" "Not 'arf, but aren't we going to have something to eat first?" Complementing the range are the slightly less racy Beanz with Balls. Oh, stop mucking about!
And whilst we're on a slight food tip have a look at this egg I fried up for tea the other week.
Now I like a good yolk, but clearly that went two far. It's clearly in-eggs-plicable. Sorry, I just got over-eggs-cited there, perhaps I'd better make a swift eggs-it.... Actually, I think a couple of the other eggs in that box were also double-yolkers, but I boiled them up so it was a bit difficult to tell.
Quiz-wise, team Amanda Huggenkiss have carried on their winning ways and picked up a few more free beers, all for the simple art of knowing things. In fact, in one case we won for not knowing something. We didn't know who was the first British woman to win two Olympic gold medals and after some fierce debate plumped for Dame Kelly of Holmes. Luckily, that was given as the right answer, but the real answer is, of course, Not-A-Dame Shirley of Robertson who won golds in Sailing at Sydney and Athens, capturing her second medal before Kelly had won her first. Not the first time the quiz has been wrong, of course (they asked us to name the five countries that have borders with Poland when there are, in fact, seven) and probably not the last. At least this time the wrongness worked in our favour.
And thinking of wrongness, what on earth is going on on up at Nantwich Town's ground? Yes, there has been a fair bit of rain over the last few weeks but since New Year's Day, the club have had EIGHT postponements due to their pitch being waterlogged. And bizarrely, six of those postponements have been against the same opposition, Cammell Laird. Firstly their meeting in the Unibond Presidents Cup suffered four postponements before going ahead at the fifth time of asking - Nantwich emerging victorious by 5 goals to 1 on a pitch resembling Blackpool beach. Secondly, the two team are to meet in the semi-final of the Cheshire Senior Cup and this game has already suffered two postponements. Next home game for Nantwich is a meeting with FC United of Manchester in the quarter-final of the Unibond Presidents Cup, which is due to take place on Friday night (Feb 8th, 7.45pm kick-off), but unless there's absolutely no rain between now and then, I think that may be called off too. Still, at least they're not in any danger of slipping to a second relegation in three seasons, unlike my proper team, Crewe Alexandra. To be honest, they've been fairly poor and even when playing equally poor teams they've shown no creativity and rarely threatened the goal. With just one win in twelve, it's relegation form and I can't see where the next win is going to come from. Still, I won't be joining the call for Steve Holland to be sacked. After all, if we can give Dario Gradi three years to prove himself, then the least we can do is give his successor a similar amount of time.
Anyway, to round things off, I thought I'd go back to where I started - talking about gigs. First up, when I mentioned the list of gigs that I wanted to see, I managed to neglect the annual Nantwich Jazz Fest. I was reminded of it when one of my former colleagues at MDS e-mailed me to let me know that his band are doing a Sunday evening slot at The Talbot. As usual there'll be dozens of bands on, plenty of interesting free gigs and a few thousand extra people thronging the streets of Nantwich on Easter Sunday. This year they're trying to limit the numbers by introducing a wristband policy, but I'm not sure it's been that well-publicised. Last thing I saw about it was that unless you bought a wristband (for five quid) you wouldn't be allowed in to any of the free gigs. I could be wrong about that though - I'll have to go and look it up when the website is working.
One thing I wasn't wrong about last year and definitely won't be going to this year is The Acoustic Festival of Britain. After the washout last year there were promises of refunds and then promises of replacement tickets for the festival, which would be coming back, "same time, same place, next year." In the meantime there were rumours about the co-promoters falling out, monies not being paid to the venue on time and other bits of sharp practice. Citing the disastrous weather as the reason, the promoter has taken the opportunity to move the Festival (supposedly guaranteed to be held in Nantwich for three years minimum) to another venue and a different date. Frankly, it all looks a bit suspicious to me, but I can at least sleep easy now, knowing I won't have to face the trauma of accidentally seeing or hearing Jethro Tull in concert... Luckily, for those of us with more refined music tastes, local promoter, Phil Martin (the force behind the Jazz Fest) has stepped into the breach and is planning a series of Picnics In The Park, at the same venue (Dorfold Hall), the first of which features Katherine Jenkins. Haven't seen or heard any further announcements yet, but I await news with bated breath.
Monday 21st January 2008
Stop holding your breath
Clearly none of my new years resolutions involved updating this website on a more regular basis...
Slowly, ever so slowly, I drag myself into the 21st Century. No, I haven't yet got round to getting a decent computer or even downloading a software package to make my blogging easier, but I have finally bought an mp3 player. I spent the grand sum of fourteen pounds and ninety-nine pence on it, from Woolworths. It's very basic, being as it is, a USB key with some additional controls on it. There's no screen, no fancy scrolling wheel no shuffle button or anything like that, but it does have 1GB of memory and that's more than enough for my needs. All I want is something that has a bit of music on it that I can listen to either at work or on my way to/from there. And that's what I've got. If I do have a complaint about it, is that it's a little too big for me to plug into my PC without unplugging the other USB devices. And it eats batteries like nobody's business. Wait, that's two complaints. Anyway, in order to solve the first problem, I've picked up one of these for a tenner from Amazon. I'm sure it'll take less than a week for me to turn the sound off but having had a play at work, I've got to say it sounds so cool. Every home should have one. In order to solve the second one, I'm looking at getting some rechargable batteries. The initial outlay is a bit off-putting but I'm sure I'll recoup the cost in the long run. In the meantime here's a blurry picture of the beast in action:
As part of my plans for this year, I have decided to go more gigs this year and have already lined up a couple for this month. First up there's my new favourite band, Rig Up Explosive at the The M Club in Crewe tomorrow night. And then on Sunday night it's off up to Manchester to catch British Sea Power, touring to promote their gorgeous new album, Do You Like Rock Music? I quite fancied catching Robyn Hitchcock on his current mini-tour but he was only doing two gigs I could get to and one of those clashed with BSP. The other is the night after and I can't manage two gigs in a row without taking some time off. Later in the year, old mates and young turks Disarm set out in May to promote their debut album, and hopefully REM will be doing some UK dates to promote their new album, which is due at the end of March. There's also further good stuff to look forward to at the M Club, including The Buzzcocks and Nazareth and I daresay there'll be a few other gigs that catch my eye. Not to mention my determination to put The Civic back on my itinerary as a regular thing. Of course, I really ought to be saving my money, I suppose - I'll need to pay for driving lessons and there's a few other big events coming up. There's my Dad's 70th Birthday, my sister's fiance's stag do, my sister's wedding party and my big gay trip away with me old mate Kev. Perhaps I ought to stay in and save my money instead?
(Actually, I mention my sister's wedding party but I've only just had an official invitation, and that after more than a month of subtle and not-so-subtle hints. My siblings, parents, various aged relatives and cousins had all been invited, but not me. Do you think she was trying to (not) tell me something? It's just as well my diary isn't swamped with social invitations otherwise I might have had to decline anyway...)
In a swift change of subject, we've all had this problem, eh lads?
I mentioned in my last post that I was fed up with getting spam in my Hotmail inbox and that I'd set up a separate account to receive all e-mail addressed to fatfakir.com. This secondary account has done it's job and now I don't have to spend ages wading through crap to find the two or three e-mails that I want to read. I was checking this additional account on a regular basis and deleting the crap out of it but it seemed a bit pointless as I wasn't deleting that much spam. So I didn't check it for a few days. Imagine my delight then, when I opened the account yesterday to find that in the ten days since I'd last looked I'd received more than 12,500 e-mails. Yes, that's TWELVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED. 12,584, to be precise. A lot of them were returned mail/bounced mail messages, which shows me that someone is spoofing my domain name in their spam. Which is kind of annoying because my domain will soon be listed on spam blockers everywhere, but not that annoying because I never send e-mail from my domain. If you do get anything purporting to be from fatfakir.com, you can rest assured it hasn't come from me. I've had a quick look at some of the spam reporting sites but I'm not sure what I should do next, to be honest - if anyone's got any tips they'll be gratefully received.
A quick mention of football, but only to gloss over it quickly. My little smashers, Crewe Alex continue to stumble along, with the recent gloom only briefly lifted by a dramatic 4-3 win over Tranmere on New Years Day. This bright spot came after 8 winless games and has been followed by two further defeats. My vision of the team being in the drop zone by the end of January looks like coming true. On the other hand, there are still plenty of winnable games before the end of the season, if Crewe can re-discover their scoring touch. Sad to say, at the moment the best we can hope for from every game is a 0-0 draw because we just don't look like scoring. By way of contrast, scoring is the least of Nantwich Town's troubles. Having banged six past Alsager at the start of the year, the continued wet weather has seen several postponements at the Weaver Stadium this month, as the pitch has become waterlogged. To be honest, unless the rain stops tonight and the sun shines for the rest of the month I can see Nantwich not managing a home game for another few weeks.
I try not to mention work on here too much but I have to report that today, a mere 5 months after upgrading to Office 2007 at work, I came across my first corrupted Word document in the new .docx format. I'm at a loss to explain why it's corrupted because I haven't made any changes to it in the last fortnight and the two other documents I saved on the same day are working perfectly fine. (Although thinking about that - I might have had it open when we had a power cut at work and didn't recover it at the time.) Most annoyingly, the only way I can rescue the document is to strip the text out, thus losing all the formatting and all the screenshots. I couldn't find a tool on the Interweb which could do a better job than the Word tools, which just added to my frustration. Anyway, looks like I'll be spending the next few days putting the whole thing back together. Fortunately, I've still got all the screenshots stored separately and a printed copy to look at. And it could have been worse, this document is the smallest of the User Guides that I've written and is only about 60 pages long, so shouldn't be too difficult to reconstruct. I could have been looking at re-doing something almost three times that size...