Throwing the Walking Frame

April 20th 2006

Atkins Down The Road, a man always up for a bit of fun, joined me for my Throwing the Walking Frame training session this morning at ten. Ever resourceful he already had his own walking frame, having picked it up at a charity shop some time ago in readiness for when the time comes that he’ll need one, and employed in the meantime as a support for his climbing strawberries.

When we arrived at the park the man who I met yesterday, Mr Jeffs, was accompanied by two of his friends, who were also interested in training for the Throwing the Walking Frame event. Like Mr Jeffs they were aged about seventy. One was introduced as Mr Barnaby, the other, a Scot, was Mr Ross. It turned out Atkins knew Mr Jeffs, who used to be his milkman at one time.

Straight away Mr Barnaby pointed out that he didn’t actually use a walking frame – the one he had brought along was his wife’s – and inquired if it was in the rules of the competition that a competitor had to be an actual walking frame user, as he didn’t want to waste time training up if this was the case. I confessed that I didn’t know but asked him who was to prove otherwise? I also pointed out that the Paralympic Games were over six years away and by then he would in all probability have the genuine need of a walking frame, as might the rest of us. This seemed to satisfy him.

Before we got down to some serious training I added a refinement in the shape of an 8 feet diameter circle which I painted on the grass with some white emulsion I had left over from decorating our bedroom ceilings.

The training went very well; the only problem being that Mr Ross, who is a genuine walking frame user, fell flat on his face every time he threw his walking frame. I assured him that this wouldn’t lead to disqualification as the rules stated that provided the competitor didn’t step out of, or in his case fall out of, the circle, it would be deemed a fair throw.

In fact it was Mr Ross who threw the walking frame the farthest distance. I wasn’t surprised by this, because of his country of birth, the Scots traditionally being very big on throwing things, hammers, cabers, tantrums, uppercuts and so on. Mr Barnaby wasn’t far behind and it will be interesting to see which of them eventually turns out to be the best thrower. Atkins Down The Road was hopeless, but this was probably because it took him all his time to keep his face straight, let along throw his walking frame.

We ended the session by having a chat about the way ahead and decided to put in for lottery funding, to be taken up by Mr Barnaby. On the way home Atkins and I decided there is no way we can continue without cracking up and resolved not to go again, or if we do, to view the proceedings from the cover of the trees.

Paralympics

April 19th 2006

“Training for the 2012 Paralympics,” I said, then in steps of about a yard in length started to measure out the distance to the walking frame I’d just flung about thirty yards into the distance.

“Paralympics?” said the man of around my age who’d stopped to watch me.

“Throwing The Walking Frame,” I said. “It’s a new event. Apparently the host country can pick an entirely new event and we’ve chosen Throwing The Walking Frame. Just nudged out the Triple Hop, Hop and Hop for the one-legged I believe.”

I’d found the walking frame abandoned in the park a couple of minutes earlier. Don’t ask why someone would abandon a walking frame, I’ve no idea. Perhaps its owner had been suddenly cured by a faith healer and having no further need of its support had dramatically cast it away. Or maybe it hadn’t been abandoned at all, maybe it had been thrown away by someone who had taken delivery of a new, lighter, faster, carbon fibre, tungsten-tipped walking frame, I just don’t know. Anyway it was there.

Thankfully I still have a bit of the devil in me and when I saw the man approaching I thought I’d have a bit of a laugh, hence the walking frame throw above. The man watched as I picked up the walking frame and returned to the spot from which I’d thrown it. I threw it again. This time it went about a couple of yards farther.

“Farther this time,” the man observed, approvingly.

“Must be close to my PB that one,” I said, pleased with myself.

“Can anyone enter?”

“I suppose so. You have to have a walking frame.”

I retrieved the walking frame and made to throw it again.

“Can I have a go?” asked the man, now eager.

I handed him the walking frame. He drew his arm back and threw it a good five yards farther than I had.

“You’re a natural.” I said. “Why don’t you get a walking frame of your own and join me. There’s an individual competition and a four man team event, but we’d need another two for that. I train every morning at ten.“

He said he’ll be there tomorrow, prompt.

April 19th 2006

“Training for the 2012 Paralympics,” I said, then in steps of about a yard in length started to measure out the distance to the walking frame I’d just flung about thirty yards into the distance.

“Paralympics?” said the man of around my age who’d stopped to watch me.

“Throwing The Walking Frame,” I said. “It’s a new event. Apparently the host country can pick an entirely new event and we’ve chosen Throwing The Walking Frame. Just nudged out the Triple Hop, Hop and Hop for the one-legged I believe.”

I’d found the walking frame abandoned in the park a couple of minutes earlier. Don’t ask why someone would abandon a walking frame, I’ve no idea. Perhaps its owner had been suddenly cured by a faith healer and having no further need of its support had dramatically cast it away. Or maybe it hadn’t been abandoned at all, maybe it had been thrown away by someone who had taken delivery of a new, lighter, faster, carbon fibre, tungsten-tipped walking frame, I just don’t know. Anyway it was there.

Thankfully I still have a bit of the devil in me and when I saw the man approaching I thought I’d have a bit of a laugh, hence the walking frame throw above. The man watched as I picked up the walking frame and returned to the spot from which I’d thrown it. I threw it again. This time it went about a couple of yards farther.

“Farther this time,” the man observed, approvingly.

“Must be close to my PB that one,” I said, pleased with myself.

“Can anyone enter?”

“I suppose so. You have to have a walking frame.”

I retrieved the walking frame and made to throw it again.

“Can I have a go?” asked the man, now eager.

I handed him the walking frame. He drew his arm back and threw it a good five yards farther than I had.

“You’re a natural.” I said. “Why don’t you get a walking frame of your own and join me. There’s an individual competition and a four man team event, but we’d need another two for that. I train every morning at ten.“

He said he’ll be there tomorrow, prompt.

Joan Collins

April 17th 2006

In the Sunday Times Culture section yesterday I spotted an advert in the forthcoming concerts pages – An Evening with Joan Collins. UK Tour 2006. With special guests 4 Poofs and a Piano. Below the heading was a list of venues where Miss Collins and the 4 Poofs, along with their piano, would be appearing. (I wonder how the 4 Poofs have been able to resist a slight change of musical instrument so that they could call themselves 4 Poofs and an Organ).

Miss Collins’ nearest port of call to me is Manchester Bridgewater Hall on 10th May. I shan’t be bothering. I’ve already spent an evening with Joan Collins, or part of one. Furthermore it wasn’t as a member of the audience but seated right next to her.

The occasion was when we were both guests, along with others, on the radio programme Saturday Night at Quaglino’s, a live chat show that was broadcast in the early eighties from Quaglino’s night club in London’s West End, and hosted by Ned Sherrin. Whether Quaglino’s, or indeed Ned Sherrin, is still around, I’ve no idea, but probably not.

I was on the show because at the time I was a scriptwriter on the News Huddlines and we’d recently published a book of scripts from the show. I was there to plug it, which I did unmercifully and at every opportunity.

I’m not sure why Joan Collins was there, but the late Leonard Rossiter was a guest also (before he was late of course), so it might have been something to do with the Cinzano television commercials. I forget.

I was seated next to Joan, along with the other guests, at a large round table, set more or less in the middle of the night club where all the other night clubbers could get a view of us. It crossed my mind that here might be an opportunity to progress from being a humble scriptwriter to a film star if I could impress Miss Collins in some way.


This was around the time of Joan’s soft porn movie The Stud, and I thought if I were to perhaps unzip my fly and get my dick out under cover of the tablecloth and draw her attention to it she might consider me for a part in Stud 2. Then I realised that if I were to do this it would be more likely to land me a role in a remake of The Smallest Show on Earth so common sensed prevailed and I remained zipped.

This was over twenty years ago but I swear that Joan looked exactly the same as she does today. Dog Rough. No, that’s unfair, because I couldn’t really say what she looked like due to the entire year’s production of a small cosmetics factory having been trowelled on her face. She was white. A charitable person might say that her faced looked like it had been fashioned out of porcelain, an uncharitable one from Polyfilla. But she must have been over fifty at the time so I suppose she felt nature needed a helping hand even then.

As a person though she was charm itself and I won’t have a word said against her, even though I never got to be in Stud 2.

Scouse

April 15th 2006

In a piece about cookery yesterday our regional television news magazine Granada Reports mentioned the dish ‘Scouse’, originally ‘Lobscouse’, a sailor’s stew, which is famously popular in the Liverpool area. ‘Scouse’ is also of course the nickname given to people who hail from Liverpool, and I can rarely hear it spoken without being reminded of my time spent doing National service in the Army in the late fifties, a time I spent in the company of several ‘Scousers’.

No private soldier in the Army is ever called by his Christian name. His superiors call him by his surname or number and his peers call him by a nickname. Thus Fred Clarke on entering the Army is immediately Nobby Clarke, his Fred dispensed with for the duration. Fred Clarke isn’t aware of it at the time but he is lucky as there’s a fairly good chance that he’ll be the only Nobby, whereas if a man hailed from certain parts of the country he would have had to share a nickname. For example all Scots were known as Jock – the Scots in my platoon were Jock Mackay, Jock Lachie and Jock Dalkeith. All Welshmen were Taffy, Taffy Jones, Taffy this, Taffy that, Taffy the other. All Irishmen were called Paddy. All people from Birmingham were called Brummie and all people from Newcastle were called Geordie.

Oddly enough, as far as I know, there isn’t a nickname for people who come from Leeds; ‘Leedser’ or ‘Leedsie’ or something like that. We had a bloke from Leeds in our platoon whose name was Gary Rowley and everybody called him ‘Twat’, but because he undoubtedly was a twat we might very well have caused him that even if there had been a nickname for people hailing from Leeds.

So in our platoon we had Jocks and Taffies and Paddies and Geordies. But mostly we had Scousers. We had Scouse Aldridge, Scouse Nicholson, Scouse Jenkinson, Scouse Murray and Scouse Little. Then one day another lad from Liverpool was posted in. And he really was a Scouse. Dave Scouse. That was his real name. And the thing was – nobody called him Scouse. Everybody called him Dave. This really annoyed him because hailing from Liverpool and proud to be a scouser he wanted to be called Scouse just like all the other scousers.

One night in the barracks room he demanded to know why it was that we didn’t call him Scouse. I don’t know why I did it but as nobody else appeared to know I offered the opinion that if we called him Scouse it might appear that we were calling him by his surname, like his superiors did, and this being the case it wouldn’t be very matey of us.

Brummie Weston then made the point that if we called him Scouse his name would be Scouse Scouse and that if he had to say Scouse Scouse it would sound like he was stuttering and he wasn’t going to have anybody hearing him stuttering as it would make him sound daft.

Geordie Galbraith said that as Brummie Weston was from Birmingham he already sounded daft and a fight broke out.

Over the course of the next few weeks Dave Scouse pleaded with everyone to call him Scouse but nobody would. Then someone, not me, although I would have had I known the eventual outcome, suggested to Dave that if he was so desperate to be called Scouse why didn’t he simply change his surname by deed poll, to say Hibbert, then, no longer Dave Scouse but Dave Hibbert, he would be known as Scouse Hibbert. Dave thought this was an excellent suggestion and put the wheels in motion immediately.

It took six weeks to come through. Dave had decided on his mother’s maiden name for his new surname, and the day he announced it will remain etched in my memory for all time. He gathered us all round him and said, pride tinged with a touch of defiance in his voice: “Right you lot, I’m not Dave Scouse any more, I’m Dave Smith!”

“Good old Smudger,” said Jock Lachie.

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