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.


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.


April 14th

Today’s Brainteaser.


The Twitchers

Five couples with the surnames Finch, Heron, Martin, Sparrow and Wren join the ornithologists club. Each of the 10 had a favourite bird which was a surname of one of the other couples. No two of the women had the same favourite bird and no two of the men had the same favourite; no wife’s favourite was the same as her husband’s. Mr Finch’s favourite is the wren; Mr Wren’s favourite is the heron. Mrs Sparrow is not keen on the martin or the wren. The sparrow is not Mrs Heron’s favourite, and Mrs Martin is not keen on the finch. The favourite of the wife of the namesake of Mrs Wren’s favourite is the namesake of the lady whose favourite is the wren.

Question. Who is shagging Mrs Finch?

Answers in the Comments section please. £10 for the first correct answer. The editor’s decision is final.

Silly old fool

April 13th 2006

If I have to make the short journey into the town centre and I don’t fancy walking I quite often use the local half-hourly bus service. Not only is it excellent value at 20p but it saves getting the car out and allows me to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes – listening in to other people’s conversations. Very often this is unrewarding unless you’re interested in the latest state of someone’s haemorrhoids or the price of minced beef at the Co-op but occasionally you get to hear a gem. I heard one this morning.

“I like your hair,” said one old dear to the other old dear seated next to her.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes, it suits you. With your thin hair. Where did you have it done?”

“That place on Union Road. Our Muriel put me on to it, they’re ever so good and you get a chocolate biscuit with you tea, a digestive.”

“I must give them a try. What are they called?

“What is it now?…….Hot Pot.”

“Hot Pot? I’ve never seen a hairdresser’s on Union Road called Hot Pot.”

“No, not Hot Pot….. something like Hot Pot……..Tater Pie.

“Tater Pie?”

“No, Ash. Tater Ash.”

“Tater Ash?”

“No, something very similar…… Pan Ash. That’s it. Pan Ash. Definitely.”

“Pan Ash?” The old dear thought for a moment, then said:” You mean Panache you silly old fool, it’s Panache.”

“Well our Muriel calls it Pan Ash.”

Worth 20p of anybody’s money, that.