Rrrrrrrreet Petite!

BBC: Jocky Wilson: Remembering the 'Braveheart of darts'

… That 1989 [World Darts Championship] final victory was the culmination of a rivalry that spanned a decade, as Bristow and Wilson chalked up seven world titles between them.

For sports fans of the era, the two men are synonymous with one another.

No, Eric Bristow and Jocky Wilson were not synonymous with one another. Ignoring the tautology—actually, no, let's not: the word synonymous implies with each other—if Eric Bristow really were synonymous with Jocky Wilson, it would mean that they were the same person. One man playing against himself in a World Darts final might make a good Monty Python sketch, but I can't help feeling that the regular punters would be a tad frustrated. What the BBC commentator is trying to say is that the names of Eric Bristow and Jocky Wilson will forever be associated with each other.

All of which pedantry is simply a pathetic excuse for me to show off my own darts trophy. Me and my partner, Bull-Buggering Dave Beaumont, were Grey College (Durham) Doubles Winners, 1984–85, don't you know?


So, finally my nickname is out.

And to think you lot didn't think I looked particularly athletic.


BBC: 'Speaking Clock' Pat Simmons dies

The second voice of the Speaking Clock, Pat Simmons, has died aged 85.

Miss Simmons, whose recorded voice announced the time on the BT service from 1963 until 1985, died at the Royal London Hospital in East London.

Rumours that she died after her third stroke are, rather disappointingly, unfounded.

I have a very soft spot for Miss Simmons. As a child, I used to speak with her on the phone every Saturday afternoon. That was in the days when phones still had dials, and were still referred to as telephones. I would call her on my grandmother's phone (Eastham 1663) to check the time while I was winding up my grandmother's grandfather clock. We didn't have a phone of our own, so making that weekly call was a real treat. I thought the lady who you telephoned to find out the time must have the most boring job in the whole world. I would try to break the monotony for her by asking how she was, and what she was going to have for her tea. Not that Miss Simmons ever deviated from her script, you understand: she was far too professional for that.

At 11 o'clock precisely on my 20th birthday, British Telecom replaced Miss Simmons with a plummy man who slipped in advertisements for Accurist between the pips. I'm sure Miss Simmons of all people would appreciate that times change, but, ever since that day, I have steadfastly refused to dial those magic numbers, 1-2-3: it just wouldn't be the same.

What do you get if you guzzle down sweets, eating as much as an elephant eats?

BBC: Bogus Oompa Loompa admits lying

A 4ft-tall Nevada man has admitted he lied about playing an Oompa Loompa in the original 1971 Willy Wonka film.

Actor and hairdresser Ezzy Dame said he first made the false claim 20 years ago when his agent advised him to "pad" his resume with the bogus acting credit.

OK, I know I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I have also played an Oompa Loompa. Not in the 1971 film, but in the 1974 Christmas concert at my old primary school. Anyone who was in the audience is bound to remember my performance: I was the only Oompa Loompa wearing a hat.

I was also the only Oompa Loompa who didn't need padding.

Unlike Ezzy Dame, I have proof of my Oompa Loompa role: my mum still has the photo on display in her living room. No, you can't see it. Fortunately, she has lost the clipping from the local newspaper.

I'm not into any of that Sigmund Fraud bullshit, but I'm beginning to realise why I turned out the way I did.

See also: Note for my future biographers

Life begins

On this day in 1865, in one of the last actions of the American Civil War, Union troops captured the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia, thereby breaking the 10-month siege of the city, and forcing Confederate General Robert E. Lee to retreat.

Exactly one-hundred years later, on this day in 1965, early in the morning, four young women went into labour pretty-much simultaneously in a Victorian, brick-built maternity home in Bromborough, England. The maternity home only had three birthing beds, so the fourth young woman was ushered into a bathroom, where the staff improvised an additional birthing bed, using a cast-iron bath and a large slab of wood.

Ugly Son

The young woman and her ugly, abnormally large-headed son.

There, at a-quarter-to-nine in the morning (just in time for breakfast, as she was later to observe), the young woman delivered into this world, her first-born child.

The nurses and midwife gathered round, looked down at the serene new-born baby, shook their heads, and tut-tutted.

"You have a very ugly son, Mrs Carter," they observed. "He has an abnormally large head."

Still, his mother loved him.

Holy crap, I'm 40!


Note for my future biographers part 2

Email to Carolyn:

I hope [your son]'s sports day went well.

At age 9, I learnt a very important lesson in one sports day at Brookhurst School. I wonder if you remember it. Mrs Richman, our class teacher, decided it would be fun for us to have a race in pairs, where each pair of kids was handicapped in some way or other. One pair of girls were tied together by the wrists, another had their ankles tied together three-legged-race fashion, one boy had to carry another piggy-back style, one pair had to do a wheelbarrow race, etc. My partner, a boy who didn't know left from right, was blindfolded, while I had to give him directions as he stumbled in a frantic panic down the track. Needless to say we came last. By the time we crossed the finish line, the two girls with their wrists tied together had collected their gold medals from the podium, been photographed by the Wirral Globe, and completed their second lap of honour.

The lesson I learnt was that the world isn't fair, and teachers are sometimes very stupid.

See also: Note for my future biographers

Note for my future biographers

From an email to Carolyn:

Do you remember that 'First World War Songs' Christmas concert in 1975, when eight of us boys had to kneel down beseechingly on one knee in front of eight of you girls and sing, 'You Are My Honeysuckle'? And, wouldn't you just know it, I had to kneel down in front of you! Why on earth would anyone do that to a shy, ten-year-old boy? I was SO embarrassed (especially as my mum was in the audience, and she kept teasing me that I would marry you one day and become a vicar or a farmer).

And, after the song, the parents gave us a standing ovation, and yelled for an encore, so Mrs Coates made us do it all over again! (Still, it was a lot less embarassing than being an oompa-loompa the year before.)

Earlier in the concert, while we were singing 'Good-bye-ee', Colin Fletcher made stuff come out of my nose by singing, "...though it's hard to fart, I know" instead of "...though it's hard to part, I know". My sense of humour was pretty highly developed even then.

Actually, come to think of it, that's why Colin Fletcher and I were chosen to kneel down beseechingly on one knee in front of you girls in the first place - because he sang "fart" during the rehearsal too, and Mrs Coates saw the two of us snotting ourselves and decided to teach us a lesson.

Do you remember Mrs Coates, the music teacher? She told us that John Lennon had been a school-friend of her son, and that she had taught him music too - and Cilla Black (or Pricilla White, as she said she knew her). I didn't believe Mrs Coates even then.

See also: What do you get if you guzzle down sweets, eating as much as an elephant eats?