Taking a punth

For some time now, I’ve been interested in the trend for renaming perfectly good months to repurpose them. My extensive research for this blog tells me that this practice has a name all of its own – these new months are called ‘punths’ – which is actually vaguely clever – it’s a word describing a pun, which is actually a pun. Sadly, that’s about as impressed as I get.

It started off with Movember, where men were encouraged to grow ridiculous moustaches in order to show their support for male health issues, but which gradually morphed into a competitive exercise when the vainest of the vain would place pictures of Terry Thomas, Jimmy Edwards or Windsor Davies on their mirrors, and groom themselves accordingly for a month. I’m all for increased conscious of health issues, although I do struggle with how my next door neighbour trying to look like Nigel Mansell for four weeks is going to heighten my awareness. About the only great thing about Movember is the first week of December, where we all collectively laugh up our sleeves because the comedy moustaches that we’ve been pointing at for weeks weren’t, after all, being grown as a joke.

Movember is preceded by Stoptober, when lots of people who don’t really smoke very much stop smoking. It’s followed by December, when all bets are off on doing anything worthy, unless you want to take part in Decembeard, in which case you can throw away your razor entirely and thus magically increase awareness of bowel cancer by looking like Brian Blessed. Then comes both Dry January, when people who don’t really need a drink make a big fuss about not having one, and Veganuary, when you get your ear bent by some twit in the pub drinking orange juice telling you how much he really misses cheese. We’ve just enjoyed Februhairy, when, possibly inspired by Movember and Decembeard, women have thrown away their razors in order to raise awareness of gender-based violence. You can insert your own comment about cause and activity here as you see fit. 

So, with the world of the punth in mind, I would like to suggest an alternative alternative approach to the calendar. I appreciate that these things will take a little bit to organise, and that you’ll all have to set up your crowdfunding and charity donation sites, so I’ll start the year in April….

Which will be re-named Staypril. As I write, 1st April is only a couple of weeks away, and marks the point at which we should (depending on your point of view) break free of the schackles of the EU or dramatically shoot ourselves in the foot and overtake the USA as the laughing stock of the rest of the world. Staypril will allow everyone who is keen on the whole EU thing to pretend that none of this actually happened. Expect an influx of artisan German sausage makers and French cheesemongers in your local market place, EU flags flown proudly from the windows of Renaults and Citroens and BMWs, and an unseasonal enthusiasm for bistros serving mange-tout, bouillabaisse and crepes.

Staypril will be followed by Brian May. I’ve resisted the temptation to celebrate Theresa May, as May is my favourite sunny month, and every time I look at a picture of our PM at the moment I’m chilled to the bone. Instead, Brian May will be celebrated by loose perms for all, and re-runs of The Sky at Night for astronomy enthusiasts. If you have a partner, make sure they have a matching perm and don’t mind answering to the name Anita for a few weeks. If you want to really celebrate, make a high profile biopic of your life, describing your career as a series of events in which you were almost too lovely to be true.      

Flaming June will encourage awareness of the word flaming as a substitute swearword. There’s a bit more opportunity here than you might think, if you consider the word ‘flaming’ to be an entry point to the lost art of cursing. We seem to have sadly settled on very few swear words in our vocabulary, and you very rarely hear the more imaginative words that we used to use, largely to avoid going straight to four letters. So, during June, we can have flaming, pillock, flipping, knob, blimey, bellend, bint etc. And for every nostalgic swearword used, a pound in the jar for the plain English campaign.

After all that blasphemy, it’s time for Julielo, in which the entire populations, both criminal and non-criminal can spend the whole month staying indoors, keeping a low profile. Staying below the radar in the way will allow the police force to all take the month off as holiday, returning refreshed in August to start hitting their arrest targets.

And what a series of arrests they’ll be making, as the nation celebrates the sizzling summer with the month of Orgyust, when normally straight-laced couples throw their car keys onto the coffee table, and nurture the pampas grass in their front gardens (apparently). I’m quite excited about Orgyust, because, in the past, I’ve only ever found out about orgies after they happen. Apparently there was a thriving swingers scene conducted from the touchline of one of my boy’s sports teams a few years ago, and I didn’t even notice. So it will be nice to have this on the calendar.

Sepptember will announce not only the start of the new football season, but by honouring Sepp Blatter, an opportunity to cram all the season’s financial irregularities and blatant cheating into a single month. This will allow the rest of the season to concentrate on actually playing football, but Sepptember will be a feast of stories of cash handed over at motorway service stations, Far East syndicates linked with huge bets on the number of corners in the second half of non-league competitions, drug cover-ups and exposes on the business activities of pretty much every premiership chairman. Expect to spent most of this month tuned into TalkSport for the incisive wit of Alan Brazil and Ian Abrahams. 

 

Doctober is very much a month to honour the poor sods who choose to train for years to be good at making people better, just so they can be worked to breaking point, trying to fix the unworthy, the ungrateful and the unhygienic. For just a month, patients will be prohibited for taking their internet printouts of their ailments to their GP appointments, and to limit themselves to no more than 3 ailments at a time. All patients should bathe or shower before asking a Doctor to examine them. Patients will be encouraged to keep a small supply of paracetamol in the house in case this is the prescribed cure for their illness. Also a selection of plasters for the little cuts that otherwise seem to find their way to A&E. If you have an urge to celebrate Doctober with me, you can borrow my soapbox.

Lowvember. When David Bowie passed away in 2016, Mrs E wore black for a full year, and the (very) many albums that made up Bowie’s body of work were on strict rotation in the kitchen. There was the odd exception, eg she’d be out on a dog walk and return to me listening to some early Elmore James, and without even asking ‘what’s this nonsense?’, she’d pop on the first Tin Machine album before she’d even fed the dogs. Partly to stir things up a bit, Lowvember will aim to celebrate the Dame in a more measured way, by playing a different album each day of the month. I have to be a bit careful here, and make sure I’m not in the same room as Mrs E when she’s reading this, but I don’t quite go along with the idea the DB was a creative genius for every single minute of his life (Mrs E, incidentally, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of each of these minutes, so I know I’m on shaky ground). In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Bowie was pretty good until 1970, utterly brilliant until 1977, then, with a couple of exceptions, fairly average afterwards. And the 1977 demise happened towards the end of the first side of the Low album (which, in Lowvember will be played around the 11th of the month). It’s just my opinion, and as I said to Mrs E only last night, opinions are like arseholes – everyone’s got one and they all stink.

Kiki Deecember follows, and we can enjoy the runup to Christmas dancing along not just to ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ but also to every other Elton John duet. Sing along with EJ and Josh Stone on ‘Calling It Christmas’. Wipe a tear as George Michael croons his way through ‘Don’t Let The Sun’.  Ask yourself what planet you’re on, as Ru Paul reprises Kiki Dee’s role on ‘Don’t Go Breaking’.

And it’s into the new year, with even more retro-enthusiasm. I’ve been around for long enough now to see some interesting fashions that lose their appeal with age. I don’t mean the age of the fashion, more the age of the wearer. When I was a kid, some of the funniest people I saw were Teds in their 50s, still wearing drape jackets but with really thin quiffs. A few years ago I ended up at a skate-punk gig next to a guy who was spilling out of his anarchy t-shirt and trying desperately to coax his male pattern baldness into a mohican. All very sad. So expect more of the same in The Jamuary, where mods of all shapes and sizes will pour themselves into their tonic suits, sta-press trousers and mohair sweaters, and bounce along to Woking’s finest.

And from Woking to the World Wide Webuary. WWW, as it will confusingly be known, will be an opportunity to enjoy life as it used to be without the world wide web, and thereby appreciating it all the more afterwards. So, assuming we can get the necessary permits in place, we’ll be switching off the internet for a month, and thereby also allowing some upgrades to take place. Let’s face it, the internet hasn’t been powered down for ages now and it must be getting ever so tired. For four short weeks we’ll celebrate by going shopping in shops, talking to people without feeling the need to copy in the world or shouting, and by reading books. We’ll not stop people taking pictures of interesting cats or every single meal they’ve ever consumed, but they just won’t be able to share them for a month.

And so, into our last month. For those of us of as certain age, enjoying the music of the Smiths has been a bit of a roller coaster exercise of late. Chronologically, the story goes 

  • The Smiths burst onto the scene playing music that was unparalleled
  • Step above the copyists and write some more fantastic songs
  • Morrissey becomes spokesman for generation
  • Generation largely responds by going vegetarian and hanging on his every word
  • Band splits up a bit
  • Band splits up a bit more
  • Morrissey continues ‘spokesman for generation’ role
  • Generation still tolerates Morrissey despite some awkward moments
  • Morrissey produces several wonderful solo albums
  • Generation confidence is restored
  • Morrissey produces ‘Autobiography’, to ‘polarised’ reviews      
  • Generation is confused
  • Morrissey starts spouting on about race, rights, politics, immigration and anything else that he seems to find entertaining
  • Generation says enough is enough, please please please can you stop sounding off at us

So, my suggestion is that we all enjoy listening to the music of the Smiths for a month in the full knowledge that we’d feel guilty if we tried to align ourselves with Morrissey. Instead, we’ll just say that we’re enjoying Johnny Marrch. 

 

Tune in next month for more Puntastic fun x

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Ever seen an Alien? No, me neither.

Mrs E, by her own admission, is something of an obsessive, particularly where music is concerned. When we first met, she was well into her Talking Heads phase, and, this being 1987, was suitably impressed by my life-size ‘True Stories’ poster that my friend Kevin B had kindly liberated for me from HMV. From there she went to an unparalleled devotion to Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs, and from there onto what I consider to be a slightly unhealthy obsession with Stuart Murdoch and the twee/tweed Belle & Sebastian.

But before any of that, and weaving a course in amongst it, there was Bowie. Always Bowie, and everything he ever did, with the possible exception of Tin Machine, to which she gave a sensibly wide berth. Before we met, she’d made a pilgrimage to Schöneberg in Berlin, where he’d stayed when he was recording Low, Heroes and Lodger, crossing Checkpoint Charlie to get there. Rather disappointingly, she reported it as reminding her very much of Catford.

When Bowie died, around this time last year, she was understandably devastated. Honestly, when I shuffle off this mortal c., I’d be happy with half the amount of tears and hand-wringing that defined Emu Towers in the weeks after he died. In that time, the stereo pumped out a fairly rigid playlist that was basically the Blackstar album, with anything else interrupted by ‘I’m not really in the mood for this’ or ‘This is nonsense’.

There were a few crumbs of comfort. Listening to Bowie, Bowie, Bowie wasn’t actually that much of a hardship, even though it was pretty much every day of 2016. And Christmas present buying had never been so easy.

Present #1 – ‘The Complete David Bowie” – a completely brilliant book by Nicholas Pegg that charts Bowie’s every song, recording session, gig and very possibly each evening meal from 1958 to 2016.

Present #2 – Two tickets to see ‘Lazarus’, in London’s glittering West End (cf a temporary theatre outside King’s Cross station). If you’re not familiar with Lazarus, it’s a stage show that sort of completes Bowie’s creative career, insofar as it was the very last thing that he worked on – and he got to see it too, in production off Broadway in his last public appearance, a month before he died. It’s the continuation of the story of Thomas Jerome Newton, the anti-hero alien from ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ – Bowie’s best (and some would say only decent) film appearance. Because it’s Bowie, it borders into performance art, and because it’s Bowie, there are reinterpretations of his songs, and some new stuff. And (bonus), it stars Michael C Hall, star of the wonderful Dexter series, who is the subject of a minor crush from Mrs E.

Partly as a result of #1 and #2, Mrs E was the happiest of bunnies all over Christmas, and much of our relaxation time in the evenings since has been spent preparing the ground for present #2, listening to the cast recording, tutting quietly over #1 (which she’s reading like a novel, rather than an encyclopaedia), and watching back to back episodes of Dexter. The book runs to 794 pages, and there are eight seasons of Dexter, so this is a pretty big undertaking, for anyone but the most hardened of Bowie fans. And her husband.

When I bought the tickets, it was already a sell-out, but I hunted around and got, at no small expense, two tickets (seats 17 & 18) in row Z, about two thirds of the way back from the stage. When she’d calmed down from opening the tickets, Mrs E did further research on the theatre layout, pronounced the tickets ‘excellent’ but then went onto Amazon and bought a pair of military-grade binoculars, ‘just to be on the safe side’.

The great day came, and we mooched around London, with Mrs E getting steadily more and more excited, and got to the theatre an hour and a quarter before show time. Because you never know when they might call an emergency tube strike, after all.

A cheeky snifter before the show, and we took our places, looking down onto the stage, which already had Michael C Hall on it, laying on his back, playing dead before the first scene.

“Excellent”, pronounced Mrs E, adjusting her binoculars, and checking MCH out for freckles.

The stage was set up with the band set back and up, with a big screen in the centre of the stage. I’ve taken the liberty of sketching it for your edification:
alien-5
With about ten minutes to show time, Seat W 17 was occupied by a large bloke wearing a parka coat with the hood up. Eventually the hood came down, but left a bit of a static halo around his head.

Before I’d adjusted my neck to compensate for the next two hours, the occupant of Seat X 18 arrived. To my surprise, he was sporting a magnificent Afro cut, the sort of thing that you might have seen on Jermaine Jackson, around 1978. Unfortunately there was no equivalent to the ‘removing the parka hood’ option for X 18, but with a readjustment of the neck, I could still just about see Michael C Hall’s feet.

A real bonus, however, was that seats Y 17 and 18, immediately in front me, were empty, and, as the houselights went down, I happily remembered the ticket instructions about no latecomers being admitted.

Unfortunately, someone in the theatre hadn’t read their own rules, because, just as MCH’s feet start moving out of view, some hushed excuses were whispered, and I was presented with the backs of what appears to be two Canadian lumberjacks, just in from felling redwoods, or working out at the gym, or possibly back from the steroid shop. I’m generalising terribly, but these guys were huge, with bull necks, checked shirts and hipster beards, so big that they could barely sit down without being on each other’s laps. As a result, my view suddenly became really quite limited. I’ve taken the liberty of sketching it:
alien-4

Unfortunately, my view stayed pretty much like that for the rest of the show, so I can report very little about MCH’s acting skills, particularly as an awful lot of the play seemed to involve lying down on the stage. There were a few exceptions. At one point, a load of colourful clothes are thrown into the air, and they sailed into view for me just above the first Canadian prop forward’s buzz cut. I felt a bit like a midget watching the hats go into the air on VE Day.

And during ‘Absolute Beginners’, MCH manages to hold his negligee-clad fellow singer up, like a gymnast, flat against the big screen, legs and arms spread out like a star. This was delightfully framed by two bushy beards, but slightly spoiled by the singer’s open mouth and posture looking a bit too much like an inflatable sex toy, which I’m sure wasn’t the look they were going for.

By far the best part of the show however, was in ‘All the Young Dudes’, in which I managed to get an almost unimpeded view of the stage for over a minute and a half. ‘All The Young Dudes’ obviously has a place deep in the heart of your average Shoreditch/Canadian gym-bunny/lumberjack hipster type, as it was the cue for the occupants of Y 17 and 18 to engage in some really enthusiastic necking. No apologies for that rather dated phrase, which you might have last seen on a swimming pool poster, prohibiting necking, petting, smoking and bombing, because Y 17 & 18 were, delightfully for all parties in row Z, neck to neck, kissing and nibbling all through the second and third verse. (Incidentally, I’m going to form a company called Necking, Petting, Smoking and Bombing. It’s going to replace Sue, Grabbit and Run as my ideal Solicitor’s firm. Any lawyers wanting to join my startup, form an orderly queue.)

Anyway, at about the time in the song that Ian Hunter would have cried “I Wanna Hear Ya”, they separated necks, resumed their positions, and, I’m embarrassed to say, both heard me loudly sigh with disappointment.

So, all in all, I may be the wrong person to review this show. There was plenty of reinterpretation being flung about, as you’d expect from anything that Bowie had a hand in, and they stayed more or less true to the lyrics of the songs, which, because no-one really understands them, didn’t really help with the overall narrative.

But the musicianship was great, and a few moments (Life on Mars, being sung by the astonishing Sophie Anne Caruso; Valentine’s Day, sung by Michael Esper, and MCH’s Absolute Beginners for example), were sublime.

And Mrs E wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She’s an addict, after all, and she needed to know that she’d seen it. And she had the distinct advantage of sitting behind a very small and very old man wearing an anorak and a flat cap. (Him, not her, you understand. She’d taken her anorak off by then, tee hee). And she really enjoyed the whole thing, which kind of made her Christmas present worthwhile.

I asked her about what she thought of Michael C Hall on the way home.

“He must have got really tired”, she said, “he was on stage for pretty much the whole show”.

“Was he?” I asked.

Postcards from The Edge

A recent yard sale in Amsterdam has unearthed a number of artefacts from the formative years of one of Ireland’s proudest exports. And the finding of this fabulous trove has nothing to do with thinking of an excellent blog title first and then making some stuff up to fit….

 

12 Sep 1978

Dear Paul,

I think it’s a great idea to start a band. And I think you’d be a really good singer. I’m currently working on a guitar sound that will be an ideal foil for some really pompous lyrics, if you have any to spare.
I’m just worried about one thing at the moment – You said at rehearsal that you were going to change your name to Bono Vox. Call yourself the latin for ‘good voice’ might be seen as a little, er pretentious in these post-punk years?
Just saying.

Dave.

 

 

 

12 October 1978

Bono,

Thanks for getting back to me on the whole name thing. Actually, I’ve never been terribly keen on the whole ‘my name is Dave’ business either.
I’ve decided that I’m going to call myself something different too. I think it needs to be really edgy and abstract. Any ideas?

Dave

 

 

 

10 June 1981

Bono,

Thanks for the discussion earlier. Of course I don’t mind you insisting on communication in writing. You’ll be wanting to spare your voice for some of your more trademark wailing on the new album, I’m sure. I have to confess though that I’m a bit concerned about the latest on the stage show. I’m not sure that climbing the lighting rig and waving that big white flag really works after the first ten times?

I may be wrong, and I know you’re normally right.

The Edge (Please stop calling me Dave)

 

 

 

 

7 September 1984

Bono,

You know how you decided that you were going to become Bono instead of Bono Vox because it was less, and yet slightly more, pretentious. Well, I’ve been thinking about ‘The Edge’ And I’ve decided that the The in The Edge is the The that the world doesn’t need. Also, that was a sentence that had 7 The’s in – impressed? Anyway, people with The in their name are like The Undertaker or The Destroyer, like in WWF, so that doesn’t seem right to me to be like them. And one word names are cool and important, right? Like Gandhi. And Prince. And Liberace. And Jordan. So I’ve decided to drop the The. From now on you can just introduce me on stage as Edge, right. And don’t you give me any of that nonsense about my own state of self-importance. You started it.

The* Edge

* sorry, force of habit

 

 

 

 

 

15 January 1980

Bono,

I was working on my Airfix airplane kits at the weekend and had a bit of a disaster. Some superglue fell out of the fuselage of a Mitsubishi Zero as I was putting it together and it’s stuck all of the controls on my guitar pedals. I’ve tried freeing them up but no success. Really sorry, but I fear I’m going to be stuck with this guitar sound for at least the next eight albums.

Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 November 1984

Dear Bono,

Hope you had a good time at the Band Aid shindig yesterday. I confess I was a little disappointed not to get an invite, especially as Big Country were there with their big hair and tartan shirts and huge guitar sound what I’m sure I started off. Anyway, about your line in the song. Really like the screaming approach to the line, it sounds like you really mean it. My only worry is, whether, as a practicing Christian, you should really be thanking God it’s them instead of you? I’ve a horrible feeling that this might come back to haunt you, although, as I always say, you know best.

Yours, Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 June 1986

Bono,

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’m needing a bit of an image to go with my world-famous guitar sound. I was thinking about wearing a stupid hat for the rest of my life. Note this has absolutely nothing to do with male pattern baldness.

Thoughts?

Edge

 

 

 

 

 

1 January 1987

Dear Bono,

Happy New Year. I do think the new album will be a cracker, as Frank Carson would say (I know you’re not really a fan). One thing I’m a tiny bit concerned about. If we call it the Joshua Tree, isn’t there a danger that Larry will think that he’s being kicked out again? What if we called it the Joshua Four, do you think it would lose any impact?

Yours, Edge

 

My ever changing moods…


I thought you might like to share what a Saturday evening feels like in the Emu household, now that Mrs E & I have abandoned our attempts to out-debauch Amy Winehouse and Joey Ramone. We just don’t have the appetite for it any more, you see, and have far more fun anticipating through parted fingers the future drink fuelled disasters expected of the Jr Emus.

Anyway, this is how last Saturday went.

After a fairly testing bike ride in the early morning (elated mood) and clearing out the garage (concern at being middle aged mood), followed by nipping into the city to get #2 a new mobile phone (how can all this technology be sold in such a complex style mood), I reached that period of quiet reflection that can only be reached in our house by two plates of curry and a bowl of ice cream. The concern at this stage of course, is that what with all the mood changing and calories spent and consumed, it was only a short step to a light sleep on the sofa. But this was Saturday night, and standards have to be maintained, and in our house Saturday standards include staying up as late as humanly possible.

So, a brisk walk was in order, and where better to stroll along to the Co-op (nee Somerfields, nee Gateway etc), a store that despite a number of rebrands, has still managed to maintain a level of soviet-style misery in all its employees. But my heart and mood was in a happy place, for it was Saturday night, there was beer to be bought, and I was greeted on the way by the sight of two men, in full chef’s whites, off duty from the local curry house, enjoying an impromptu game of badminton in the car park. Mood up again, in an ‘all is right with the world’ sort of style.

Managed to maintain this state of mind despite the general gurning and grunting that greets you when you try to buy anything from our Co-op, and fair skipped home, for what awaited the family Emu when I got back was the gala final of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. To watch BGT, I think you have to be one of two things – a moron of the first order, or an opportunist with a good stock of ‘Pointing & Laughing’ chances. In a desperate attempt to avoid being labelled a moron, I went for three big P&L opportunities:

1. Jayney Cutler to be this year’s essential car crash viewing.

Well, reader, she certainly didn’t disappoint. Starting off in the wrong key, and at least a beat behind the bemused orchestra, she proceeded to kick the living daylights out of ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’, which, incidentally she’d translated into her native Glaswegian. Given this was the final, our parade of judges were magnanimous in their gentle criticism. ‘Well Jayney’, they chirrupped, ‘you were a little behind the beat, but you made it up like a real trooper’. Jayney simply stared into the middle distance, cackling quietly away, not realising that her dream of being the new Susan Boyle (except without the voice, the rapier wit or, err, the looks) was over.

2. Piers Morgan to set new records in levels of condescension.

Again, happily achieved without really breaking sweat. To Spelbound : ‘Y’know, what you’ve achieved says to me that no matter how hard this show might be criticised, it’s capable of unearthing the most amazing and unique hidden talent that Britain has to offer, and we really should applaud it’ (discernible pause) ‘…and I understand you’re also preparing for the world championships’. Not a hint of irony. Wonderful.

3. Simon Cowell to prove himself a git of the highest order.

Ok, he’s an easy target, but as regular readers of this blog will know, that’s never been a reason to hold back. In my head, SC managed to plough new lows in taste and talent as he announced his new single, a version of Tears for Fears’ ‘Shout’, featuring the woefully underexposed and talented James Corden and Dizzee Rascal. Introducing the song as something that ‘he’d been waiting to do something with for some time’, SC set our pulses racing in eager anticipation that he might have done vaguely interesting. Not for him a glib opportunity to turn the nation’s world cup fever into a ridiculously childish terrace rant, surely…

Well, by now, you’ve probably heard the result of his creative input. Honestly, it’s the work of genius to include lines like ‘Let’s get physical’, ‘Pull your socks up’ and (I kid you not) ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. All along to a driving ‘terrace’ beat that will no doubt have us singing along in the stands for years to come. No, really.

All of which left me in the worst mood of the day by far. I’m sure I’ll get over it, as long as I never, ever, ever have to listen to that song again.

Legal High


As you enter the dread confines of middle age, the likelihood of spending every night in a hallucinogenic stupor gets less and less. I think this is down to a number of factors. Perhaps you’ve lost touch with the sort of chancer who used to help you achieve such a state, and you feel that asking your new best friends (the yummy mummies at the school pickup for example) where you could get a quarter of something mellow might be rather frowned upon. Possibly your career as a top judge/school teacher/shadow home secretary doesn’t really knock along with a class C habit. You might have found that your increasing years needed to kick off a review of your lifestyle, and that you were only going to allow into your body ingredients to feed, rather than addle, your brain.

Whatever your reasoning, it’s quite likely that you miss your decadent years. You might find yourself nodding along to that old joke about the man that goes into the doctors:

“Doctor, I really want to live to be a hundred”

“Certainly, all you need to do is give up drinking, smoking, chasing women, fried food and start exercising twice a day.”

“And if I do, will I live to be a hundred?”

“No, but it will certainly feel like it.”

But, if you’re one of those former hemp-heads, listlessly yearning nostalgically for your more agreeably wasted days, help is at hand, courtesy of the Emu, the blog that always aims to please. All you have to do is tune in to BBC1 at just after 7pm on Saturday evening. For there you will find hallucinogenic treats that you thought you’d left just to the back of your very own Camberwell carrot.

The programme is called “Over the Rainbow”, and features a number of nubile young hopefuls desperate to appear in the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece* “The Wizard of Oz”. And if you’re short of time, don’t feel you have to watch it all the way through. But you must, repeat must, watch the last 10 minutes of each show, and you’ll be thankful that you did.

At the end of each episode is a ‘sing-off’, where through some complicated mathematics known only to Graham Norton and the BBC pension fund, two girls are pitted against each other and forced to sing a duet in which one of them will lose and be unceremoniously kicked out of the show. Which they seem to do with good humour, although it must be very tempting to try to distract your competitor during the song with a raised eyebrow, surreptitious cough, or discreet wedgie. Then the panel, which includes a slightly camper version of John Barrowman, keeps one Dorothy and loses another. If in doubt, the casting vote goes to ALW himself. Who appears to be on a throne, and is referred to at all times as ‘The Lord’. I must have missed the news on the day that popular multi-millionaire and plagiarist songwriter ALW became a conservative life peer, as I’m sure I would have remembered such a ringing endorsement of the UK political system. Anyway, the dear girl is booted out, but not before some ringing words of sympathy from ALW (sorry, LAWL), such as “I know you’re going to go far” and “Let’s keep in touch”, words which the girls are bound to hear the next time a well-educated bounder dumps them in real life. And then comes the really good bit. Rather than thanking the panel and LAWL, and offering firm handshakes all round before exiting stage left, our Dorothy is asked to sing for the final time. Which she does, with her (soon to be ex) chums, in front of a pair of 15-foot high sparkling slingbacks. And in a croaking voice, she begins a song which includes a line to the panel which goes “You’ve ditched her so completely”, that her fellow competitors gladly sing along to. Then, for reasons best known to the producers of the show, she takes her own sparkly shoes off and symbolically presents them to LAWL, whose putty-like features have creased further into the vacant stare of the rest home client. And then, she takes a few steps up the stairs to a crescent moon seat, and begins a rousing version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. And (this gets even better), as she sings, the seat raises up and over the stage so that she’s singing down at her erstwhile competitors. The camera angle changes at this point and looks down at the wide eyed lovelies, all fighting back the tears, and to the untrained eye, all on the verge of a stirring rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. As the latest Dorothy to go blasts out her last note, the crowd goes mad, and there are no doubt nods on the panel and whispers backstage about the latest one being a real trouper. And the very very best bit, far better than anything you could get from a tenner exchange in the back room of the Dog and Duck on a Saturday night, is as the camera pulls back. Because without warning, the crescent moon accelerates at some pace roughly North West (ie into and past the top left of your TV screen), taking Dorothy into the spotlights that you can’t see, and also very possibly into a forgotten oblivion. I believe this is called a metaphor.

You couldn’t make it up and you couldn’t buy a trip like that.

*I am marginally outnumbered in my house in not being a particular fan of ALW. If ever I find myself in a tight corner in trying to put him in his place, I always remind myself of the great Humphrey Lyttleton joke: “History has seen some great musical pairings, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Rodgers and Hammerstein, right through to Andrew Lloyd Webber and his Photocopier”.

Chewing gum for the ears


This is a blog which starts off with me in the shower, so readers of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now.

Jr Emu #1 bought me a radio for my Christmas present; one that I can listen to when I’m out of the shower in the mornings. Given that I take a morning shower in the basement of the office after running into work, however, this creates an issue. My radio stations of choice for the morning are Radio 4 (light political grillings – just the thing to kick off the morning meetings) or Radio 5 (relatively inane banter that might inform the odd conversation during the day on football). And unfortunately, even though the great British Broadcasting institution reaches all around the world, it is unable to penetrate the lower ground floor in the NR4 postcode area.

Unless, it seems, it is masquerading as BBC Radio Norfolk, which has signal like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t quite understand this, as I thought that all BBC channels would be transmitted from the same masts at the same strength, but the truth is there to be heard in glorious mono, every morning at 8am.

So, to get to the point, I am compelled to listen to Radio Norfolk in the morning. Now, me and Radio Norfolk actually go back quite a long way.

In my youth, I worked at Radio Norfolk for what was probably all of about 4 weeks. I had a very brief stint as an assistant to an assistant, and very briefly reached the position of bona fide assistant when the teatime show presenter went on holiday, thus allowing his assistant to stop being an assistant, and thereby needing his own assistant.

The best fun on local radio was devising phone-in competitions, and at Radio Norfolk we had the added challenge of having no audience with any enthusiasm for phoning in. Or possibly no audience with any enthusiasm. Or possibly no audience.

Which left us pretty much to our own devices, and this meant getting our friends to phone up in a style that I like to think was ripped off wholesale by shock-jocks a few years later. So, for example, we would announce the ‘talented pets competition’. “Phone us with your talented pets, and we’ll let the county know”, we’d call out. “If you can’t get through right away, keep trying, as the phones are really hot here at Radio Norfolk”, we’d cry, looking out into the control room, where the work experience girl was looking intently at a phone that was steadfastly refusing to ring. At which point, we’d call in our special weapon, which for the sake of this blog, we’ll call Mike Todd, on account of that being his name.

Mike would appear on the phone (we had to dial him, which always left the work experience girl a bit more miserable), and he’d pretend to be a caller with an interesting pet. Initially this was a yodelling dog, which was basically his flatmate making howling noises while MIke played the piano. Then it was a tap dancing tortoise, introduced by a nervous schoolboy, who’d discovered this talent while a) his Dad was out, and b) he’d let the tortoise stand on the hotplate. And so on. We did get a few genuine callers, which left us a bit flustered, but we soldiered on. I don’t think anybody from Radio Norfolk noticed anything was unusual – largely you were alright, even on primetime, as long as you didn’t use up any of the ‘needletime’ budget.

This may have changed now, but certainly in those days, the royalties you had to play on records, calculated by ‘needletime’, could make or break the budget of the show. So you did one of three things. 1. Talk about absolutely anything for as long as possible. 2. Play music from unsigned bands. 3. Play music from ‘pre-paid’ albums (Now that’s what I call… etc). Fortunately, we managed to fill hours and hours with 1 & 2 and seldom resorted to 3.

But the best bit about Radio Norfolk was the institutional parochialism that filled the place in a pleasant, practical fashion. The best example of this was the traffic report. Growing up near London, I was familiar with Capital Radio’s ‘Eye in the Sky’, swooping down on the North Circular and giving up to the minute reports at all hours of the day. Things in Norfolk were slightly different. Firstly, the only road that anyone was bothered about was the A11. It got people into Norfolk, and it got people out. Secondly, the budget didn’t really run to helicopter surveillance. So, very practically, one of the editorial staff would phone up her Dad every morning. Her Dad lived on the side of the A11, just outside Wymondham. So, after the normal father/daughter greetings were complete, he’d put the phone down, go to the front door, look to the right and to the left, then report back accordingly.

So, although I would never listen to Radio Norfolk if I had any real choice, if I do have to then it’s always a bit nostalgically. Certainly I listen to the webcam driven traffic reports with some disappointment, as I’d just really like to know that the A11 is clear at Wymondham. And I listened with abject horror on Friday, when the phone in was ‘what do you look for in a chicken’. Just asking for trouble, quite frankly.

And imagine my surprise when I came across this on the BBC Norwich City website tonight.

You need to look at the last item under ‘local news’.

And if you can’t read this, it says “Farmer reunited with lost fowl”. I suppose when you see real life imitating stereotypes, we may as well enjoy it.

There goes Rhymin’ Whassisface


There’s a danger that this blog ploughs the troughs of predictability, but bear with me, do.

I made the huge mistake of venturing ‘up the city’ last weekend. It was of course, late November, but no reason not to have every single shop dolled up like a Vegas Elvis, with the shop assistants all wearing those hilarious festive caps. And every shop I went into* was playing a loop of jolly yuletide songs. Cue the grumpy old man blog about Christmas coming far too early, completely missing the point of being festive, and feeling suicidal every time Sir Noddy yells ‘It’s Chriiiiiistmas’.

But no, I am nothing if not unpredictable, as my wife remarked a few years back when her birthday presents were all centred around a golfing theme. For this is a short blog about rhyming couplets.

I don’t really get the whole rhyming thing, to be honest. If you really strip it down, the idea of expressing yourself in the form of rhyme is really weird. It means that every time you say something you immediately limit yourself on the second line. And yet we’ve all had a go in our time, and usually to disastrous and embarrassing effect.

My personal trick with this, incidentally, is to start with a really more obscure word on the second line, so that from a distance, it looks like you have contrived the whole thing out of nowhere. So:

‘For you I would defy temptation, or mastermind matriculation’

has got a lot more hope of getting through the censors than

‘It’s only a matter of time before you, become the doo be doo be doo**’

Anyway, you get the general idea. The point of rhyming to express yourself is just mad. And sometimes, in a bid to just make a song rhythmic in the most contrived way, it all goes horribly wrong. Which brings me back to the shops. A fantastic example of the ouvre*** is my personal favourite at this time of the year:

On a worldwide scale, It’s just another winter’s tale

(Winter’s Tale – David “Bard of” Essex)

And, if you care to look, almost every line in this song is a similar appalling lyrical crime.

And let’s knock up a quick top five while we’re here:

2. I’m serious as cancer, When I say rhythm is a dancer

(Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap!)

And they say there are no taboos left….

3. Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon, I hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon

(The Police – Walking on The Moon)

From the group that brought you ‘Da Doo Doo Doo’, and other great classics. You could easily have had “You don’t ever want to see me again, And your brother’s going to kill me and he’s six feet ten”, but I prefer the idea of Sting/NASA worrying themselves about breaking their legs. On the moon.

4. And fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door, Don’t say you’re easy on me you’re about as easy as a nuclear war

(Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know)

Err, yes. That lyric is an embarrassment. You’ve let yourself down, you’ve let your school down, etc etc

5. There was a little old lady, who was walkin down the road, She was struggling with bags from Tesco. There were people from the city havin lunch in the park, I believe that it’s called al fresco

(Lily Allen – Ldn)

I would hope that in future songs, ‘Our Lil’ will manage Lidl/Fiddle, Aldi/Mouldy, and very possibly M&S/Hedonist.

So that’s my pre-Festive gift to you. If you want to populate numbers 6-10, please do let me know. Almost any Bob Dylan songbook from the ‘lost years’ would give you a good start.

Until we meet again. (Don’t know where, don’t know when.)

*And reader, sadly there were many. My bid to get ‘something special’ for Mrs Emu at this time of year extends my patronage well beyond my normal haunts of Thorns the Ironmonger and Chadds the Gentlemen’s Outfitter.

**You can insert a number of endings here. Blue, True, New, and even, in the right circumstance, Glue. The only really great example of this rhyme in pop music that I can think of is:

‘Alison, I know this world is killing you, Alison, my aim is true’

***Get you!