I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Having a Pint in the Senior’s Arms

He's actually converted his sitting room


My Teenage Self wants a word with me.

“It’s your drinking” he mumbles.

“I’ve had four pints and a double scotch,” I say, “That’s respectable boozing!”

“Nah. It’s your conversation. Your demeanour.” Then MTS hisses, “Old man’s pub!

We’ve always detested old man’s pubs. They reek of stale beer and pee. To remove the old blokes from their stools would need surgery. They glare at anyone who’s not over 70, male or from the other end of the counter. Their conversation is torpid and their attitudes mean enough to steep their dentures in.

I’m nothing like that. Am I?

“What’s wrong with my conversation?” I ask. In fact I’ve just been chatting to Fred. I said “Beer’s good tonight.” He said “Joe in?” I said “No.”

MTS was unimpressed. “Boring! Nothing  happens here!!!!”

“Yes it does – look, Joe’s coming in.”

Coming up, Joe said, “Beer good tonight?” I said “Yes.”

MTS sneers. “You’re starting to glare at young people. Like those ones over there.”

“What do you expect?” I cry, “They’re drinking lager!”

I try to rise up from the bar stool to make my point. Inexplicably, I’m stuck to it. This makes me think. Does MTS have a point?

Things used to be livelier. I remember when Joe and I held Harry by the shoulders as he danced on the ceiling. I remember getting thrown from a pub for singing “Three German Officers”.

Maybe I could make the conversation more challenging. Maybe I could drop my trousers and do a tango along the counter….

Maybe not. The company’s fine. And the beer’s good.

I’ll tell MTS to hop it. I’ll start singing soon. And he doesn’t want to be anywhere near.


Sunday, 18 November 2012


High Heels – the Staggering Truth


We went to a do recently. I can’t think of another word to describe it – it was too small for a party, too static for a dance and too boozy for a prayer meeting. The women got talking about shoes. Normally when women get on to the subject of their shoes, I start to count the number of tufts in the carpet. Then one woman said she had 35 pairs. Her tone was confessional, a bit like admitting to owning just two teaspoons. Another woman, with purple highlights, said she had 50. She’d be bringing the stock up to normal soon.

Call me out of touch with the current female zeitgeist, but I’m baffled. 50 pairs? All for the same feet? It’s like having 50 phones. Per hand, it works out the same mathematically. By the time you get to pair 50, pair 1 will be out of fashion. You’ll have to hit that mail order website again, but I suppose that’s the idea.

I blame “Sex and the City”. Some women now think their lives are meaningless unless they can open the wardrobe door and 75 pairs of Jimmy Choos fall out. I’ve seen them staggering out for a pint of milk in a £5.99 Primark tracksuit and a 4” pair of Manolos. I’ve seen them running for a bus and falling over their stilettos. I’m sure they stockpile shoes like nuclear weapons  and creep out at night to gloat at them, glowing in an eerie radioactive light.

“How do you work through 50 pairs -” I asked highlight woman, “on a rota basis?” “Oh no” she replied, “some of them I never take out of the box.”

Quite right. Nothing wrecks a pair of shoes so completely as wearing them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012


Downsized Abbey
"It's the neighbours complaining again about the clinking teacups"

Series 3 of “Downton Abbey” has finished, to the usual criticism that it doesn't reflect everyday life in the UK.  To refute this, here is an extract from my diary, to be published by Harper Collins next year at £57.65 and expected to outsell Pippa Middleton’s next etiquette book. Readers can study the extract below for free.

Weds. 8.30am  Carberry, my under-valet, brought up my tea and copy of “Radio Fun”. He inserted the sugar lumps into my shirt and dropped the cufflinks into the tea. I need to speak to him about this. Yesterday he spread toothpaste over my collar, which did at least whiten it. But a man can’t face the day with wet cufflinks.

11.45  I got out of bed. On the way to work, played my usual couple of games of cricket with the servants. I invariably win: it’s hard to throw balls about when you’re balancing silver trays.

12.10pm  Work involves staring at a book in the library while stroking my chin and sipping a sherry. It may not sound very strenuous, but I have to keep it up all day.

 6.00  As usual the entire household assembled in the conservatory for the daily family crisis. On Monday the second footman had fallen off the roof, on Tuesday anthrax spores had been found in the kitchen garden, today one of my daughters had been caught listening to jazz. It is always solved by 6.05pm so I can dress for dinner.

6.05  I have 27,000 collar studs which Carberry lays across the lawn. Today he recommended the ruby-studded one as it would perfectly match the Strawberry Mousse.

7.30  At dinner, an ancient family tradition: the weekly vote on which family member is to have an affair with the Chauffeur. Cousin Ethel won by a narrow margin but the Chauffeur has finally escaped across the Channel with the Bentley.

11.05. In the bedroom, my wife asked me the difference between a second footman and an under-valet. Embarrassed to say that I didn’t know. Summoned Carberry, but he didn’t know either. I thought about sacking him, but wouldn’t know what I was sacking him from.

Thursday 8.30am Carberry brought up today’s “Beano”. He told me there’d been a revolution and now the servants were in charge. I was sent down to lick the grate clean. Carberry may be speaking the truth, but I don’t know. I never read the papers.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The 1960s. Everything you wished to forget.
There'd been a run on grey paint during the War

The 1960s are turning into a mere memory. That’s bad news for a decade which no one claims to remember. So here are some Pass Notes for the kids. My recollections, of course, may not be more reliable than anyone else’s…..

SAN FRANCISCO  In 1967 the San Francisco Police Chief had a brainwave to make pedestrians more visible to drivers, urging them on TV to “Be sure to wear a flower in your hair.” No one took much notice.  To make the message punchier he set it to music. The song went global and the city was thronged with people following his suggestion. Traffic incidents went down, but there was a big spike in hay fever fatalities.

PSYCHEDELIA  Delia Farrington was a sociopathic London go-go dancer who would wait outside her club to bludgeon people who hadn’t tipped her. The dazed victims would stagger down Oxford Street, ears ringing and vision blurred, screaming “Man, I’ve been zapped by Psycho Delia”.

LSD  In the 1960s the CIA had a plan to destroy the Soviets: by introducing unpronounceable words into the language they’d drive the natives crazy. Operatives infiltrated the country to introduce the letter combination “lsd” into Russian; “Dlsda”, “Nylsdet”, etc. Of course, Russians have been speaking unpronounceable words for centuries and easily assimilated the phrases, which were exported back to America. Soon Americans were behaving bizarrely and unpredictably, driven mad by “lsd”.

THE BEATLES  As everyone knows, post-Shakespeare England was a cultural desert for centuries. A minor civil servant was ordered to find a UK version of French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The best he could come up with was John Paul George Ringo. On being asked to interpret “L’enfer, c’est les autres” their funny Scouse accents turned it into “I am the Walrus”, which proved much more palatable to the paying public.

FLOWER POWER Hippies were notoriously aggressive. They would attack passers-by with clubs disguised by wreaths of marigolds. In those days “Pow” meant “To strike” or “To impress”. Hence, “Hey punk, get a taste of my flower pow-er.”

BOB DYLAN  For years this obnoxious untalented wannabe scoured Greenwich Village folk clubs for open mic spots. Embittered by constant failure, he flung open the doors of the Village Vanguard to the icy January blast, shouting to the punters as he stomped out, “Your asses, my friends, are blowin’ in the wind”. Both phrase and Dylan soon faded into obscurity.