Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Where I work (nice version) vs Where I work (not so nice version)

Two photographs, one subject. The first one makes my place of work look lovely, warm and inviting (WHICH IT IS).

The other makes my place of work look cold, dark, and like the Slytherin Common Room (WHICH IT IS NOT).

 To be honest, we're more Ravenclaw. Or Hufflepuff.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

CULTURE SHOCK



My mid-life crisis has been cheaper that that of most people. I rejected a Harley or an inappropriate red convertible sports car for growing a beard, getting a pair of hipster glasses (vari-focals because I'm old) and buying loads of old band T-shirts.

I'm not one for keeping all my old band T-shirts in a drawer at home, so there I was in Millets buying a new rain coat when I struck up a conversation with a shop assistant of a similar vintage to myself. Having rejected a long green countryside number ("No thanks, it makes me look like I'm a member of UKIP"), I settled for the coat that had been discounted the most in the sale, mainly because it was cheap, didn't make me look like a tramp, and I had never knowingly seen Nigel Farage or flat-capped Britain First types wearing one.

"That's a great T-shirt," the shop assistant said, nodding towards my Joy Division Unknown Pleasures top.

"Oh, wow, thanks," I replied.

Nodding across to her hardly-even-out-of-his teens colleague: "Young Lance here wouldn't even know what it is."

"Hardly anyone round here does," I said, glad that I had - at last - found a kindred spirit, in the Fleet branch of the UK's third best camping and outdoor equipment store, no less.

"It's mountains isn't it?"

*FAMILY FORTUNES WRONG ANSWER KLAXON*

"It's Joy Division, that's what it is," said Lance, who until that moment had been trying to sell me shoes while I looked at coats.
 
"No, you idiot Lance, it's mountains. It's mountains, that's what it is."
 
*FAMILY FORTUNES WRONG ANSWER KLAXON*

Yep. Joy Division, and their famous unreleased album of yodelling and oompah music.

I paid, and fled.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don Estelle: Sing Lofty (Thoughts of a Gemini) - An important and definitive guide


I've said it once, and I'll say it again. Forget all your Eamonn Holmeses and Paul Danielses and your [insert name of footballer here] - Don Estelle's Sing Lofty (Thoughts of a Gemini) is by far and away the worst celebrity autobiography you will ever clap your eyes on.

Sadly out of print and hard to get hold of, I feel it is my duty, then, to give you highlights of this important work, so that other celebrities will know the height of the bar. In Don's case: About four feet. 

This is the second time I've reviewed Don Estelle's Sing Lofty, and like last time, I won't be trashing his memory as the man's still got living relatives, but it's a fine example of an angry celebrity speaking his brains, knowing his time in the spotlight is well and truly over.

But if there's one thing that stands out from Sing Lofty it's this: Despite his prodigious singing voice, he was certainly no writer. And this comes out in his haphazard style, swinging from one subject to the next, recalling his exact mortgage payment at the time of the Suez Crisis and the name, address and post code of every booking he ever had, to his (probably righteous) rage at his lack of TV work after It Ain't Half Hot Mum finished.

If there's an alternative title for this book, it'll be Modern Life Is Shit, which leads us directly to the title's most notorious passage, straight from the crushed hopes and dreams of Alan Partridge.

DON ON NOT GETTING ON TV ANY MORE

Poor Don. Nobody wants his easy-listening and pith helmet, at least not on this side of the planet, and it's those tight-crutched morons who are to blame. But let's get back to the start...

DON ON HIS EARLY DAYS

Don sets his stall out early doors. And his stall is this: I'm not going to stick to the point:

The first fact in the book and it's wrong - Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933. But you can't deny it - they were tough old days back then.

How did your old man get by, Don?
Say that again?
OK. Glad that's sorted. Hope you don't mind us talking about your old dad, don't want to set you off or anything.
Oh. And here's page 19. The first time we're told he wasn't born with the name Don:
OK, Ronnie Estelle. No harm done. Hang on - what's this on page 59?
So, Ronnie Edwards. You would have thought that little details like your own name might be important in an autobiography. But it's nice to keep your readers in suspense.

If there's a recurring theme in Sing Lofty, it's how Rochdale has one of the finest town halls in the country.

DON ON ROCHDALE, WHICH HAS ONE OF THE FINEST TOWN HALLS IN THE COUNTRY

So, tell us about Rochdale, Don.
What was that again?
And here's some important information about Rochdale, in case you are reading this abroad:
WHAT? Don't make us turn the page. WHAT HAS ROCHDALE GOT?! Don't leave us in suspense, man.
Oh, right. And in case you are wondering if this is some kind of idle boast, here is Rochdale town hall, possibly the finest town hall for the size of town in the whole of Great Britain.
Yeah, it's alright I suppose.

DON ON NOT WANTING TO TALK ABOUT HIS FIRST MARRIAGE, OR EVEN MENTIONING HER NAME, RIGHT?

Poor Don, married too soon and lived to regret it. But I don't want to talk about it, right?
 
Oh, go on, Don. Give it another go.


Marriage didn't work out, but worse things happen on Lake Coniston.

And while we're on the habit of things Don doesn't want to talk about...

DON ON NOT WANTING TO TALK ABOUT THAT HOUSE HE BOUGHT IN BUCKINGHAM

 You lived in Buckingham, eh? Tell us about it. Or not, then.
OK, I've changed my mind, let's talk about that house in Buckingham, but I'm not going to edit out that previous bit about not talking about it.
(And several pages about the house in Buckingham which he didn't want to talk about.)

That's enough life story. What does Don think about the modern world in 1999? Not much it turns out.

DON ON CRIME

Times were hard when Don was a lad, but at least you weren't getting murdered TO DEATH as soon as you step outside your front door.

He's right. I'm ALWAYS getting murdered.

DON ON WAR

Tell us Don, what, exactly is war good for? Can we ever stop fighting each other?

War is A Bad Thing, m'kay? But we're all chums now.

DON ON POP MUSIC

As an olde tyme singer, Don's got very particular views of music .
Not a fan, then.

DON ON ALTERNATIVE COMEDY

As an olde tyme comic, Don's got very particular views of comedy, too.

 Not a fan of that, either.

DON ON MODERN LIFE BEING A BIT SHIT

But surely the last years of the 20th Century have got something going for them?
Stupid "progress". What's it ever done for us?

OK, clones. Clones are good. Also, life's not fair.


Sucks.

DON ON POLITICS

Stark political insight coming up:

If he were alive today, he'd have a purple rosette on that pith helmet. AmIRight? But what about our pals in the rest of the world? What prospect for world peace?


Ah.

DON GOES TO MOSCOW, STARES AT SOME BOSOMS

The finest anecdote in the entire book deserves duplication in full...

Moral: Ladies certainly make the world go round, but don't stare at their chest when you are walking down the street and carry an expensive Pentax.

DON'S CELEBRITY ANECDOTES

OK, a life in show-business. Surely you've got a few stories to tell?


I hear you met Shirley Bassey. What about her legendary concert rider demands?


Wow.

DON ON PHILOSOPHY

Deep thoughts with Don.
Amazing. I can see things much more clearly now.

No, it's Popeye.


Yeah, I know...


DON DOWN UNDER

Toward the end of his career, Don found a place still living in the 1970s that appreciated him: New Zealand. Much of the second half of the book is devoted to eye-wateringly detailed travelogues of his concerts tours of the Dominions. Eye-wateringly detailed, I kid you not:


New Zealand's near the South Pole, you know.

VERY close to the South Pole.


Don went to New Zealand a lot, but hated Australia.
DON IN DEMAND

But it's back to the UK for the most important date on his calendar. The Spalding Flower Festival, where a short man in a pith helmet is the perennial guest of honour.


Never miss Spalding.

Never, EVER miss Spalding.

Spalding Control - we have a problem

Does he make it to Spalding in time AND do the Gracie Fields concert? (Yes)
(And on page 197, eight pages from the end of the book, we learn he has children)

Is it May? Must be time for...

They struggled on for ten years after Don died, but the Spalding Flower Festival just wasn't the same without him.

DON STILL UPSET THAT HE CAN'T GET ON TV ANY MORE, ALSO GENITALS

But with the New Zealand stuff, the Spalding stuff and staring at bosoms in Moscow, surely you've got over not getting on TV any more?

Those no-genital TV stars, eh?

DON ON INAPPROPRIATE FRIENDS

Say what you like about Don and his fame in the 60s and 70s, at least he didn't hang around with any celebrities who have since been outed as noted sexual deviants.
Oh. But then, Savile was all over the era like a sweaty-pawed rash and that's a bit of a cheap shot. So let's try again: At least he didn't hang around with any noted (alleged) sexual deviants, praising them to the skies.

 Well at least he didn't go into business sort of business venture with any ....errr.... right....
Poor innocent Don, not his fault in the slightest.

And so we come to the end., and a lesson to all writers.

DON ON FINISHING A BOOK

Authors! This is how you finish a book. 

 And this is what happens when you do your own proof-reading.

 I think the word you're looking for is "incorrigible". Hey ho.

There's no denying that this book is a complete stinker. The sad truth is that Don never found himself a publisher or distribution deal in his lifetime, so he was forced to self-publish and (literally) sell copies out of a suitcase as he sung for his supper in town centres. 

That means copies for sale are as rare as hen's teeth, which is why I've posted the highlights here today. You might be able to get a copy from your local library - Hampshire's got one, and I imagine that Rochdale Town Library (possibly the finest in the country) is paved with spare copies. Otherwise, be prepared to pay top dollar for this literary classic.

Lord bless you Don. You had the voice of a stumpy angel, but writing was not your forte. At least you've got the music and there were no cheap shots there...
Oh.But at least you never did blackface.

 Oh.