Friday, 24 June 2011

Don't Walk.

This is not the blog I planned. This was supposed to be a really sweet and lovely blog about how good going for a walk is but this morning I went for a walk and my opinion on going for a walk has changed. You should never go for a walk unless you’re walking in the middle of the Sahara desert or Hoth or somewhere you are completely sure there are no other people. Let me make this completely clear to you: People are worse than the Nazis.

I was hungover this morning (“was”? Ha!) so perhaps seeing any other human being wasn’t a good idea but I have a dog and she needs walking. She likes the park. So do people. Maybe if I just keep my head down, close my eyes, block my ears and then cut my own head off I can avoid the stress of knowing there are other people around. I shuffled to the park and watched Jerk run around. It was a really beautiful morning. Lots of sunshine, the parakeets were squawking and Jerk was wagging her tail. It’s not so bad, eh? I’m feeling chirpier already. It’ll be a lovely day.

Then I saw her.

A woman in the park was trimming a bush. She was cutting large parts of it off and then putting them in her wheelie-bag. Luckily, she was quite far away so I had plenty of time to figure out what my opening gambit should be. Don’t want to sound aggressive or accusatory. I mean, she might have a very good reason for cutting off large bits of bush and collecting them in a wheelie-bag. Yes, this requires a gentle touch.

“Should you be doing that?”

OK, I’ll confess. I started the argument. I’m not the Park Police so “Should you be doing that?” is a bit much. That said, I’ve had even more time to think about what I could have said and I really can’t think of anything. “Stop that at once” is too bossy, “What are you doing?” is too stupid and “Blu-Tac hair-cut” is too mad.

“It needs trimming” she said as she carried on trimming. “Right”, I retorted. “Do you work here?”


The “no” was aggressive. She was angry now. I’d made her angry. Still, I’d made my point so it’s probably best that I just leave it at that. Anyway, I pushed on.
“It’s not very nice, cutting things from the park that don’t belong to you”.

“It doesn’t belong to anyone”.

“It does. It belongs to the park. Everything in here is for everyone to enjoy. You shouldn’t be hacking bits of bush off”.

“I’ll do what I like”.

“I can see that. I’m just trying to tell you that it’s rude”.

This is when she snapped. She stopped trimming to shout, swear and point her shears at me. I was on a train last week and told a man off for dropping the wrapper his straw came in from a small carton of juice and he shouted at me too. But what is more terrifying? A large man threatening you while drinking Ribena or a tiny woman shouting while waving pruning shears in your face? Answer: neither. They’re both stupid.

“You don’t work here either so you can’t tell me what to do. It’s none of your fucking business. It’s hurting no one. Just fuck off, OK?”

She went on like that for quite a while. I won’t repeat everything she said because there is a lot more swearing in it and I hate swearing now. Ugh, swearing. Not only did she use toilet words but she used them in front of her two kids. One a baby who was emotionless and one a child who looked at me as if to say “Look, she’s my mum and I love her. I know she’s a dick but she’s my mum”. After she stopped swearing at me I just said “Well, it’s been lovely talking to you”. Then she hit me with a whammy.

“My husband is very ill. I’ve been nursing him for over a month. This is his favourite bush”.

Right. When it comes to my time in life when I get ill, seriously ill, and it looks like I won’t be able to get better, just before I die I hope that Muki, my wife, will break the news to my friends, family and loved ones in the same way. “Michael is very ill. This is his favourite bush”. I don’t care what she points at as long as she says it. “This is his favourite bush”. In fact, I want every woman that I know to say it when discussing my decline. Anytime I’m mentioned after my diagnosis I want every single woman I know to only speak of my oncoming journey into the forever-sleep thusly: “You haven’t heard about Michael? God, it’s awful. The doctors can’t operate and he’s in a lot of pain. They reckon he’s only got a few weeks to live. This is his favourite bush” and then point to whatever you like.

Of course, now I just wanted out of the whole mess I’ve made but I suffer terribly from being a bit Michael Legge at times. Not that I replied straight away to her, I didn’t. I had a few seconds to think before I replied. Not that I was thinking about what to say next, I wasn’t even thinking about what she had said. All I was thinking was “Who has a favourite bush?” I mean, I understand a favourite flower or a favourite tree but no one has a favourite bush. “What’s your favourite bush, Graham?” “Well, Chester, as you asked, I’d definitely say it’s that green one that’s sort of but not quite round” NO ONE HAS A FAVOURITE BUSH. He just said that to get you out of the house. Anyway, my reply was….”Well, what if it was my favourite bush too?”

I think it was a good reply actually. It must have been because she just turned her back on me and went back to that ill man’s favourite bush. That’s when the two teenage boys appeared. I had seen them walking towards us but thought nothing until they passed us by. I heard them laughing but I never guessed what they were laughing at. As they passed they started pointing and laughing at the rude woman. They sarcastically called her sexy meaning that in their opinion she wasn’t sexy. It was horrible and I felt horrible. Her husband is ill, a flawless saint is lecturing her on bush trimming and now teenagers are calling her ugly. I turned to the boys and told them how much I fancied them. They are just so gorgeous, I told them, what woman would be good enough for them? “No woman is good enough”, one of them said very, very stupidly. “You know what that means”, I said with all the experience of doing shows to stag nights for 12 years. “You’ll both have to fuck yourselves”.

Basically, I defended the rude woman. The boys actually looked confused as they walked away. It can really pay to look like a nutter in the park when confronted by arrogant and cheeky youths. The rude woman thanked me and I said no problem. She went back to cutting off bits of bush. “Any chance you could stop that now?” I said. I thought that was fair. I’d defended her and her wheelie-bag was practically full.

“No. I need some more”.

“Oh, come on. After all we’ve been through?” I even gave her a smile.

“I didn’t ask you to get involved”.

It was now my turn to snap. I know she’s going through a tough time and is working through her pain by chopping up a bush and giving it to her husband but I can go mad too. “FUCK YOU”, I rationally shouted.

Obviously, when I left I realised that she had won that little spat. I had a point to make and I lost my ground when I shouted and swore in front of her children that she shouts and swears in front of. To make things worse, during that entire experience Jerk was chasing a butterfly and was looking ADORABLE. I missed most of that. I walked through the park feeling ashamed of myself. I need to calm down if I want to win an argument. I need to show poise and confidence and I need to be rational.

Just to let you know that during the writing of this blog I stopped for a minute to read a bit of Shappi Khorsandi’s book. Out loud. On a train. The man sitting opposite me on the train was reading his bible out loud to his wife, then she read out a bit aloud too. They shut up when I started reading.

That’s me. Calm and rational.

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Brown Blues.

A couple of months ago my former friends, Dan Tetsell and Margaret Cabourn-Smith, bought me one single ticket to see Good Mourning Mrs. Brown, the spin-off live show of the TV series Mrs. Brown's Boys, at the Hammersmith Apollo. 3,499 howling fans of Ireland's very worst contribution to anything, including terrorism, and me alone in one room. In a way, I was really looking forward to it but when I woke up yesterday morning I felt sick. It was going to be a long day.

The plan was this: I would meet Margaret and Dan at their flat beforehand, give them a bottle of champagne, watch them drink it then I would continue the night alone not drinking a single drop while I watched Mrs. Brown live on stage. It was an unmitigated failure. The only thing that went right was the very worst part of it: I watched Mrs. Brown live on stage.

Let's just cut to the show: it wasn't very good. It wasn't very good at all and it knew it. The show started very late, as it had in every terrible review I read about Good Mourning Mrs. Brown yesterday. It had to start late because there is so little in the show that if they started on time people would leave early and then figure out that they've been cheated. That's the one good thing about going to see Mrs. Brown live on stage, you can't be cheated. Every single person in that room including the cast know fully well that the show is such utter garbage that disappointment can never enter into it. Everyone knows what they're letting themselves in for. I know this because Mrs. Brown's audience gave the show the respect it deserved. Mobile phones constantly ringing, people answering their phones and talking loudly, people seemingly just wandering around the theatre for no reason. Yes, even the people who really love Mrs. Brown and would pay £40 to go to see it think it's a pile of crap.

So, the lights go down and the whole room cheers. It get's one of the biggest cheers of the night. Why wouldn't it be? The safety blanket of complete darkness is definitely preferable to the onslaught that followed. Mrs. Brown's voice comes over the PA to ask us to switch off our phones (that was ignored) and to remind us that, through some sexual agreement with Beelzebub, Mrs. Brown's Boys was BAFTA nominated. That's not an achievement. It isn't. All it means is that now all BAFTA awards and nominations are completely meaningless. In fact, they're an insult. Look at eBay right now. BAFTA's are really cheap. I got two for The Office plus Daniel Day-Lewis's 2002 award for Gangs Of New York. Less than a tenner and that includes P&P. Anyway, the recorded message at the beginning went on for ages. It had to because there's so little in the show that if that pre-show message hadn't gone on for ages people would leave early and then figure out that they've been cheated.

The message finally ends and we're off to the theme tune. The theme tune lasted a really, really long time. It had to because there's so little in the show that if the theme tune hadn't gone on for ages...look, all I'm saying is that the show hadn't started and I'd already had enough.

Of course, I look back at that theme tune quite fondly now. It's tedious length was the only thing from stopping me seeing Good Mourning Mrs. Brown. Let me make this very, very clear: there are NO jokes in Good Mourning Mrs. Brown, there are just things that people say. It might as well be "Forgot my umbrella. Honestly, I'd forget my own head if it wasn't attached" followed by a rolling hate-thunder of laughter. In fact, when they actually tried jokes they were just bizarre. Mrs. Brown has a gay son who is the butt of every homophobic jibe known to man. At one point, he walks into the room and Mrs. Brown says "Oh. Here's Eminem".


I mean, everyone laughed loudly and I could clearly tell it was a dig at him being gay but...but...Eminem? Not "Oh. Here's Liberace". No? Not "Oh. Here's Graham Norton". or "Oh. Here's a pink thing". Despite the rapper being constantly tagged as a homophobe himself in the late '90's, they chose Eminem as that gay stereotype it's OK to use as an insult. Mind you, a few seconds in the company of Mrs. Brown's gay son will bring out the hate in everyone. I don't want to to be stereotypical, nasty or showing any hate towards my homosexual brothers and sisters but I want Mrs. Brown's gay son to get AIDS. I realise he's only a fictional character but I want that fictional character to get real AIDS. I hate him. He's the worst thing in the show and outside of the show. He is the worst thing.

But Eminem isn't the worst joke. Oh, no. Not by a mile. I feel like I'm in a dusty cellar looking at fine wines just to choose the perfect one to give you an idea of what I saw. Ah, yes. Here's one: Two of the characters are robbing a house. The stage is completely dark and the thieves' torches are broken. Awful Man One: "Oi tink oi found a Playstation 2". Awful Man Two: "Doze are moy balls".

Just let that swirl around your mouth for a while. Taste every bit of it. Savour the putrid bile. Now spit it out and forget everything.

Basically it was 2 hours and 20 minutes of that. Over and over and over again. It would have been longer but I just couldn't stand it any more. I left before the end. I'm sorry, everyone, I'm just not that strong. Plus I had a beer in the interval. I guess I just wasn't as prepared as I thought I'd be. To be really honest, the first half ended up being pretty traumatic for me. About an hour into the show, not the "play" like it's been advertised, the woman next to me started tapping my leg. She started tapping out a beat on my leg. There was no music playing but somehow a very jaunty little number had aneurysmed it's way into her head and she decided to tap the beat out on MY leg. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap on MY leg. I pulled my leg away and the woman looked at me, shocked. "I'm sorry", she said. "I thought that was my leg".

That is the kind of person Mrs. Brown attracts. People who aren't sure which legs are theirs.

Look, it was never going to be a great night, not for me anyway. I think Dan Tetsell enjoyed himself. While I sat there being upset, he was out in pubs and restaurants having a lovely time. It will always be one of the most brilliant and funny horrible things anyone has done to me. Well done, Dan.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the Irish writer, producer, director, homophobe and racist Brendan O'Carroll who's creation Mrs. Brown entertains thousands of leg-confused people all over the world. I'm so glad he got in touch before the show:

Also, while you're on Twitter, start following @TWJokeTrialFund and giver generously to a very worthy cause. Thanks.

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Monday, 13 June 2011

The Big Legge.

I really wanted to write another blog about my train unjourney on Thursday night but the news stole my thunder. It was the top story for most of Friday: "Non-Fictional Humans Lack Camaraderie - Shocker!" It turns out that what the staff of Southwest Trains "don't know" is that thieves stole a load of electrical cables from the train tracks, which is incredibly dangerous and funny. Commuters got so fed up waiting (and who isn't in a rush to get to Woking?) that they forced their way out of the train and walked along the tracks to the next station. That was the cause for at least another hour of our delayed journey. "Sorry for the delay. Wrong kind of lunks on the tracks". The electrical cables were replaced but couldn't be switched on until they were sure there were no people still walking on the line because it would have been incredibly dangerous and funny.

But that was all on the news so I have nothing to write about. Nothing except the one positive thing that happened while sitting there for hours beside a bush near Woking. You must remember this because I'm about to teach you how to look cool and sexy. You know how pathetic and hunched and wretched you are in real life? Well, there's a sure-fire cure. There's a time and place for everyone and I found mine on Thursday night on a broken down train beside a bush near Woking. I can only hope that you find your useless train one day because you will be transformed from the grey shame of excess flesh that you are into a beautiful, resplendent, rare and alluring butterfly. With a massive penis and a sports car.

Before I got on the train I needed to go to the toilet but I thought I'd wait. I just didn't think I'd be waiting that long. I don't like using the toilet on the train because I've never been keen on standing inside a tiny, pungent box that shoves me from side to side and insists my urine is expelled on to my leg. After three hours of sitting on a hot, airless, angry train beside a bush near Woking, I could hold it in no longer. I had to go. This meant taking all my stuff with me (I had stuff with me) and risking losing my seat to one of the unscrupulous standing commuters. I had just made my decision to get up and walk up the crowded train to the loo when this announcement came over the tannoy: "If there is a doctor or any medical professionals on board could they make their way to carriage D to assist a passenger. Any doctor or medical professional, especially if you have any insulin".

I got up and walked towards the toilet which just happened to be in carriage D.

Women turned their heads and stared at me. Men's eyes widened as I passed them. Every female mentally undressing me with their eyes and drooling lips with every male's bodies surged with jealousy, admiration, respect and, yes, lust. Women wanted to get with me, men wanted to be me. I could feel them all over me as I walked past every single one of them. My shirt slowly unbuttoning by itself and my smooth, firm, delicious pecs revealing themselves to the onboard hungry, wanton and entranced. Proceeding up the aisle with men patting me longer and slower than they should as I passed, while the long nails of beautiful, writhing, commuting women found themselves clawing at my thighs and back, my fingertips somehow finding their way into open, wet mouths.

I knew that the second I stepped over the shaking, insulinless woman and pressed open on the toilet door that this magnetism, this control I held, would end. But I was bursting.

All good things must come to an end but for about 48 seconds I had a good job, I was intelligent and respected and everyone wanted to sleep with me. When an onboard toilet door opens and the stench of urine looks you in the eye and says "wake up" you must always remember that you at least had that moment. Through all the heavy days and all the nights that won't stop picking on you, at least you had that moment. Beside a bush near Woking.

By the way, I wrote to Southwest Trains on Friday and asked for a refund. I've yet to hear from them.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Never forget what I am doling in the name of human rights this Wednesday and how you can contribute. Read this:

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Friday, 10 June 2011

Where Is The Emergency Hammer?

Last night I paid money to Southwest Trains to go on a 7 hour train journey that went nowhere. For almost 5 hours I was stuck on the one train, just sitting beside some bushes near Woking, and I missed my gig in Aldershot with Ivan Brackenbury. God, listen to me. Always seeing the positive. But, just for once, I don't really want to be all positive and cheery like I always, always am. Spending 7 hours on a train just to drain my iPhone battery and the end up where I started having gone nowhere is not fun and not what I wanted to do. So why did I do it? I don't know. I don't know how it happened because "I don't know" is the only reply I ever got from every Southwest Train employee. Just a dead face with rainy graveyard eyes saying "I don't know". In fact, thats basically the only reply you ever get from staff at any train station. "I don't know". "I don't know". I don't know".

I'm always complaining about trains and you must think that being stuck on one filled with sweaty, noisy commuters would be my worst nightmare. You probably think that that would be the thing I hate most about trains. But you're wrong. Even a train filled with drunk aggressives screaming nothing at all down their phone, or the unaware eating hot flesh and making me sick or the tasteless morons forcing their musicless music into our happy comas, all of that isn't the worst thing about trains. Those things are finding love at a party compared to the worst thing about trains. The worst thing about trains is that poster, the one at every train station, the one cowardly, admitting-they-can't-do-their-jobs-right poster. That cowardly poster that says "Don't abuse our staff".

Why? Why can't we abuse your staff? We've paid money and we're not going anywhere so why can't we abuse them? Why can't we laugh at their hair and their name badges? Why? Why can't we abuse your staff? They wear clip on ties. I demand my right to abuse anyone over the age of 12 who wears a clip on tie. A shameful, pathetic clip on tie. Look how shameful and pathetic YOUR staff are. They can't even hang themselves with their own ties. They're pathetic so why can't I abuse them? Why? Tell me. Why can't I give them a little push? I'd really like to give them a little push. Just a shove. But I'm not allowed. Why? I've paid money and YOU won't take me anywhere and I need to shove YOUR staff. Why am I not allowed? Why can't I slap them? Look at them. They won't feel it. They died many, many years ago. They won't feel it so let me just reach over and slap them in their face. Why did YOU put such thick glass between me and YOUR member of staff? Why? I want to slap them. Why am I not allowed to abuse YOUR staff? You want passengers to be happy when they commute, don't you? You want us to feel that we've got our money's worth on our journey, surely? Then let us abuse YOUR staff. Let us kick them. Kick them and kick them and kick them. Why won't you let us? Why can't I abuse YOUR staff? Why can't I punch them? I want to punch them. It's the only thing that I actually crave in this life. I don't need money or fame or love or peace or warmth or air. All I need is to lift my fist and crash it down hard into the grey corpse that YOU have employed. Again and again. Why can't I? Why can't I lift a brick and hammer it into their heads? Why? Just half a brick even? I want to lift half a brick and smash, smash, smash, SMASH and it feels so good. Why won't YOU let me? Why can't I lift half a brick and thump their eyes into the back of their heads and laugh for the first time in years and actually see some good in this world? Why can't I laugh at YOUR staff when I've smashed their eyes with a brick and I urinate in the holes? Why? Why won't you let me murder and urinate in the holes of YOUR staff? Tell me? Why? Why can't I? WHY?

I'll tell you why I can't kill and urinate into the holes of staff of Southwest trains. The answer is, very simply, "I don't know".

And that, to me, should be the only time that any member of train staff should ever, ever say "I don't know". Why can't I abuse you? "I don't know".

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Thursday, 9 June 2011


How does a heterosexual man tell another man he's interested in him? It's a difficult one, isn't it? You can't go in too confidently because that's just uncomfortable for the person you're wooing. Is it still wooing if I don't want to have sex with this person? It must still be wooing because I get nervous and excited when I see this man and I feel in my heart, stomach and knees that I want to get to know him better. I just want him to know that I'm impressed by him and, judging from the way I feel so awkward about it, I must want him to be impressed by me too. Yeah, that's definitely wooing.

Derek was a man who I thought was homeless but it turned out he wasn't, he just liked sitting in the park all day every day drinking cider. When he died he seemed to be immediately replaced by this guy I like. It was as if the homeless community heard there was a vacancy and this guy I like got the job. I mean, about two weeks after Derek passed away I started to see this guy every day. And he's fantastic.

Basically, he looks like Nick Nolte in Down and Out In Beverly Hills. No, he's better than that. He looks like a Norse God. All salty beard and white windswept mane. He has tough, leathery skin and eyebrows that judge all of us. Although I'm fairly sure he's homeless (I say, I'm sure. I made that mistake before. Sorry, Derek), this guy I like is in no way traditional or stereotypical. For starters, I want to hang out with him and I rarely feel that way about anyone, homeless or mansioned. He hasn't thrown a can at my head like one of the other Lewisham homeless men did and he has yet to urinate in front of me. I haven't seen him drink booze and I haven't seen him shouting and swearing at other homeless people while trying to punch them even when he's 8 feet away from them. He doesn't socialise, he doesn't speak, he just sits alone and reads. Every day. A different book every day.

I've seen him on the same bench for weeks reading Dickens, Philip K. Dick and, he's homeless so give him a break, Martin Amis. One day it's a biography of a sporting legend and the next it's Puckoon. Jerk has none of the social graces I have and normally just trots up to him every day and he doesn't flinch. She's been taught by the idiots of Lewisham that people on benches just drop their unwanted food on the ground so she makes a beeline for anyone on a bench. But this guy I like always has a book and has no interest in anything else. Every day when I go over to get Jerk away from him I see the sun dance on his pale blue eyes that only follow text and don't know that I even exist.

Look, I don't fancy him, alright? I DON'T. I just like him, that's all. He looks intense and dramatic and he likes to devour words and just when I got into the routine of see him/Jerk runs over/I go get Jerk and see what book he's reading, he changes the routine. A couple of weeks ago he wasn't on his bench, he was sitting in a tree. HE SITS IN TREES! Not under a tree, right up high in the branches, just sitting there reading.

The thing is, where this guy I like normally sits is a place that has three benches yet no one sits there. The benches have been there years and no one goes near them. He's there a month or so and suddenly people are using them and I know why.

This man is a striking figure and it's hard to see him and not be interested but, as he's so striking, there's no way any of us are worthy enough to talk to him. But just being near him is enough. People now eat lunch near this guy I like because we all hope to find out something about him or to find out why the hell we're drawn to him. He's been here a couple of months yet everyone I know who uses the park knows him and no one has spoken to him. They ALL like him. Not as much as me though. I like him the best. Some kids were sitting near him listening to music and that was the day I heard him speak: "Switch that off, please". God, I love him.

Then came a problem. Other than the time I saw him in a tree, I've never seen him anywhere but the bench. Sitting right there on the bench. Then last week as I was finishing up the dog walk I saw him get up from the bench and walk off. I've only stalked two people in my entire life: Kylie Minogue and this guy I like.

He didn't go that far (unlike Kylie, I was exhausted at the end with her). A brief walk round the park and then he propped himself up on a bridge. As I passed him I said "Hello". He said nothing.


I stood there looking out at the same sight he was, a river and some ducks. Then after a while.....HE SPOKE! "If you were a duck, would you live in Lewisham?"

I was excited. This is brilliant. This guy I like is talking to me! Whatever you say, Michael, make it very, very funny. "No", I said.

"Really? They must like it. They're Mallards. Mallards can live anywhere. There's Mallards that live in the Arctic, you know? It's because they can breed with any type of duck so they can live anywhere they like. They must find something good about round here. I wonder what it is?"

All that I could think of was that Jerk has a toy called Mallard that she likes squeaking but as this was my only Mallard fact I though, for once, it's best to keep my mouth closed. And he walked off.

This guy I like I like even more now. He knows about Mallards. He's the best advert for reading I've ever seen. When you read, you learn and then you have something to talk about. Simple when it's explained really. Shame I didn't properly introduce myself. I wonder what his name is? No, best to take it slow. I've talked to him now. Let's just ease into one another. The next day, Jerk ran over to him on the bench as usual and as usual I went over to take her away and his eyes never looked up from the page. Then, while still reading, he patted Jerk on the head.

I'm so in there.

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