Friday, July 04, 2014


Fancy a pub crawl along the Tour de France route? Here's a guide in my magazine, Barmcake.

Barmcake provides northern entertainment for the middle-aged. I feel there is nothing out there to cater for a man or woman of a certain age who likes particular music, comedy, pubs, plays, exhibitions and books.

I was fed up of reading free mags with editorial dumped in with no attempt to attract the reader. I wanted to bring together all the interesting stuff on performers and venues’ websites, some of it well-known, some of it not, add interviews and striking photographs, and write features that can’t be read anywhere else.

I also wanted to attract readers who live, say, in Leeds, and travel to shows in Manchester and Sheffield. It’s not as if the cities are 200 miles away from each other, yet websites and magazines tend to stick to their patches.

I didn’t want all this to be lost on yet another website, cluttered with links and dowdy Google keyword headlines. I didn’t want the articles to appear in an over-designed, sub-NME magazine, with acres of six-point text you have to squint at, or in the sort of lifestyle mag I saw recently, where the main feature was a youth reviewing his breakfast.

To find out more go to Barmcake magazine

Click on pages to read.

You could say Rik Mayall only shouted and pulled faces - but what shouting, what faces!

He was a naturally funny comedian who made you laugh as soon as you saw him: he deserves to be mentioned alongside greats such as Tommy Cooper.

Rik was like a human cartoon character, pulling exaggerated expressions and stealing almost every scene he was in - even alongside great actors/characters in the Young Ones and Blackadder.

His work in the Young Ones and Dangerous Brothers was thrilling and often unexpected, while he played a more bit part role in the Comic Strip - his David Coverdale-esque, fruity voice in Bad News was probably his finest moment in that series.

For me, the Kevin Turvey sketches were among his best work and are perhaps overlooked now - the expressions, the silly wordplay (Kevin's 'ere/ear) and the silly voice.


Kevin Turvey:

Young Ones: People's Poet

The excellent Holmfirth Film Festival returns on May 23-30 with a programme of Hollywood blockbusters, rare British films and some intriguing foreign language movies.

The festival really punches above its weight - what other town of this size would have such a variety of movies? There are over 60 screenings in pubs, village halls, churches and even a truck!

Highlights for me include: Alan Bennett's The Day Out, Enough Said, Filth, Inside Llewyn Davis, Local Film Night, Nebraska, Eric Portman film and talk, Pulp Fiction, Under Milk Wood, Wolf of Wall Street and - a 1947 Diana Dors cycling film set in Hebden Bridge (A Boy, A Girl and A Bike).

Starting this weekend (May 17-18), there is a chance to visit some cracking country pubs by bus.

The Ales Way is organised by Wharfedale Brewery and pubs in the Wharfedale Valley, in conjunction with local bus firms. There are roughly three buses a day from Ilkley to Buckden and various other services.

Pubs taking part are: Wheatley, Ben Rhydding; Flying Duck, Ilkley (pictured); Crown, Addingham; New Inn and Craven Arms, Appletreewick; Red Lion, Burnsall; Clarendon, Hebden; Grassington House, Foresters and Devonshire, all in Grassington; Fountaine,in Linton in Craven; Gamekeeper's, Threshfield; Blue Bell, Kettlewell; Buck, Buckden; George, Hubberholme.

There are various prizes and souvenirs available for those who take part in the crawl. Sounds good (apart from crossing your legs on a bus).

It's that time of year again when Camra branches reveal their favourite boozers. Good beer is the key, although atmosphere, level of service, value for money and community focus are also taken into consideration.

Congratulations to the splendid King's Head, Huddersfield's top boozer.

Jimi Hendrix is on the pub sign but the beer is never purple or hazy. The pub favours lighter ales but always has at least one dark one on and the splendid Golcar brewery is a regular, along with beers from other local breweries such as Empire and Magic Rock. Bradfield and Oakham breweries are also favourites here.

The staff are friendly, the fires are roaring and the place is rocking on Sundays when excellent covers bands are on. According to the Huddersfield Examiner, The Star and Will O'Nats ran the King's close but this is the right decision (although as I say every year: why does the Grove never get a look-in for this title?)

North Manchester's winner is the marvellous Port Street Beer House. When it first opened, I thought it was a second-rate Grove of Huddersfield, but I've been made to eat my words after many visits to a pub that feels like home - a good mix of hand-pulls from the north plus more exotic kegs and bottles. They are served by friendly staff in a place that may be rather anonymous from the outside, but is like a wooden Tardis on the inside (my home isn't exactly like this).

If ever you have to describe a street corner boozer, The City Arms, in the centre of Manchester is it. Hunched between the Waterhouse and the Vine this narrow, cosy pub more than holds its own and is Trafford and Hulme's winner (confusingly). It's got plenty of wood which I always love in a pub.

The Corn Dolly is Bradford's top of the pubs. Perfectly reasonable but I'm a sucker for the Sparrow in that city.

Halifax's is the decent Cross Keys in Siddal, done out nicely with plenty of good beers and makes a nice crawl with the Three Pigeons and Shears.

Harry's Bar is my favourite Wakefield pub and it's Camra's favourite too. Small. always busy and cosy in winter with the fire going.

The splendid West Riding Refreshment Rooms is top of the pile in Dewsbury. Great railway pub, very lively.

Yet again Kelham Island is Sheffield's ale king. As I've said before, there are better pubs in the city.

South Manchester and Stockport's fave is The Hope, in Heaton Norris, which only reopened a year ago after a refurbishment by its experienced owners. It's an impressive square building with big windows and Hardy beer signs and offers 11 cask ales, four of which are The Hope's own Fool Hardy Ales.

Wigan's number one is the Crooke Hall Inn, in Crooke, on the outskirts of Wigan which I think was once owned by my great grandparents (it's now owned by Allgates brewery). I went many moons ago and I seem to remember it's a rather peaceful place by the canal. Town centre pubs The Anvil and the The Raven were second and third respectively.

Other winners include:
Abercolwyn: Albion Ale House, Conwy
Barnsley: Old Number 7
Glasgow/W Scotland: Laurieston Bar, Glasgow
Keighley: Brown Cow
Liverpool: Liverpool Pigeon, Crosby
Macclesfield and East Cheshire: Young Pretender, Congleton
Rochdale, Oldham and Bury: Carrion Crow, Oldham
Southport: Freshfield, Formby
Tyneside: The Bodega, Newcastle
Westmorland: George & Dragon, Dent
York: Wheatsheaf, in Burn, near Selby

One of Halifax's best pubs, The Pump Room, is to close at the end of March and is expected to be demolished and replaced by a car park.

The Pump Room is in the way of an ambitious and controversial scheme to build a new shopping centre - ambitious because the centre aims to attract big retail names, controversial because it means the end of a building put up in 1791 and the final bell for one of the best pubs in the town.

Its heyday for me was the early 2000s when you could watch rugby on TV and enjoy at least eight local real ales. The ales are still on and still in good order but the pub is now overshadowed by the nearby Three Pigeons and Dirty Dicks. The former is a nicer pub, the latter offers cheaper ales.

The last day of trading for the Pump will be March 30, according to Camra.

I hope its demolition is worth it and the shopping centre does not become a white elephant or draw trade from the rest of the town. There is a danger that a town like Fax will be relatively overfaced with shops. On the other hand it could become second only to Leeds as a shopping destination in West Yorks.

Pic of pub by Deltrems on Flickr

Some breweries never let you down, no matter whether their beers are light or dark. strong or session - and Dunham Massey is one of them. So it's great DM's getting national recognition after winning Camra's Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain title at the Winter Beer Festival in Derby for their 5.2pc porter. Cairngorm Black Gold won silver and Exe Valley Winter Glow bronze. Marble's Stouter Stout got bronze in the stout category.

After months of ominous silence by rugby league's rulers that threatened to deflate the ballooning optimism that built up during world the cup, suddenly the sport is back with a spring in its step.

First of all a quality sponsor for Super League, First Utility, an underdog energy firm taking on the big boys in the same way that rugby league fights for attention in the sporting world (thanks goodness the sponsor's not a cash loan site).

Secondly, a large slice of Sky pie, giving Super League clubs a 63 per cent increase in funds. Shame the BBC don't get the odd Saturday afternoon game, but hey-ho.

Thirdly and most importantly of all, relegation is back, with two clubs going down at the end of this season, and promotion returns next season with the top two leagues of 12 splitting into threes league of eight during 2015. Great ideas - making the Super League stronger and making the Championship teams fight in more than one game for a place in the top league.

Five of the 14 championship sides will be relegated at the end of this season to prepare for next season which will no doubt make most games absolutely do or die.

Add the all-new Salford Red Devils, it promises to be a corker of a season. Wigan v Saints grand final, London and Bradford to go down. Leeds to win the cup. Fev to win the Champ big one.

After a couple of months of rumour and rumblings of discontent, it happened - one of Manchester's best-known pubs, the Lass O'Gowrie, closed.

Not for good, as some thought - the pub will reopen in February after a makeover. But landlord Gareth Kavanagh departed in bitter circumstances, telling the Morning Advertiser and Manchester Evening News his pub was rated below average by owners Greene King which wanted him to spend 40 grand on a makeover. This demand came after he had won a long rent battle with the brewery and won the Advertiser's national competition for pub of the year in 2012. He said the closure of the BBC office opposite had hit takings by 40 per cent.

The man who runs the nearby Salisbury, John Rowlinson, has taken on the Lass, promising local ales and homecooked food. Greene King said the Lass had 'lost its reputation as a real ale pub'.

The pub is looking a bit tired and needs a makeover and the beer choice has not been up to usual standards recently, but this is excusable considering what happened at the end of the year. The best thing you could say about the beer choice is that you never realised you were in a Greene King pub! Oustanding and Facers were among the regular stars.

You have to got to feel sorry for Mr Kavanagh who has tried everything to gee up trade - food, nice little outdoor area for the smokers, TV sport (a rarity for real ale pubs) and the theatre nights upstairs, especially the stage versions of old TV shows and the wonderful posters.

Perhaps the all-rounder nature of the pub was part of the problem. The TVs do dominate when they're on and it's hard to get away from them. The location, of course, does not help. It would be wonderful to swap the bland Bulls Head, opposite Piccadilly station, for the Lass.

The Oxford Road station area is an odd one for pubs - plenty of trade, you would have thought, from the station, students, Cornerhouse folk and Palace Theatre people, but only the Temple and the Lass stand out.

UPDATE The Lass has reopened - the same layout (apart form minor alteration to the bar) and what looks like new flooring, lighting and decoration. Pub looks a lot better. Beer choice is a little more conservative, with Greene King beers prominent.

Morrissey book review
He submitted an episode of Coronation Street which ended with Ena Sharples saying: 'Do I really look like a fan of X Ray Spex?'

My Manchester Evening News column -
matinee gigs for the over-40s

Triumph amid the tears: Badly Drawn Boy review, Manchester Evening News 

The best guide to find pub righteousness, the Good Beer Guide, is out. There are no changes in Huddersfield and Bradford but quite a few in Leeds and Manchester.It also features a West Yorkshire village I've never heard of before - Goose Eye.

Hudds has Grove, King's, Rat, Slubbers, Sporters, Star, Vulcan and White Cross in the good book.

Elsewhere in Kirklees the gaudy and loud Brambles is a newy in Holmfirth (the Nook's still in from last year). The Flowerpot in Mirfield is another newy, joining the town's Navigation and Old Colonial. The Pear Tree drops out. Dewsbury loses the Huntsman and Shepherd's (West Riding and Leggers still in )

In Bradford, entries are the Castle, City Vaults, Corn Dolly, Fighting Cock, Ginger Goose, Haigy's, New Beehive, Sir Titus Salt and Sparrow.

In Leeds, in come the Friends of Ham (hip but nice), Ship (forgettable), Stick or Twist (Wetherbarn), Templar (a classic old boozer full of classic old boozers). Still in are Hop, Foleys, North, Palace, Scarborough, Veritas, Victoria, Whitelocks.

Away from Leeds centre, Fox and Newt in Burley, Arcadia, in Headingley, and the Grove and Midnight Bell, in Holbeck are still in.

In Halifax, the smashing and revamped Shears is in but Dirty Dicks and New Prospect depart. Still in are Big Six, Sportsman, and Three Pigeons.  Elsewhere in Calderdale, the Barge and Barrel, in Elland, returns to the book (Drop Inn still in from last year). Todmorden's newie is Calderdale pub of the year and piemaster the Masons, joining the Polished Knob and Staff of Life.

Splendid Sowerby Bridge still has the Jubilee, Puzzle, Shepherd's and Works but loses the White Horse.

The lovely Crescent, in Ilkley, is a newie (along with regular Bar T'at). The Fleece falls out in Otley but town's Bowling Green, Horse and Farrier, Junction and Old Cock are still in.

Manchester newbies are the Crown and Kettle (which is looking a little smarter than a year ago  ), Font (studenty), Joshua Brooks (ditto), Molly House, Rising Sun (a bit characterless), and Wharf (ditto). Out are Wheatsheaf, Smithfield, Piccadilly, Peveril, Old Wellington, Jolly Anglers. Still in are: Angel, Bar Fringe, Cask, Castle, City Arms, Knott, Marble Arch, Micro Bar, Paramount, Port Street, Sandbar, Waterhouse.

A few changes in real ale/craft beer hotspot Chorlton. Beech Inn, Marble Beer House, Parlour and Sedge Lynn are new entries, joining Bar, Electrik and Pi. Out go Horse& Jockey and Oddest.

Salford's Crescent drops out of this year's Guide but another old favourite the KIng's Arms is back in. The Eagle is another new entry. The Mark Addy and New Oxford stay in from last year. The Racecourse and Star drop out.

Tameside is good for an ale crawl with Hyde, Mossley and Stalybridge each having four entries. In Hyde - Cheshire Ring, Godley hall (new), Queen's Inn and Sportsman. Mossley has Britannia, Commercial (new), Dysarts and the Rising Sun, while Stalyvegas has the Society Rooms (new), Labour Club (new), Refreshment Rooms and the White House.

They've reorganised the Sheffield entries, creating a new Kelham Island section featuring Fat Cat, Harlequin, Kelham Island Tavern, Riverside, Shakespeares, Ship Inn, and Wellington. Most of these pubs used to be in the central section which now features the Bath, Dev Cat, Henry's, Hop (a newie), Old House, Red Deer, Rutland, Sheff Tap. A newie in Shef South is the splendid Broadfield, ex-student grothole now very nice for food and ales. The best pub in Sheffield, the Sheaf, is still in the south section.

Loads of changes in York with some great pubs dropping out, such as the Golden Ball, Three Legged Mare and Blue Bell. Guy Fawkes and Rook&Gaskell are also out. In come Old White Swan, Pivni, Snickleway, Volunteer and York Tap, joining regulars Brigantes, Maltings, Minster, Phoenix, Slip, Swan and Waggon&Horses.

In Wakefield, new entries are an old favourite, Henry Boons, plus the Inns of Court. Regulars are Alverthorpe, Black Rock, Bull and Fairhouse, Fernandes, Harry's, Hop and Red Shed

PS Goose Eye is near Oakworth. The Turkey Inn is the entry - looks a corker.

The final 16 for Camra pub of the year have been chosen - Wales' champ is the Albion, see below. Yorkshire's is the Old No7, in Barnsley, decent but not spectacular. The Baum in Rochdale, reigning national champ, is Greater Manc pub of the year again And the national winner is Lanc-y pub Swan With Two Necks, Pendleton.


HYLDA BAKER: I speak without fear of contraception - you’re sat sitting there supping while we should be going to Blackpool hallucinations.

BARNSTONEWORTH: Yorkshire Premier League 1922: Haggerty F, Haggerty R,Tompkins, Noble, Carrick, Robson, Crapper, Dewhurst, MacIntyre, Treadmore,Davitt.

Where were the northern beers in the list of Great British Beer Festival winners in 2006? Were the judges all from Chiddingfold-on-Sea and used to watery, headless brews? Here's THE 10 best breweries.


BOWLING GREEN, OTLEY: Stuffed snarling badgers, gas masks and a skeleton were among the 3,500 items inside. The landlord, Trevor, was a rather forbidding character. It looked like you had to pull a thorn from his paw to get on with him.

NELL BRYDEN: She called me sweety when I bought her CD off her. I don't think anyone's called me sweety before - mind you I was dressed as a Mars Bar at the time.

TED CHIPPINGTON: Walking down the road the other day, this bloke came up to me and said: 'Can you tell me how far is to the railway station?’ I said: (gruff voice): ‘One mile.’ He said: (gruff voice) ‘One mile?’ I said: (gruff voice) ‘One mile - roughly speaking.’

CUD: Was Carl's voice up for it? Would new guitarist Felix fill the considerable boots (Hey Boots!) of the assistant headteacher from Tadcaster? Would the band gel like the greasiest Ted? Yes, yes and yes! Carl bellowed like a moose, holding a note like Pavarotti. Felix is the indie Jimi Hendrix and the band were tighter than a gnat's chuff.

DOCK PUDDING: People flocked to Cragg Vale to taste Doris Hirst’s championship winning pudding

ROBERT ELMS: Ludicrous clotheshorse

THE FALL: A member of the opening act assaulted Smith with a half-eaten banana and the band played on while MES chased the banana-assassin into the parking lot, where a scuffle ensued.

GOOD BEER GUIDE HIGHLIGHTSForget all the other pub guides - unless you want to take your granny for Sunday lunch in an unbearably twee Cotswold village where they rethatched the roofs in 1973.Includes pubs in west Yorkshire, west Lancashire, Manchester, Sheffield and York.

There used to be/Detonations on the telly/It was Grav discussing rugby
There used to be/From the radio great warmth surging/Grav conversing.

VAL GUEST: He hated Arthur Askey, but he made his directing debut with him in Miss London Ltd, about an escort agency. It probably wasn't that kind of agency,although, you never know - "A handjob Arthur?" "Well stone me!"

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT: I went to see the Bootleg Beatles as the bootleg Mark Chapman

HUDDERSFIELD: Pubs, trains, beer, buildings (see index)

LEEDS: Britain's most overrated city is just Wakefield with delusions of grandeur and good PR.

JEFFREY LEWIS: He says he's not even a glass half-empty person, he's glass half-full - half-full of nothing. There's also some delightful rhymes - on one song about a dead pig he sings: "He's called Jonathan or Jason/It depends which way he's facin'"

LORD OF THE RINGS: It's all completely huourless and is desperately in need of Brian Blessed SHOUTING LIKE HE DID IN FLASH GORDON. "HAWKMEN,DIIIIIIVE!" (When he was in his patrol car in Z Cars did he shout: "POLICEMAN, DRIIIIIVE!"?)

MARBLE GINGER It’s ‘gingier’ than Liverpool supersub David Fairclough in a carrot-top love-in with Tori Amos

STERLING MORRISON: Interviewer:Is New Wave rock 'n' roll or is it folk?Morrison: I'm afraid it's folk singing and this pains me.

CHIC MURRAY: It was raining cats and dogs. I stepped into a poodle.

NORTHERN FILM LOCATIONS:Hell is a City - Grim Up North Noir with Stanley Baker as a copper so hard-boiled he's been left in the pan for a week.Everyone smokes. Trains stop at GMEX.Levenshulme, East Didsbury, Huddersfield, Medlock, Burnage, Withington andOldham are the other locations.A Kind of Loving - Alan Bates throws up on Thora Hird's carpet. Thora, in Dame Edna glasses, calls him a pig. Steep park where he gets Thora's daughter pregnant is in north Manchester, also Preston, Stockport, Salford.

ERIC OLTHWAITE: It were always raining in Denley Moor, except on days when it were fine; and there weren't many of those - not if you include drizzle as rain. And even if it weren't drizzling, it were overcast and there were a lot of moisture in the air. You'd come home as though it had been raining, even though there had been no evidence of precipitation in the rain gauge outside the town hall.

PIES: There’s been a run on Hofmann’s “growlers” since he won the World Cup of pies

REAL ALE TWATS:'I'm remindful of The Lamb and Tuppence in Pontypridd, a splendid little pub which serves Bishop's Gleet'

JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH: Go caravanning in Dyfed or Clwyd/Order a pizza and get it delivered/ How to be happy in a sad, sad world

SOUTH PENNINE DAY RANGER EXCURSION Emley Moor mast follows you round like Mona Lisa's eyes

EDDIE WARING A choirboy Kaiser Chief sang at his funeral

To someone who’s ugly:Who knitted thi face an dropped a stitch?
To someone with a terrible memory:It’s a good job thi balls are in a bag


Fancy a pub crawl along the Yorkshire Tour de France route? Here's a guide in my magazine, Barmcake.

Barmcake provides northern entertainment for the middle-aged. I feel there is nothing out there to cater for a man or woman of a certain age who likes particular music, comedy, pubs, plays, exhibitions and books.

I was fed up of reading free mags with editorial dumped in with no attempt to attract the reader. I wanted to bring together all the interesting stuff on performers and venues’ websites, some of it well-known, some of it not, add interviews and striking photographs, and write features that can’t be read anywhere else.

I also wanted to attract readers who live, say, in Leeds, and travel to shows in Manchester and Sheffield. It’s not as if the cities are 200 miles away from each other, yet websites and magazines tend to stick to their patches.

I didn’t want all this to be lost on yet another website, cluttered with links and dowdy Google keyword headlines. I didn’t want the articles to appear in an over-designed, sub-NME magazine, with acres of six-point text you have to squint at, or in the sort of lifestyle mag I saw recently, where the main feature was a youth reviewing his breakfast.

To find out more go to Barmcake magazine

Click on pages to read.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


You could say Rik Mayall only shouted and pulled faces - but what shouting, what faces!

He was a naturally funny comedian who made you laugh as soon as you saw him: he deserves to be mentioned alongside greats such as Tommy Cooper.

Rik was like a human cartoon character, pulling exaggerated expressions and stealing almost every scene he was in - even alongside great actors/characters in the Young Ones and Blackadder.

His work in the Young Ones and Dangerous Brothers was thrilling and often unexpected, while he played a more bit part role in the Comic Strip - his David Coverdale-esque, fruity voice in Bad News was probably his finest moment in that series.

For me, the Kevin Turvey sketches were among his best work and are perhaps overlooked now - the expressions, the silly wordplay (Kevin's 'ere/ear) and the silly voice.


Kevin Turvey:

Young Ones: People's Poet

Edinburgh Festival reviews: Tony Law, Bridget Christie, Ben Verth, Rodney Bewes, Otto Kuhnle

Sept 12: I haven’t been to the Edinburgh Festival for at least 15 years and I’d forgotten how wonderful it is.

I love the trawl through the huge programme, the planning of a schedule that will let you see as much as possible in two days, the unexpected delight of a comedian you’ve never heard of, and the city itself with its beautiful austere buildings and steep climbs.

Me and Mrs O managed five shows in all which was just about enough when you factor in booze, food and the need of a sit-down in a pub or cafe after all the walking.

I wanted to see comedians I’d never seen before who had, at least, a half-decent review. We whittled it down to Tony Law, pictured, and Bridget Christie (mainly because Stewart Lee recommended them in a Guardian article), a Best Of show of music, magic and comedy and Ben Verth.

We were tempted by Barbara Nice (played by the Phoenix Nights actress), Simon Munnery, Michael Redmond, Hanks and Conran and David O’Doherty.

As for theatre we ended up seeing Translunar Paradise and Rodney Bewes reading Dylan Thomas stories.

Tony Law was a wonderfully daft, slightly manic, cartoony fella of indistinct accent. He looked like a children’s presenter who’d been left on a desert island, with his stripy top, braces, silly haircut and pirate-y beard. He told tales of his uncle the dragon in prison and pretended that Ho Chi Minh was in the audience.

Daftness was the theme of Bridget Christie’s act. Her inflatable costume and huge donkey ears are hilarious and Christie uses them in a show which is deliberately and endearingly shambolic - certain themes are pursued and forgotten about. You’ve never seen - or heard - anything like the show’s ending.

Endearingly shambolic may be a bit harsh to describe Rodney Bewes but his show could never be described as slick and polished and you really warmed to him for that.

I was one of about 20 people in a grim lecture hall watching him read Dylan Thomas stories, largely read in an English accent and mostly in a monotone that reminded me of an auctioneer. Bewes occasionally had to consult his script and often stepped forward for asides to the audience. He shouted ‘Bravo!’ at the end of each story and regularly plugged his programmes which he promised to sign, describing himself as a sixties icon.

There were times when he didn’t do justice to the stories but he was always interesting to watch. Next show should be Rodney Bewes: My Story.

Ben Verth is a warm and engaging comic who bases an hour-long show, Alsatian and Chips, on what he was doing on significant days in his life (10,000th day, 5,000th day for example). It’s a great idea and he gets plenty of laughs with his routine on Dr Who fandom, for example.

It’s reminiscent something Daniel Kitson would do, although Verth’s show needed to be shorter and tighter and some material, related to the show’s title for instance, was thrown away.

But he was better than most of the identikit, slick young things on BBC3’s Edinburgh show, some of whom looked as though they were getting TV exposure after only their third or fourth gig.

The highlight of Best of the Fest was Otto Kuhnle, a German fella who looks a bit like Jacques Tati and reminded me of Tommy Cooper with his silly tricks and bagpipe impressions.

Translunar Paradise was one of those shows I only see at the Fringe – a play with mime and masks about death and loneliness. Technically good but a bit mannered for my taste and I couldn’t understand what some of the mimes were about.

STEWART LEE: at Sheffield Lyceum
Like a magician who reveals his tricks, I thought Lee’s book (How I Escaped My Certain Fate) about his stand-up routines and the fact and fiction in them would lessen the impact of future shows.

Not at all – it makes him even more intriguing.

For example, the show was being filmed and we were told if we nipped out while he was on, we wouldn’t be allowed back in. Lee started a tale about his dad the cardboard salesman and a woman walked out. He used her exit in his patter, dropping the story about his dad, and the woman came back in 30 seconds later.

Was she a plant? Did his dad really sell cardboard?

Lee later explained that certain bits of the show were true and some made up. But even then you were in doubt.

He kept reviewing parts of the show and never made it easy for himself – ‘grumpily’ and ‘patronisingly’ spurning new fans, ‘agonising’ over easy laughs, saying the show was ‘about nothing’, avoiding easy laughs in a politics section with daft references to Scooby Doo, mocking the trendy young comedians – (the Russells - I think he was really mocking them).

There were shades of Daniel Kitson in the way he almost apologised for cheap gags and easy laughs and Ted Chippington in the way he occasionally spoke in a monotone.

According to Lee, people in the stalls were his real fans while people in the balconies only came because he was on TV. Another clever move which made the stallees feel good and the balconites wishing they were in with the in crowd.

All this works because he has great presence and calm authority – something I particularly remember when I first saw him 20 years ago – as well as superb timing and delivery, and a hilarious, deadpan face. He may be desperate to escape the ‘traditional’ ways of making people laugh but he uses all the techniques of the great comedians.

Apr 11: Billed as a tribute to 50 years of Coronation Street, this is a very funny piss-take of the show by one of its writers, Jonathan Harvey.

The play is centred on Ken and Gail and their disastrous love lives - recurring themes throughout the show's history - and features regular appearances from Corrie greats Ena, Elsie, Hilda, Bet and Raquel.

A cast of five perform 55 characters at breakneck speed and there are some wonderful impressions - Gail's bobbling head and her reassurance to the audience that her latest fella (usually a psycho) is a good bloke, Ken's knack of streeeetching his vowels when he's angry or stressed, and Steve McDonald identified quickly as the bloke who rocks back and forth.

Most of the storylines and chunks of plot are from pre-2000 with some stories condensed into a few words or in case of the recent factory fire - a ballet.

The sets are wonderful too - a curtain with a drawing of a tram knocks down Alan Bradley, while Stephanie Beacham's character sails across the stage in a full-sized cardboard barge.

Inevitably, with so much to cover, some favourite characters are absent - so no Albert Tatlock, Curly, Reg, Mavis, Derek or Betty Turpin.

But it's wonderful stuff and well worth seeing, even if you haven't watched the show for years. In fact it's so good I've started watching Corrie again.

Apr 11: One of the funniest and most original routines I've ever seen was by Kevin McAleer in Edinburgh in the mid-80s - a deadpan comic with a daft slideshow who left huge pauses so you never knew what was coming next.

He's reviving his owls routine in London next month in a 'celebration of alternative comedy of 30 years ago' organised by Stewart Lee (his book reminded me of McAleer).

I saw McAleer in a triple bill with Oscar McLennan, whose act was like something out of a Samuel Beckett play - slightly sinister, full of pauses (again), but absolutely enthralling. Plus Simon Fanshawe - a manic and more conventional comic.

McAleer is back touring again after a stint as a bus driver. He’ll be reviving his owls routine at the At Last The 1981 Show on May 29. A celebration of the alternative comedy of 30 years ago curated by Stewart Lee and Paul Jackson at the Royal Festival Hall featuring Nigel Planer, The Oblivion Boys, Norman Lovett, Alexei Sayle, Arnold Brown, The Frank Chickens and others


I just got a job at a zoo feeding the polar bears. I always inject them with a local anaesthetic before I go into their enclosure. I find that there's safety in numb bears.

Friend of mine worked in a helium factory.
His colleagues spoke highly of him.

Packet of Skittles walked into a bar and says, "I'm the hardest packet of sweets in town. I could have any other packet of sweets in a fight; get me a pint NOW!"
With that, a packet of Hall's eucalyptus sweets walks in, and the packet of Skittles hides behind a chair.
The packet of Hall's sweets orders a pint, drinks it, and walks out, while all the time the packet of Skittles hides behind the chair.
When the packet of Hall's leaves, the barman turns to the packet of Skittles and says, "What was all that about? I thought you said you were the hardest packet of sweets in town?"
"Yeah," replies the packet of Skittles, "But I'm not messing with him; he's menthol."

Why did the scarecrow get the MBE?
He was out standing in his field.

Two Cockney cowboys in the desert. One says to the other "bleedin 'ell mate, I'm starvin! Where can I get some grub round 'ere?"
His pal replies "if you go abaht 2 miles up that way you'll find a bacon tree, grab us a few rashers off the branches an' we'll 'ave a nice fry-up".
Half an hour later the first cowboy returns in a bedraggled state with and arrow in his hat and covered in blood. He looks at his pal and shouts,
"Flippin 'eck you prune, that weren't a bacon tree up there, that was an AMBUSH!"

A chicken walks into a library, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken a book.
The chicken goes to the library the next day, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk! Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken two books.
The chicken goes to the library the day after, too, walks up to the librarian and says "Bkk! Bkk! Bkk!" so the librarian gives the chicken three books.
Intrigued by the chicken, the librarian decides to follow him. She follows the chicken through the town centre to the park and there, at the edge of the lake, she sees the chicken handing books to a frog.
The frog looks at each book in turn before tossing it aside and saying "Reddit! Reddit!"

The world-renowned expert on wasps, their habitat and the sound they make was passing a second hand record shop and on display, in the window, was an old vinyl record entitled ‘The World’s Wasps And The Sound They Make’.
Intrigued he went inside and enquired about the record. The record shop owner asked if he would like to hear a track off the record. ‘Certainly’ said the Prof.
The shop owner put on track 1.
The Prof listened to the track intently and shook his head, ’I am sorry but I don’t recognise any of those wasps at all.
So the shop owner played him track 2, and 3, and 4, and 5.
Always with the same answer’ I just don’t recognise any of these wasps.’
The record shop owner took the disc of the turntable and exclaimed ‘ Ah!, that explains it, why you didn’t recognise any of them. I was playing the bee side.’

I was at the cash pint yesterday and an old lady asked if I wouldn't mind checking her balance - so I pushed her over

A farmer and his wife woke one winter’s morning and noticed all the cows in the field had frozen solid.
Then out of nowhere an old lady appeared over the hill, walked up to each cow and patted them. As she did so, the cows slowly started to come to life.
"Who was that?!" asked the farmer.
"I'm not sure..." said his wife, "... but I think it was Thora Hird."

April 11: I've been thinking about the mechanics of comedy and writing this month, thanks to one thrilling book (Stewart Lee) and two great talks (Davids Peace and Nobbs).

Stewart Lee has written the superb How I Escaped My Certain Fate. I'm a sucker for books about what makes comedians tick and have read umpteen biographies (a lot of which appear to have been adapted for BBC4 dramas). This is the best book I've read about comedy.

Lee may look like someone who would disparage you for not knowing Biff Bang Pow B-sides in alphabetical order and his ferocious sarcasm sometimes takes your breath away, but who can blame him?

I saw him at his first Edinburgh Show in 1994. I thought he was one of the most original and fascinating comedians I'd seen - his slow pace and quiet delivery left me on tenterhooks. So it was a real shock to discover in his book that he gave up stand-up in 2001 as he was failing to make any money from his many live shows and Tv appearances.

Lee got some success from Jerry Springer the Opera (which was praised by the mainstream Catholic press) but was then scuppered by a relatively small group which takes pride in judging others.

Then he fell ill and had to undergo some rather intrusive surgery, outlined in the book and on stage.

So who can blame him for being so bitter. But he is remarkably restrained about all of this and the book is not a self-pitying rant, rather a transcript of three shows with previews of each show and footnotes so large they sometimes take up a page or more.

Tony Hancock's comic career supposedly nosedived when he started to analyse what made him funny, but Lee is such an intelligent and funny writer that his analysis really helps his comedy.

It's fascinating to learn how he chose a particular line and his comments on whether something works or not. He gives due credit to people like Simon Munnery and Ted Chippington for inspiring him and it's great to see people like Kevin McAleer and Oscar McLennan mentioned too. I saw both in the mid-80s and I've never seen anything like them before or since.

Lee is careful to point out what's true and what's not true in his act. He has a routine about Joe Pasquale using a joke invented by Michael Redmond, a deadpan moustachioed comedian, best known for being Father Stone in Father Ted (and a lovely friendly fella at my sixth and final stand-up try-out in 1986).

But interestingly, as Lee reveals in the book, he introduces the Pasquale story by slightly changing a true incident. A nurse involved in Lee's endoscopy tells him: 'You don't look like a comedian...a comedian makes you want to laugh as soon as you look at them like Joe Pasquale'. The nurse actually said Tommy Cooper but Lee writes in his footnotes: 'I didn't have a bit about Tommy Cooper'. (Routine below)

I was reminded about truth and fiction when I went to see David Peace during the Huddersfield Literature Festival. He read from his novels based on true events - the miners' strike (G84) and Leeds United and Brian Clough (The Damned United).

Like Lee, Peace repeats words and phrases to build up a rhythm. And, like Lee, his prose comes alive when read aloud.

Answering questions from festival director Michael Stewart and the audience, Peace came across as intelligent, funny and caring (about how real people are treated in his novels for example).

To sum up:

After the third of his Tokyo novels, he intends to write a novel about Harold Wilson and the Huddersfield Town team who won the league title in the 1920s and then a novel about Geoffrey Boycott.

He thought the first Red Riding TV show was better than the first Red Riding book but didn't like the portrayal of Don Revie in the film adaptation of The Damned United.

He moved back from Japan to Yorkshire because his mum was ill.

He feels publishers and agents should look beyond creative writing graduates.

Also at the excellent Literature Festival was David Nobbs. A lovely man - funny about others and himself. He started as a journalist and a misprint was in his first story.

His first gag appeared on That Was The Week That Was after he rang David Frost with an idea and Frost sent over a taxi so Nobbs could talk to him.

Nobbs, who wrote for Les Dawson among others, said Dawson was a lovely man and remembered one of his favourite routines where Dawson was immersed in a tank of water in bagpipes and a kilt - Jock Cousteau.

Feb 11: A corking line-up for this year's Huddersfield Literature Festival - David Peace, Simon Armitage, AL Kennedy, Melvin Burgess and David Nobbs.

Nobbs is best known for Reggie Perrin, but also wrote for Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd, among others. He's also a terrific Tweeter.

A Bit of a Do with David Nobbs is at the Byram Arcade on March 20, 4pm £8/£6 concessions. This is a Tea Party and the price includes refreshments.

The theme of the festival this year is adaptation. There's a specially commissioned film of a Simon Armitage poem alongside his event, at Huddersfield University, Creative Arts Building, Phipps Hall, March 19, 8pm £8/£6 concessions, as well as a number of specially commissioned song adaptations from a variety of poets.

David Peace is in conversation at Huddersfield University, Creative Arts Building, Phipps Hall on March 17, 9pm £8/£6 concessions.

For other events, see Lit Fest website

At last the full version of one of Les Dawson's best routines is on YouTube. A corny joke wonderfully told - great faces, great timing, great delivery, even the corpsing, which can be annoying, is funny.   JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH REVIEW - HUDDERSFIELD Nov 10: I always thought John Shuttleworth was one of those comedy characters who was naturally funny, so it didn't particular matter about new material - every oof, tut, speccy squint, mention of reservoirs and two margarines was enough. Well that theory was severely tested at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, in Huddersfield. For while this was a funny night which attracted more laughs and applause than most live or TV shows, Shuttleworth's creator Graham Fellows was not firing on all cylinders and seemed to be a bit distracted at times, with the sound and with his lines, and relied too much on old material. It was a step back in time to shows of the nineties where there were more songs and speeches, no other characters (they were promised in the preview) and no overriding theme. The show was called No More Rolls, thanks to a Ken Worthington blunder - it should have been No Morals and an outline of John juggling rolls in a Blue Note jazz style was the backdrop. But apart from a mention of how the emergence of the bap had seen off the roll and 'peter bread', this theme never really took off. In a short first half of 35 minutes, John was just warming up when the interval came. There had been a couple of awkward pauses and Austin Ambassador, an encore song, unusually appeared in the first half as though he was trying to get the audience going (he didn't have to, they loved it). The phone conversations with Mary and Ken didn't really work - too loud and slightly out of time. This was still an enjoyable night - the mention of how Vim was hidden so children wouldn't confuse it with a kaleidoscope was a highlight. But it could have done with an appearance from Goole builder Dave to break things up. It's still early in the tour so perhaps Graham is feeling his way a bit with the show or likes to shake it up a bit every night. But for people who give a laugh of recognition when they hear the phrases Dronfield by-pass and Oughterbridge Library, perhaps he should have been a little more adventurous in Huddersfield.   OOOFF! JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH'S NEW TOUR Jul 10: A Man With No More Rolls is coming to Huddersfield (Lawrence Batley, November 15), Wakefield (Theatre Royal, November 17), Manchester (Dancehouse, November 26/27), Barnsley Civic (December 11). There's a tryout in York City Screen on October 27 and a gig in Sheffield next March. Here'a a preview of his show: John decides it's time to instruct the nation in moral matters. Well, he would have done, if next door neighbour and sole agent Ken Worthington hadn’t mistyped the show's title, turning 'morals' into 'more rolls'. John's reaction to this mishap is philosophical. At least now his new show won't consider the nation's moral decline, but the vast range of exotic breads appearing in the high street, as the humble roll fades into obscurity. Paninis, ciabattas, pittas, plus the peshwari naan which John recently enjoyed a bite of ("It absolutely blew me away"), inspiring his exciting new ballad: How's your nan? "How's your nan? How's your nan?" is more pressing a question than Finding out about the state of an unleavened bread - that's what said "How's your nan? How's your nan?" Better find out while you can Go and see her before you hear she's dead! Also, in Get the Volvo,Val, John will re-examine the tragic 'moral' tale of Eric Blackburn ("no relation to the DJ") who crashed his hang glider 15 years ago on the Derbyshire moors. As well as these and other new songs, expect old favourites like 2 Margarines, Eggs and Gammon, and I Can't Go Back To Savoury Now hammered out on John's trusty Yamaha keyboard. Also, special guests - the concreter from Goole, Dave Tordoff and misanthropic Midlands media lecturer, Brian Appleton. FRANK SIDEBOTTOM/CHRIS SIEVEY RIP Jun 10: It was a real shock to hear of Chris Sievey/Frank Sidebottom's death. He was a truly original and funny comedian. Until a few days ago, he was sounding quite chipper on Twitter about his cancer. The first lot of treatment was going well and he was planning gigs and Timperley tours as he marked 25 years as a 'semi-professional' performer. But over the past few days he complained about feeling poorly and on June 21 he collapsed at home and died shortly afterwards. He was 54. I first saw Frank about 20 years at the St Helens Citadel, funnily enough about the time of another World Cup, and Frank had produced a Roger Milla puppet in honour of the Cameroon star of the 1990 tournament. Frank was one of those comedians, like John Shuttleworth and Ted Chippington, who was deliberately amateurish and shambolic. If you found this funny, then almost everything he did was funny and his regular songs and catchphrases never became tiresome. Of course, if you found this irritating, you'd never get him. I think he particularly appealed to a northern sense of humour with his silliness. His LPs and TV shows were patchy but he was at best live. He had the ability to reduce every song, from I Should Be So Lucky to Anarchy in the UK, to some knock-kneed cheesy pub singalong. Then there was his use and abuse of his puppet Little Frank, his honking Manchester voice, the way he ended every song with 'You know it did, it really did', his hands-on-hips poses and his fibreglass head - like an overgrown schoolboy with his hair combed by his mum. And there were also the football and Timperley references - Wild Thing In Timperley, Timperley Sunset, Born In Timperley, Je T'aime Wild Thing In Timperley, Last Train To Timperley, Timperley 909 1909, Oh Timperley and this one, Mull of Timperley: There's a campaign to get Frank's new World Cup song Three Shirts On My Line to number one. Yes! (From one of his last performances) A fundraising campaign to pay for his funeral raised over £20 grand. It will also help pay for Frank's Fantastic Send-off' which is at Castlefield Arena, Manchester, on July 8, from 7pm. Videos, guests, tears and laughter promised. RIP Frank/Chris THE FUNNIEST THING EVER? Jun 10: I've always loved Beaker from the Muppets - the boggly eyes and expression of panic - but I've never heard him sing. But here he is with two of my other favourite Muppets, Swedish Chef and Animal. Beaker's sideward glances and squeeking are hilarious. SAD NEWS ABOUT FRANK SIDEBOTTOM AND THE LANCASHIRE HOTPOTS May 10: Is it wrong to smile about someone's name even when they've died? Willie Eckerslike of the Lancashire Hotpots has passed away suddenly. I'm sorry, it's such a great name and the drummer's brought a lot of pleasure with his band. His real name was Tom McGrath. RIP Tom. It's not quite so serious for Frank, although he has got cancer - a tumour in his chest. He told the Manchester Evening News, in character as Frank: "I am OK and I am going to be OK. It is just bobbins. I have had worse. I had a cold over Christmas and that was worse. "I have not seen any photos of the tumour but it has got smooth hair like me." He'll get better, you know he will, he really will. PS Frank has painted a picture of himself bald/post-chemo to raise money for cancer charities. Bald Frank BRIAN GLOVER AND OTHER GREAT WRESTLERS Mar 10: The news that Sheffield United used the football match from Kes as a team-bonding exercise reminded me what a great comic actor Brian Glover was. He had a hard man's face, but you could never take him seriously because his features were so mobile. He also had a honking Yorkshire voice, like a Dalek from Barnsley. But he was also a great physical comedian. Before he became an actor, he was wrestler Leon Arris, 'the man from Paris', something I discovered on the two superb Best of ITV Wrestling DVDs. 'Arris' takes on Les Kellet, another comic Yorkshire wrestler but, according to his contemporaries, a genuine hardman. He's got an unwavering stare. You wouldn't mess with him. Other treats on the DVds are Mick McManus - Max Wall with boot polish hair - and Giant Haystacks, lolling in the corner, scowling at the audience and squashing opponents. BRILLIANT IMPRESSIONIST 1 Feb 10: Only 15 months after it first appeared on YouTube I've discovered Darren Farley, who does fantastic impressions of Rafa Benitez, Stevie Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen. You don't have to like football to find them funny. BRILLIANT IMPRESSIONIST 2 Feb 10: Another Liverpool connection, Peter Serafinowicz's take on The Beatles. His new DVD's just out but he's a joy on Twitter, coming up with jokes from people's suggestions: French slang for drug addict: Craque Monsieur. Just got a checkbook from my sperm bank, but the pages are all stuck together Psychopath (n): the walkway leading to Anthony Perkins' house I only ever drink champagne made by orphans in an orphanage: Orphagne Online playing World of Woodcraft. Making some level 3 bookends. DON'T LET THE FAUNTLEROYS BACK IN! Jan 10: An amusing site has been set up spoofing David Cameron's earnest and pompous billboard ads. SuperDave has had an easy ride so far - most of the media swallowing his line about public service cuts being the only way to reduce the 'huge debt', with scant mention of the City who got us into this mess in the first place. (Incidentally when did Britain have a small debt? We've only just paid off our WW2 loan to the Yanks!) You get the feeling the Tories are desperate to hack away at vital public services, decentralise and leave a lot of government to private companies, forgetting it was government that saved the economy by stabilising the banks. You also get the feeling some of the public, especially the 'not interested in politics' morons, think it's an X Factor contest and Gordon shouldn't win for being grouchy and awkward in public. DANIEL KITSON - A COMEDY GREAT Nov 09: Frankie Howerd’s pals used to say that because of the way he looked and acted, he couldn’t have been anything else but a comedian. You could say the same thing about Daniel Kitson. Both have wonderful, expressive faces, great delivery and timing, and Daniel, like Frankie, deserves to be regarded as one of our greatest comedians. As Daniel admits in his new show We Are Gathered Here, which I saw at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, he’s never had a 9-5 office job. He’s only 32 but he must have been performing at least half his life. After leaving Shelley College, near Huddersfield, he went to study drama at university. Unlike Frankie, however, Daniel’s shows cover a wide range of subjects from intense meaning-of-life philosophising to throwaway gags about pooing. The theme of this show is death, in particular the deaths of his aunt and his great aunt, but like previous shows I’ve seen, It’s The Fireworks Talking and The Impotent Fury of the Privileged, it wheels off into all sorts of topics, from stuffing your face with cake to the beauty of everyday objects. Death’s a risky theme for a comedy show – too serious and it becomes a lecture, too jokey and it’s flippant and distasteful. Daniel gets it just right. A section about cheering up his dying great aunt in her hospital bed is leavened with the admission that he strutted out of the ward because he felt he’d conquered ‘a tough gig’. This bigging up then mocking himself is a key part of what makes Daniel such a likeable character and good comic. His hilarious confessions about his gluttony, fear of the dark and his family make the more serious parts of the show - about how we’ll be remembered when we’re gone and what is important to us - so compelling. His winning personality also lifts the observational stuff – longing to be a pub quiz expert but only getting 7/10 on his specialist subject Daniel Kitson – beyond the usual rat-a-rat of the nice but bland Michael McIntyre-types. And you know Daniel’s got soul, unlike nasty RoboMonkhouse Jimmy Carr. Daniel’s got passion and unflinching honesty - confessing to wanking in his face twice and once in a fire (only one was deliberate) or how eating ice cream in Scarborough reminds him of his late aunt. For a man who doesn’t seem to do interviews anymore, perhaps to preserve his privacy, he doesn’t appear to hold anything back. He’s got three shows on the go at the moment but still no DVDs. Meanwhile his nemesis Peter Kay (who calls Daniel a bastard on the commentary to Phoenix Nights) is churning out DVDs of ever diminishing quality. I went right off Kay when one of his security goons accused me of filming a Kay gig I was at in Sheffield and wouldn’t let me in until my mates kicked up a stink with the management. I know which side I’m on. Carry on Daniel. Here's a rare video clip Here's his website NEW REAL ALE TWATS! Oct 09: Tankards of Dunkerton's Owld Hen Dancer all round! Taken from norbet1's Flickr site and also, of course, originally in Viz. For more Real Ale Twats, see below. Click here to see full size HITLER'S REACTION TO OASIS SPLIT Sept 09:Another Downfall spoof, but one of the best. COMIC STRIP Jun 09: I'm on a bit of a nostalgia trip with box sets at the moment. After Absolutely it's the Comic Strip - another programme that I was desperate to like in the eighties, but now I find it's even patchier than Absolutely. Out of 39 episodes, made between 1982 and 1993 (plus one each from 1998 and 2000), only a handful are worth watching again - Five Go Mad in Dorset, Bad News Tour, Dirty Movie, A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques, Eddie Monsoon, The Strike, South Atlantic Raiders and GLC. Although well-acted by a likeable cast and beautifully shot, the scripts just aren't funny enough and when they do try to do drama, it's forgettable. Their most famous episode, Five Go Mad, has lost some of its shock value (Famous Five with sexual overtones, gasp) that it had when it was first broadcast, so spaghetti western spoof A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques is the most consistently funny episode now. I used to think Rik Mayall was the funniest but he rarely takes a main part and it's Ade Edmondson who steals the shows for me. Dawn French is astonishingly beautiful. "I'm a matador" from A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques Bad News Tour (first part) ABSOLUTELY...PATCHY (BUT JOHN SPARKES IS STILL BRILLIANT) May 09: I bought the Absolutely box set last year and I have to admit it's been a real struggle getting through all eight discs. The genius of John Sparkes still shines and although all the other comedians are likeable and talented, the sketches are often overlong with too many irritating characters. The show ran for four series on Channel 4 from 1989 to 1993. It shared some of the wackiness of Monty Python and was definitely a forerunner of such things as The Fast Show and Catherine Tate. I mentioned John Sparkes when I first started this blog. He's a brilliant all-round comedian - superb characters, great voices, cracking timing and some great physical stuff. He should have been as big as Steve Coogan or Harry Enfield. Here are three of his best bits from the show. Denzil: based on a shed-building neighbour from Sparkes' youth (for other Denzil stuff, see John Sparkes section) Frank Hovis: Sings at Stonybridge Council's Christmas Party. Don't have any drink in your mouth when he starts singing, you'll be laughing so much it'll come out through your nose Old Man: Albert Bastard, later known as Mr Ffff in Sparkes' Barry Welsh show. Original use of the word clematis. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (MY FIRST PUBLISHED STORY) Feb 09: I've been a journo for 20 years but I must have been writing stories, sketches and lyrics for 30 years - and now I've finally got something fictional published (yes all my journalism has been truthful, even the wrestling reviews!). My story, The Magnificent Seven, is part of Rainy City Stories. It's a website featuring established authors such as Jackie Kay and amateurs like me and is part funded by the Arts Council. Its brief is to choose a Greater Manc location and write about it. I know, it's not an actual book, but come on, I'm writing a flaming blog here so I'm not complaining! I've written kids' stories for fellow kids, cartoons about crap superheroes at school, a farce for the BBC in my mid-teen years (Richard Waring, writer of Robin's Nest, thought it was awful - he was right), lyrics in a band, sketches at uni, an episode of Dangermouse at the end of uni (they asked me to write an episode of Count Duckula - I did a Daffy Duck squashed beak story, knock back), sketches for Spitting Image also in my early 20s (they asked me to submit more sketches - but knock back), stuff for Private Eye (knock back but nice letter from Hislop), sketches for a youth theatre and umpteen short stories at creative writing classes around the country. This story is about a man who approaches another man in the Hare and Hounds pub and asks him to name the Magnificent Seven. This bit is true, the rest is fiction. The story was buzzing in my head for weeks before I knocked it off in one go late at night.
  • Here's the story
  • JACK DOUGLAS Waay-aaaaaah! June 08: When you consider the stars of the Carry On films, Jack Douglas seems to be low down on the list. But is there anything funnier than a tall man with a bowlie haircut and NHS glasses who appears to be pulled backwards by an invisible puppeteer while shouting 'Way-aaaaah'? I was discussing Jack with Richard, King of Otley and we were trying to remember the scene where he walks into a hotel and walks out again in a blaze of twitchy nonsense (it was Carry On Girls). We couldn't find that clip but here's a few others: Classic twitching: Carry On Banging - a brilliant pastiche by Harry Enfield - double entendres galore with Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Connor and Jack Opening scene of Carry On Abroad - twitching, relentless entendres and Watneys Red Barrel TOMMY COOPER JOKES Mar 08: Two aerials meet on a roof, fall in love, get married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant. 'Doctor, I can't stop singing the Green Green Grass of Home. 'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'. 'Is it common?' 'It's not unusual.' Now, most dentist's chairs go up and down, don't they? The one I was in went back and forwards. I thought: 'This is unusual.' And the dentist said to me: 'Mr Cooper, get out of the filing cabinet. ' A man goes into the doctors. The doctor says, 'Go over to the window and stick your tongue out.' Man says: 'Why?' The doctor says: 'I don't like my neighbours' A man walks into a pub with a lump of asphalt on his shoulder. He says to the barman: 'Give us a pint and one for the road.' Two fish in a tank, one says to the other: 'You drive, I'll man the guns.' I bought some HP sauce the other day. It's costing me 6p a month for the next two years. Went to the corner shop - bought four corners Picture: Me Flickr site
  • More Cooper jokes
  • REAL ALE TWATS Oct 07: A bit of shameless copying from Viz and other blogs. I'd only ever seen the first strip - where our three heroes are wrongly sent to the Murderers Arms by the Good Beer Guide. The other two strips are equally as good - the man tits, the food sprayed into the beard, the verbose jollity, the photographic memory with anal attention to detail of pubs and beers, and the silly beer names. 'I'm remindful of The Lamb and Tuppence in Pontypridd, a splendid little pub which serves Bishop's Gleet' 'It is redolent of the Brakspear's Full Nog I imbibed at the Spiller's Arms in Holme Lacey in September 88. The landlord, a spledndid fellow called Colin, was good enough to show me round his cellar' Click on strips to see bigger versions I spotted this in
  • Stonch's beer blog
  • Good stuff about London pubs on here JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH We see Betty Turpin only when she's workin' June 07: In the words of 500 Bus Stops - Let's make Shuttleworth chart-bound - for John is releasing an EP (extra portions) featuring I Can't Go Back to Savoury Now, about the dilemma of starting on your pudding then being offered a tasty main course, and Two Margarines, about the irritation of finding two open margarines in the fridge - OOFFF! Here's a chance to hear all four tracks
  • Buy John's EP!
  • And a chance to see a video: Other tunes:
  • Campuccino
  • Mary's Hair Songs by Sunset 1 Songs by Sunset 2 We took the children on a day-out to see a horse in a field but it wasn't there. "Them Druids were cowboys. Here I am putting a proper finish to Stonehenge at last!" Source:
  • The Official John Shuttleworth Internet Drop-In Centre
  • ROD HULL - COMEDY GENIUS A recent 'best of' comedy show featured a violent Rod Hull and Emu attack at a Royal Variety Show (not the Queen, some forgotten sitcom star). I must admit the attacks were the least funniest thing about the shaggy bird, it was the moment before - the beaking (as the lovely P calls it) - when Emu's top beak scrunched up into a snarl. There's some classic beaking on these YouTube clips and Rod also manages to produce a variety of hilarious expressions - laughter, fury, weeping from the big-eyed puppet. The late Rod - a massive star in the 70s - is now largely forgotten apart from the attack on that pompous, dreary, professional Yorkshireman Parky. Beak on you crazy puppet Emu and the Beanstalk (no beaking but lots of other funny expressions and violence) Attacks Bill Oddie Humphrey milk adverts (classic beaking!) CHIC MURRAY JOKES Visiting London, Chic was asked by a stranger, "Do you know the Battersea dog's home?" He replied: "I didn't even know it was away." When staying at a Rothesay hotel, there were the usual toast and marmalade (in little round pots) on the breakfast table in the morning. When the landlady came into the room, Chic lifted a tiny pot of honey and said "I see you keep a bee!" I had a tragic childhood. My parents never understood me. They were Japanese. The boat was so old; it must have been launched when Long John Silver had two legs and an egg on his shoulder. It was a pretty posh place. They were so used to fur coats that two bears strolled in and ordered lunch and nobody even noticed. The police stopped me when I was out in my car. They told me it was a spot check. I admitted to two pimples and a boil. I first met my wife in the tunnel of love. She was digging it at the time. It was raining cats and dogs and I fell in a poodle.
  • From Vale of Leven Bowling Club - Ta Rich
  • BASIL BRUSH (OLD SCHOOL) Ha-ha-ha...ha...ha..boom-boom! Been on a 70s nostalgia trip with the lovely P - watching DVDs of Les Dawson, Mick McManus (Best of ITV Wrestling, also includes Brian Glover as Leon Aris) and now Basil Brush - old school moth-eaten Basil Brush of course. As a kid you were never quite sure who Basil Brush was (just like you were never quite sure of the wrestling was fake). Could Mr Roy or Mr Derek have been throwing their voices? The man behind the brush was Ivan Owen who died in 2000 at the age of 73. Basil was made by Bagpuss and Clangers supremo Peter Firmin in 1963, supposedly based on Terry-Thomas (hence the gap tooth) and Basil's voice reminds me a bit of Terry-Thomas and Tony Hancock. Basil first appeared with two other puppets and then with bald magician David Nixon (who looked like my Uncle Alan) before getting his own show in 1970. Owen also operated Basil, although apart from his tail and mouth he didn't move much. It was his face and voice that made him funny and the timing was spot on. I always laugh at the bit where Basil says "Yes, yes" as he tries to follow Mr Derek/Roy's story. On the Best of..compilation there's plenty of this but sadly no examples of Basil laughing his head back and then stopping: "Ha-ha-ha....ha....ha..." The jokes are corny,recycled (one about a guitarist having a lot of pluck is used twice in the compilation)and surprisingly saucy - in a Robin Hood sketch, Basil is introduced to his merry men including Maid Marian and flinches from her bosoms! I'd also forgotten his singing turns. There's a quite astonishing sketch of Basil duetting with Demis Roussos in which Basil almost matches him note for note! Mr Roy and Mr Derek are featured on the compilation and also Mr Howard who I couldn't remember at all. Mr Derek (Fowlds) has done best out of the assistants with Yes Minister and Heartbeat but Mr Roy (North), who has an alarming bowl haircut in Basil Brush, is still getting bit parts on TV and didn't go down the porn route as I thought he might. There were also Mr Rodney (Bewes, Likely Lads) and Mr Billy (Dainty, EastEnders). The show ended in 1981 supposedly because Owen wanted to do a more adult show. He had his wish when he appeared on Fantasy Football shortly before he died (and appeared to be pissed). In between he appeared on Crackerjack with Stu 'Crush a Grape' Francis in the 80s and some other shows but he never regained his 70s popularity when he was opening supermarkets. Owen wanted to remain anonymous because he didn't want to distract from the character. He knew that a new series was being planned before he died. I've never seen it but the new Basil is apparently just not the same.
  • Basil story - BBC clip
  • Pic: BBC. Some info: BBC, Guardian, Wikipedia   FATHER TED FEST Feb 2007: A Father Ted Festival (featuring a Lovely Girls Contest, a Hide A Nun and Seek event and Buckeroo Speed Dating) has given me an excuse to list some of my favourite bits from the show: Down with that sort of thing! Careful now! (Ted and Dougal's half-hearted attempts to protest about a filum) Father Ted (judging the Lovely Girls contest): Hasn't Imelda got a lovely bottom? Organiser frantically whispers in Ted's ear. Ted: Sorry, they ALL have lovely bottoms. (Same episode) Ted and Dougal looking at a music mag with words Clit Power on front. Ted: Clit Power? What does that mean? I knew a Father Clint Power I wonder if it's about him. Ted: The Chinese, a great bunch of lads (Same episode) Parishioner to Ted: I hear you're a racist now Father. How did you get into that? Mrs Doyle: Now come on Father, what would you say to a nice cup of tea? Jack: FECK OFF CUP!!!!!! Father Jack (on best behaviour): That would be an ecuminical matter Father Jack (ectastic): I love moi brick! Father Jack (dreaming of being judge at wet T-shirt contest): More water! Old Grey Whistle Theft episode: Four page whistle special in local paper Father Ted: Dougal, Dougal, do you remember Sister Assumpta? Father Dougal: Er, no. Father Ted: She was here last year! And then we stayed with her in the convent, back in Kildare. Do you remember it? Ah, you do! And then you were hit by the car when you went down to the shops for the paper. You must remember all that? And then you won a hundred pounds with your lottery card? Ah, you must remember it, Dougal! [Dougal shakes his head] Sister Assumpta: And weren't you accidentally arrested for shoplifting? I remember we had to go down to the police station to get you!... And the police station went on fire? And you had to be rescued by helicopter? Father Ted: Do you remember? You can't remember any of that? The helicopter! When you fell out of the helicopter! Over the zoo! Do you remember the tigers? [Dougal shakes his head some more] Father Ted: You don't remember? You were wearing your blue jumper. Father Dougal: Ah, Sister Assumpta! My lovely horse, running through the field, Where are you going with your fetlocks blowing in the wind? I want to shower you with sugarlumps, And ride you over fences, Polish your hooves every single day, And bring you to the horse dentist. Pic from Friends of Ted
  • My Lovely horse - the video
  •   CORNY JOKES Nov 2006: Batman came up to me and he hit me over the head with a vase and he went T'PAU! I said "Don't you mean KAPOW?? He said "No, I've got china in my hand." I went to buy a watch, and the man in the shop said "Analogue?" I said "No, just a watch." I went into a shop and I said, "Can someone sell me a kettle." The bloke said "Kenwood" I said, "Where is he?" I was in the jungle and there was this monkey with a tin opener. I said, "You don't need a tin opener to peel a banana." He said, "No, this is for the custard." I told my mum that I'd opened a theatre. She said, "Are you having me on?" I said, "Well I'll give you an audition, but I'm not promising you anything." I phoned the local builders today, I said to them "Can I have skip outside my house?" He said, "I'm not stopping you!" I fancied a game of darts with my mate. He said, "Nearest the bull goes first" He went "Baah" and I went "Moo" He said "You're closest" I met this bloke with a didgeridoo and he was playing Dancing Queen on it. I thought that's Aboriginal. Ho and indeed ho (Cheers Rich) BARNSTONEWORTH LIVES ON - IN OZ Nov 2006: There are no less than four real Barnstoneworth football teams in Australia, named after the team in Ripping Yarns's Golden Gordon, and one of them plays in proper long shorts even, as fans know: "Shorts don't matter, it's what INSIDE them that matters!" Here's a story in The Age newspaper about the Melbourne Barnstoneworth: Newcomers to the Barnstoneworth United Football Club are sometimes puzzled when senior teammates affect Yorkshire accents and mutter, "Useless, useless bastards", or shout "8-1, eight bloody one!" Or, in mock exasperation: "Shorts don't matter!" The phrases are all from the Golden Gordon episode of the classic Michael Palin comedy series Ripping Yarns. Set in 1935, it tells the story of long-suffering Gordon Ottershaw, a loyal fan of Barnstoneworth United, who tries to save his club from the scrapheap. Brian Paterson, a founding member of the Melbourne variation of Barnstoneworth United, said: "Gordon encapsulates a lot of the feelings that sports fans have when their team loses a lot. There's a clear reason for his anger. His tormented soul is being torn inside out." Paterson and a group of friends formed Barnstoneworth in 1990, having heard of a Sydney club that began in 1987. There are now Barnstoneworths in Hobart, Tasmania, Orange, New South Wales and even in Manhattan in the US. So a fictional soccer club created in the late 1970s has turned into an unofficial franchise. But whereas Ottershaw's club was doomed to failure and closure, the Melbourne Barnstoneworth - apart from an 8 bloody 1 thrashing in 2002 - has thrived and are regularly in the top three of their division (Victoria Amateur League, Premier Division). The club wears the red and white vertical strip of the original Barnstoneworth and very long black shorts. Glasgow-born Paterson said: "For the first few seasons, we wore black shorts, 1860s-style, that went down to the knees, or even further. "They were made by chairman Keith Charlesworth's wife because you couldn't buy shorts like that back then. Then basketballers started wearing very long shorts and soon everybody was wearing them. "We still wear long shorts, but not as long. Keith's wife doesn't have to make them any more." Chairman Charlesworth has met Palin at book signings. And what did he write when he signed a copy of his book Pole To Pole? "'Useless, useless bastards'," recalls Charlesworth, smiling proudly.
  • Photo and report from The Age:
  • And here's a reminder of the REAL Barnstoneworth: First team, Yorkshire Premier League 1922: Haggerty F, Haggerty R, Tompkins, Noble, Carrick, Robson, Crapper, Dewhurst, MacIntyre, Treadmore, Davitt. Reserve team, Yorkshire Premier League 1922: Oulton, Roberts, Carter, Sydney K, Tapwell, Mason, Manningham, Bailey, Horswell, Tompkins, O'Grady. Junior team, Yorkshire Premier League 1922: Bunn, Wackett, Buzzard, Stubble, Boot, Borman, Baxter - Golden Gordon (Part 1, 8 bloody 1) Golden Gordon (Part 2: Shorts) TED CHIPPINGTON IS BACK And this time he's a Christian - or is he? JAN 2007 UPDATE: It's Tedmania in the media - front page of Indy 2 section, article in Guardian and feature on BBC2 Culture Show. He was born and now lives in Torquay and gave up first time round cos he was getting too successful - he actually LIKED the confrontation ("Who the fucking hell are you?" "Ted Chippington's me name, told you that before"). Looked slightly nervous on TV as if he couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Indy article claims he didn’t find God in Mexico (even though he says that on his MySpace site and calls himself downbeat and Christian on same site) Oct 2006: Ted Chippington is gigging again, he's got his own MySpace site and he's become the Rev Ted Chippington. And after a few months' delay, his 4 CD box set will be released on February 5, 2007. Ted performed so-bad-they're-good jokes in a deadpan Stokey monotone in the 80s. He used to get heckled terribly at some gigs by some knobheads who didn't get it, but when I saw him at Stafford Poly in 1985 he went down a storm and people were shouting along to the punchlines. It helped that everyone (including Ted) was pissed.
  • Sample jokes:
    Walking down the road the other day, mate came up to me and said: 'How are you feeling Ted?' I said: 'I feel like a horse?' He said: 'Feel like a horse?' I said: 'Ay - Champion.'

  • Walking down the road the other day, bloke came up to me and said 'I've just come back from Nam?' 'What Vietnam?' 'No Cheltenham.'

  • Duck goes into a chemist and says: 'Have you got any chapstick mate?' The chemist says: 'That'll be 54p duck' and the duck says: 'Put it on my bill.'

  • Walking down the road the other day, mate came up to me and said: 'I'm in a dilemma.' I said: 'Ay, good motors Dilemmas.'

  • Walking down the road the other day, this long-haired bloke came up me and said: 'Do you want any grass man?' I said: 'No thanks mate, I've got crazy paving. No room for a garden, I told him.'

  • Knock, knock. Who's there? Reg Gomez. Reg Gomez who? Paul's brother.

  • And the funniest joke ever:
    Walking down the road the other day, bloke came up to me and said: 'Can you tell me how far is to the railway station? I said (gruff voice) 'One mile.' He said (gruff voice): 'One mile?'I said (gruff voice): 'Yes, one mile - roughly speaking.'

    Here's what's been happening to him since (from his MySpace site):
    After fulfilling his main ambition of appearing on Pebble at One, he tried his hand at conquering Hollywood and failed quite well. Ted ended up truck driving in the US until he cleared off to Mexico after overturning his rig near Los Angeles.

  • Ted worked as a cook in various restaurants. One day he saw the light and turned to the Lord. He wasn't sure if someone put something in his tea but enjoyed the experience and sought forgiveness.
  • In return he had to come back to the UK and attempt to save the youth of the nation from the errors of their ways - still litter louting after all these years. Ted would like you to know if you need help he's here for you...can't really be too bad, no, not really no. Cheers to borolad259 on flickr for the Ted picture  FRANK SIDEBOTTOM is back in Manchester! He played at Dr Livvy's in the Northern Quarter on May 18 (a rather posh restaurant where lager was £4 a pint) and went down a storm. The papier mache hero with the Mr Punch voice did a ramshackle set but most people seem to know his material and chanted along to his footy catchphrases: "Nil-nil, nil-nil, nil-nil, nil-nil." "One referee, there's only one referee, two linesman and only one referee" "You're going home in an organised football coach" "Guess who's been on Match of the Day? You have, with my big shorts." And, of course, the ending to every song: "You know I did, I really did!" The funniest moment was when he asked everyone to shut their eyes because he was going to bring a special guest on. He then put a Father Christmas coat on and said: "Hello I'm Chris Cringle, Father Christmas.", launching into Christmas is Really Fantastic and announcing at the end: "Hey it's not Father Christmas at all, it's really me." Before the gig, he told the Manchester Evening News he'd been quiet for the last few years because his mum found out he was in showbusiness and told him to get a proper job. He's done a couple of gigs in London recently but his last CD was a compilation in 1997   PETER BUTTERWORTH The funniest moment in one of the funniest Carry On films involves Peter Butterworth, who was one of the regulars in the series but never gets enough credit for his performances. Carry on Up the Khyber - Sid James is a British governor of an Indian province, Joan Sims is the governess, Roy Castle the military commander and Peter Butterworth is Brother Belcher, a missionary from Wigan. They are at a posh dinner in the governor's residence, which is under attack. In an attempt to show stiff upperlippery, the dinner party is ignoring the gunfire, the lumps of plaster falling in the soup (see picture) and the windows smashing - all except Brother Belcher who leaps in terror at every bang and crash. When he asks about the gunfire and explosions, the rest of the dinner guests tell him they haven't heard anything, making Brother Belcher even more exasperated. Finally Roy Castle gets up to investigate the noise but is persuaded to stay because it's strawberry mousse for dessert (ignoring the window crashing behind him). Brother Belcher crawls out from under the table, playing a candle as if it was a tin whistle while shouting in a high-pitched voice: "Strawberry mousse, strawberry mousse!" Well it made me laugh anyway. Here's that clip: Peter Butterworth has a great crumpled face, like Les Dawson's, which he uses for quick changes of expressions and double takes. He appeared in 16 Carry Ons, starting with Carry on Cowboy in 1965, written by Talbot Rothwell who met Butterworth when they were both prisoners of war. They used to put on concerts to drown out the noise of prisoners escaping! Butterworth was married to Thatcher impersonator Janet Brown and died in 1979 at the age of 59.
  • Picture from Carry On Line
  • HYLDA BAKER Hylda Baker is a forgotten comedy genius - the missing link between music hall and Peter Kay. There's a chance to see what made her so funny on Nearest and Dearest, the third series of which has just been released on Network. Like Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe, she had one of those funny faces which could change expression in a flash, whether showing anger or coyness. Hylda also made use of her 4ft 11in frame, strutting around like she was 7ft tall. It was a skill she milked for laughs on the stage in the 1950s before making it big with the sitcom Nearest and Dearest, which ran from 1968 to 1973. She was born in the Bolton area, like Peter Kay, and shares some of his love of language which is also echoed in Victoria Wood and Alan Bennett's work and any 80-year-old granny on either side of the Pennines. So, in Nearest and Dearest, people are "sat sitting there supping", going to "Blackpool hallucinations", speaking "without fear of contraception" and discovering that "truth is stranger than friction". Hylda plays Nellie Pledge who runs a pickle factory with her dissolute brother played by jowly Jimmy Jewel. The series was created by Coronation Street writers Vince Powell and Harry Driver and one of the main writers, John Stephenson, also wrote scripts for Corrie and later Brass. There's another Street link in the cast with Madge Hindle (Alf Roberts' wife) as Hylda Baker's ill-looking relative who is married to a mute old man with a small bladder, prompting Nellie to shout in every episode: "Have you been?" Once the series ended, her last moment in the spotlight was on Top of the Pops in 1978 doing a take of "You're the one that I want" with Arthur Mullard. She died in 1986 at the age of 81. Perhaps one reason she's been forgotten is because her Northern use of malapropisms and double entrendres doesn't sit well with the achingly trendy. For example, in a recent gushing Observer piece on some "outrageous" American comedienne, the writer sneered at a top 20 list of funny British women ("Hilda Baker anyone?") She'll do for me. Network More about Hylda JOHN SPARKES I gave you the best years of my life Denzil. Yes well I didn't really WANT them Gwyneth. A vastly underrated character comedian who started off doing a ventriloquism act with a brick in the early eighties and is now the voice of Fireman Sam. He's probably most famous for his roles in sketch shows Naked Video (BBC 1986-1991) and especially Absolutely (C4 1989-1993). In the former he was gormless poet Siadwell and in the latter he often stole the show with an an array of grotesques such as Frank Hovis and especially Denzil. His latest comedy stuff - Barry Welsh is Coming - can only be seen on TV in Wales, despite winning Baftas and being more consistently funny than most sketch shows on mainstream TV. Great Denzil clips: Gwyneth gets trapped in the Hoover while Denzil decides to go to Club Sponkin to drink a pint of Old Phlegm lovely beer and later goes to the Welsh Institute of Wood Photo from
  • official Absolutely website
  • THE TESTING OF ERIC OLTHWAITE Eric: It were always raining in Denley Moor, except on days when it were fine; and there weren't many of those - not if you include drizzle as rain. And even if it weren't drizzling, it were overcast and there were a lot of moisture in the air. You'd come home as though it had been raining, even though there had been no evidence of precipitation in the rain gauge outside the town hall. Black pudding's black today mother. That's very black...even the white bits are black. Do you know Howard..Howard Molson? He's bought a new shovel, it's a lovely shovel, it's got a great big brass handle. And do you know what he's going to do? He's going to put it next to his other one. My dad would pretend to be French when he came in from work, hoping I wouldn't talk to him. Dad: Oh quelle journee du bas de la terre. Je suis tres fatigue demain Vera. Eric: And our Irene, me sister, she was downright rude. Hey Irene, guess who's got a new shovel then? Irene: Oh shut up you boring little tit. There was only one person I could talk to - Enid Bag, who's father kept racing vultures up on Scarsdale Road. Source: Ripping Yarns DVD/Book/You Tube
    Shovel pic: from Spear and Jackson plc - The square mouth shovel, available in three sizes 000, 0 and 2. General purpose contractor's shovel designed for shovelling out and refilling trenches, mixing concrete and moving tarmac.