EDitorial ± 28-Apr-2003

Sheffield's Finest

Strode in to the mean streets of hip-and-happening metropolitan Ipswich last week for yet more cutting edge comedy, this time at the New Wolsey (tough on drama, tough on the causes of drama). Sipping a swift passion fruit juice pre-show, looked up to see local celeb Peter Purves heading for his seat. As you do. I believe he's on the management board of the theatre, plus he does the odd bit of directing. Not to mention Cruft's.

Hadn't walked all that way purely for a glimpse of a former Dr Who assistant. Star attraction was John Shuttleworth, versatile singer-songwriter from Sheffield, south Yorkshire, and the man who penned this couplet:

Go caravanning in Clywd or Dyfed
Order a pizza and have it delivered
— John Shuttleworth, How To Be Happy In A Sad Sad World

Opening with the topical Disaffected Youth, his focus for the evening was on home security. Standing between his two (count 'em) keyboards was a projector displaying alternate closed circuit images of the audience and backstage, in particular a selection of wood that he'd acquired earlier ("some 2 by 1, some MDF, but alas no pegboard").

Guardian pick of the week, no less

John's concerns couldn't be more down-to-earth, whether it's the worry that comes with having two margarine tubs open at the same time ("craziness"), advising the public on the latest type of coffee, the "caffy latty", or wondering what happened to the little cardboard insert in the Bounty bar. This latter issue gave rise to the majestic protest song "Mars of Slough", urging us to mutiny the Bounty.

Brief mention for his two support acts:

  1. Dave Tordoff, from Goole, a builder specialising in "laser screeding" but anxious to become an after-dinner speaker: should he do some work on the disused chapel down the road and give it to his local community, or convert it into flats for student nurses and pocket 30K?
  2. Brian Appleton, a walking encyclopaedia of pop, who not only name-checked Brian Eno, Nik Kershaw and The Enid (of Clare), but also performed his seminal Smiths-like song, "It's My Turn To Be Poorly"

Returning for a welcome encore, John Shuttleworth enquired: "seriously, when's your bus?", before launching into crowd-pleasers Pigeons In Flight, his Eurovision entry, and Y Reg, a tribute to his Austin Ambassador.

Phew, managed to make it all the way through a piece about John Shuttleworth without once mentioning that he used to go by the name of Jilted John. Oops.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Comedians vs. number of shows attended, eg John Shuttleworth (3):

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 22-Apr-2003

Your New Favourite Word

There's nothing like a good book. Except a good film, or possibly a new album from The Divine Comedy. Of course, I'm being facetious, a word which here means... well, you do know, don't you? We've each of us got a body of words that we use, our own vocabulary. Cue some words from the founder of The Tatler:

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body
— Sir Richard Steele, 1710

There I was today, browsing the odd non-work-related page on the web. Flicking through a fascinating piece in Wired magazine about Google search terms, I came across my new favourite word:

Or to put it another way, a gewgaw

This is a Yiddish term meaning trinket or knick-knack, and is now applied in particular to promotional merchandise. In other words, "tat" (sorry to tell it like it is, Martin). We shouldn't forget that ebay is built on such items, thankfully. Pronunciation-wise, by the way, it seems to rhyme with the only Greta Garbo film in Barry Norman's 100 top films of the century.

Robert Robinson says: "And the next word is":

1930s blend of agitatsiya and propaganda

Sandwiched between "aggro" and "Angewism" in my Brewer's Twentieth Century Phrase & Fable, it's short for agitation propaganda. Can't recall how I encountered this portmanteau word, but it's stuck with me for years. Sounds like an essential component of a Bell Huey, don't you think? Hey, Dr Romano, watch out for that agitprop!

At college one of the departmental lecturers, a very cool and clever guy who tried to teach us LISP, was named Dr Ajit Narayanan. Each time I saw his first name, I thought of Russian politics.

And finally for now:

...of Nineveh from distant Ophir...

Beats most other words hands-down. You'd need the only "q" plus a blank tile to play it in Scrabble, and "avers" would already need to be on the board. Not terribly likely.

I think it means facing outwards in all directions. Reminds me of the four-faced clock that used to adorn the Safe Harbour pub on Meredith Road, the one that was demolished to make way for an Aldi store.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Words for another time:

  1. anomie
  2. bucolic
  3. vituperative

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 14-Apr-2003

Sunday In The Park

Next time you find yourself in a park with some play equipment - see-saw, climbing frame, cheesecutter, witch's hat, that sort of thing - saunter over to the swings and inspect the seats. Advisable not to take too long doing this else Percy the Park Keeper will be called and you'll be out on your ear. Chances are that the name inscribed in the rubber will be Wicksteed.

For yonks, that name has held an almost magical attraction for me. See, sometime in the 1970s, and my parents have the slides (a word which here means "mounted transparencies placed in a projector for viewing on a screen") to prove it, I went on a Y(oung) P(eople's) outing to Wicksteed Park with my dad.

I remember a train, a lake, and looking on a map to find out where to go in the park. Bear in mind that this was some years before the words "Alton" and "Towers" were heard outside of Derby. And I recall an enormous playground with huge slides (a word which here means "structures with a smooth sloping surface for children to slide down").

I'm losing on the swings
I'm losing on the roundabouts
— Marillion, Script For A Jester's Tear

Mind you, Mars Bars and Wagon Wheels were also much bigger back then too, and I was quite a bit smaller.

Dodgems (top right) were top fun, though the ride was halted temporarily while one poor girl hobbled off having trapped her leg; but then we all got a new free ride!

So it was a real trip down the memory lane of the A14 yesterday (100 miles to Kettering from Ipswich) to go back there for the first time in perhaps 30 years. It wasn't until relatively recently that I found out that the place still existed. Doesn't exactly get the same press & publicity as Thorpe Park, Legoland, etc.

But I think that's part of the charm. It's squarely aimed at younger visitors, there's loads of open space, and the queues: what queues? What's more, the staff actually smile (well, most of 'em) and are genuinely helpful. Good old-fashioned fun, from the junior roller coaster to the bumpy round-the-lake train to the slippery Astroglide slide. Just what you'd expect from the UK's oldest leisure park.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Foodstuffs beginning with the first letters of Wicksteed (anything to keep the kids awake on the way home, not that it worked):

  1. (W)atermelon
  2. (I)ce Cream
  3. (C)ake
  4. (K)etchup
  5. (S)andwiches
  6. (T)una
  7. (E)gg
  8. (E)ndive (posh leaf)
  9. (D)umplings

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 7-Apr-2003

The Last Resort

Carted the kiddywinks down to sunny (though darn blowy) Felixstowe yesterday pm for a spot of soft play. You know, padded thingies, inflatables, ball pits, you get the picture. Why isn't there anything similar for adults? Kids could sit around reading comics, pausing only to fetch the occasional cold drink for their flustered and heavy-breathing parents. Could catch on.

Brief stop en route at Trimley station, apparently due for demolition shortly after an appeal to have it listed fell on its face. Despite the English bond brickwork, it's an unlovely and seemingly uncared-for building. Extra car parking, here we come.

Changing tack - stay with me here - years ago, I produced several issues of an A4 pamphlet entitled Flavour Of The Month. This was back in the late 1980s, when vigour, wit and youth were on my side. There was a readership of around half-a-dozen friends, at most. They had no choice in the matter: I did some after-hours photocopies at work and sent it to them.

Issue three from August 1988 - the penultimate edition, as it happened - included a page headed:

Battle Of The Resorts: Felixstowe v. Venice
I'd recently been to both places (natch), so a direct comparision seemed fair game. Here's the scanned copy:

Doughnuts at the pier vs the Doges Palace: you decide

If you know Felixstowe, you'll be aware that some of these references (roller skating, go-karts, perhaps even the Owl Art shop) are showing their age. Plus the ice-cream's doubled in price, though that's to be expected over 15 years.

Inevitably the kids wanted to go on the beach afterwards for some ritual rock hurling into the sea. Which reminds me of that old gag about the tribal chief who was presented with a new throne every year, and stored the old ones in a spare room up a ladder. Until one night, due to the weight, the roof collapsed and killed him. The moral being that people who live in grass houses shouldn't stow thrones. Groan.

Be seeing you!