Thursday, 18 October 2007

Happy Birthday Bill

Well this blog is about anniversaries and my connection with them and my dad Wilfred Lythgoe was born on 18 October 1919. So today definitely qualifies for an entry. He would have been 88 if he was still with us. Mind you, according to his spiritualist leanings he may well be. He was a great one for the psychic powers, was Bill.

Wilfred was a postman for many years and was known to everybody in that organisation as Bill. In fact my own interview for a job with the Post Office went along the lines of 'How's Bill keeping these days? Make sure you give him our regards. You start next month.'

Wilf was born in Chorlton-on-Medlock in the heart of Manchester, owned his first pair of shoes when he got his first job as a messanger boy and arrived as Bill via service as a Quartermaster Sergeaqnt Major with the D-Day dodging Ghurkas in the second World War and a very brief stint as a coal miner. In order to avoid D-Day, the dodgers had to fight their way through North Africa and up from the Southern end of Italy to Venice. This took quite a long time and resulted in Wilf speaking good vernacular Italian and a smattering of Urdu.

On the way up the spine of Italy (or should that be up the shin of Italy?), Wilf met one of his greatest war-time friends. He was responsible for some prisoners of war who were German paratroopers. During an attempted escape one of the German officers saved the life of one of the men under Wilfred's command. As a reward Wilf and his men used to sneak the prisoner out and take him with them when they had the opportunity for some recreation. The two men became great friends. Unfortunately the prisoner ended up in East Germany after the war and they lost touch.

If Bill was right about the afterlife, maybe they are making up for lost time somewhere. One thing is certain, it is too late for a Court Martial now.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Di Diddly I Die

My dreams are remarkably vivid and often contain surprising elements that sometimes don't seem possible.

Anyway, on this occasion I am having a few drinks with Ladi Di outside a very pleasant pub somewhere in London. She is on the gin and tonics and, as it is a sunny day I'm having the same. Poor old Di is telling me that she wishes she could do ordinary things that ordinary people do. She finds it very frustrating that she has to live in a bubble of publicity and can't just do normal everyday things.

I ask her to give me an example and she says that, just once, she would like to be a tourist and go and see the sights. She would love to take one of those Thames river cruises, for example.

I point out that she seems to be getting away with sitting outside this rather pleasant typical London pub so why don't we just go for it and book a trip. I have never been on a cruise on the Thames either, so it would be a new experience for both of us.

Soon enough we find ourselves sitting at the stern of a delightful vessel as it cruises past the South Bank and the Houses of Parliament and under Tower Bridge.

(This bit is quite odd because I really have never been on a Thames boat trip, but I ccan see both banks of the river perfectly from the perspective of a boat on the water.)

It is a lovely day and Di is still on the G&Ts, whilst I have discovered that the barge stocks Newcastle Brown Ale, so I am taking advantage of the fact.

It is a beautiful day, quite sunny but not too hot thanks to the breeze from the river. Then Di starts giving it the old 'nobody understands me'; 'My husband just ignores me' routine and goes into the pathetic faux-puppy looking up under fluttering eyelids routine.

'Now look,' I say: 'We have been having a lovely time and you have been delightful company so far. You have really enjoyed being a normal tourist on a traditional tourist trip, so please don't go and spoil it with the old fluttering eyelids lost kitten stuff.'

'I'm terribly sorry,' says Di. 'I lost myself for a minute there. Sometimes I can't help myself, it has got to be such a habit. Look it's my round so what are you having? Another one of those Newcastle Browns?'

'Yes please,' I reply. Don't forget to get me a pint glass - I'm not a geordie after all.'

'No problem,' says Di, 'I think I might try one myself.'

And so she does. 'This is delicious!' Says Di. 'I don't know why I've never tried it before.' We spend the rest of the day having a few Broons and seeing the sights (admittedly mostly the sights inside typical touristy London pubs). Time marches on and we share a taxi home.

The taxi pulls up outside Di's place and she says: 'Thank you for a lovely afternoon, I'm so glad you shook me out of my old routine. Would you like to pop in for a coffee or something'

'Well that's very kind of you,' I reply, but having read the newspapers recently, you have been putting it about a bit lately and I can't be sure what you have been up to, or who with. So I will decline your generous offer on this occasion, if that's OK with you.'

'Of course,' replies Di, 'I see your point, I have been living it fast and loose lately. I'll see you then. And thanks again for the day out.'

And Di gets out of the taxi and heads off home. I wait and make sure that she gets in safely and head off myself in the cab. On the way home I realise that she hasn't given me any money for the taxi fare. Typical!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

One Step Beyond

So the late Tony Wilson stood on my mate's toe once. I was only literally a step away from being maimed by a famous local celebrity.

Tony presenting 'So it Goes'

We were in Jilly's on Oxford St, Manchester in late July 1977 to see Sad Cafe and Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias. The week before Elvis Costello had debuted at the same venue, after appearing on Tony Wilson's 'So it Goes' ahead-of-it's-time early evening music programme.

Mr Wilson and Elvis were climing over a sofa that was being used as a largely ineffective crush barrier and he stood right on my mate's toe! 'Sorry mate' he mumbled before scuttling off into the wierdly inappropriate daylight of Oxford St.

A couple of weeks later I was passing a news stand in Fort William and saw the headline, 'Elvis is Dead.' Well, as you can imagine I was gutted. He had seemed such a nice chap in the few moments he spent following Mr Wilson out of Jilly's. And his career just seemed to be taking off too.

Imagine my relief when I discovered that it wasn't Mr Costello who had met his maker, but a washed-up fifties rock&roll star in the twighlight of his career. Phew. Another near miss, just like Tony's big clumsy foot.

Mr Smug 1993

Hello all you Zombies

...Mr Smug's Home page


I ate a banana once

and I didn't turn green

although I think it has permanently

affected my spleen.