It's Good To Talk

PLUS: rampant sex, cracker jokes, Johnny Depp, Black Lives Matter and much, much more!

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I went downstairs to wait for John the milkman. Shortly before 4am I heard the reassuring hum of his approaching float and raced outside to greet him.

John is a creature of the night and not accustomed to seeing his customers, let alone making conversation with them. Indeed he very nearly dropped his bottles of semi-skimmed as I leapt out of the darkness in my dressing gown and slippers.

In the event he didn’t have much to say as he backed away towards his vehicle, hands raised. No doubt he was keen to resume his rounds. But those few grunted syllables meant more to me than he could ever know.

Lockdown has affected people in different ways. For me, it has served to reinforce the importance of simple human interaction.

During the day I work in the attic, with only the dog for company. At night, I shut the attic hatch to avoid having to speak to my family. Unable to see my friends, I rely on tradesmen and random visitors to keep me sane.

Take Dougie from DPD, for example. Prior to Covid I took his regular delivery calls for granted, signing for parcels with disdain before slamming the door in his face. Now Dougie’s visits are the highlight of my day. Indeed I have taken to ordering things online simply so I can track his progress on the DPD app.

He doesn’t stay long, of course. Nor is he much of a conversationalist, to be honest. But that terse nod as he throws my parcel from the back of the van, before jumping back into the cab and driving off at high speed, is literally life-saving.

The same is true of Christina the postie, Shona from Hermes, Graham from UPS, Peter the window cleaner, Enid who delivers the parish magazine, Bob the fresh fish man from North Shields, David who cuts next-door’s lawn, Frank who comes to read the meter, Malcolm and Lorraine the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that nice couple from Spalding who needed directions to the M6 the other day.

All of them are busy people, and many have kept the country moving during the pandemic. More than that, they have salvaged my mental health — often with a single word. Mostly with a single word, in fact.

So if you’re going to clap for anyone once this nightmare is over, make sure it’s them. And the next time a tradesman or a random visitor knocks on your door, do me a favour and say hi from me.


NO LAUGHING MATTER

To the Cumberland Infirmary for emergency surgery on my sides, which have split after reading the winners of a competition run by Gold TV to find the top 10 topical cracker jokes of 2020.

I’ve reprinted the winning joke at the bottom of this newsletter, for people who want to read it; but I’d recommend you don’t, especially if you have underlying health issues.

Indeed at this critical time for our NHS, with beds at a premium thanks to Covid and seasonal flu, and with waiting rooms full of pensioners and key medical staff queuing to be vaccinated against the plague, you’d think Gold TV would know better than to encourage further hospitalisations.

Apparently the winning joke, which was shortlisted by a panel of comedy experts and put to a vote of 2,000 people, was written by someone called “Craig from Manchester”. His prize was £1500 plus a box of crackers — which is rather like awarding an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas to Typhoid Mary.

Meanwhile my doctors say it was a close-run thing, but I should be back home in time for Christmas dinner. Needless to say, crackers are banned.


THE FILTH AND THE FURY

I’ve been playing BBC iPlayer catch-up this week, and the other night I settled down with my cocoa to watch Andrew Marr’s new series The New Elizabethans. In it, Marr analysed the cultural impact of half a dozen leading figures of the 20th century, one of whom was the moral crusader Mary Whitehouse.

How outdated she seemed in her trademark horn-rimmed glasses and granny hat, railing against the permissive society, and the BBC in particular, and cheered on by her devoted army of middle-aged housewives and Bible-bashing Christian fundamentalists. Thank God we’ve moved on, I thought.

Then I turned on Industry, the much-heralded BBC drama about the lives of young Turks in the world of high finance — where in short order I watched a young man pleasuring himself while watching porn on his phone, a graphic sex scene between a young man and woman, two young men playing hide-the-sausage in the photocopying room, and the young man who played Prince Edward in The Crown snorting cocaine from a spoon at a dinner party.

And all this inside the first 10 minutes!

Scandalised, and in search of some higher form of cultural inspiration, I turned off the telly and instead tuned in to BBC Radio 4 — just in time to hear a documentary called The Orgasm Cult in which, and in graphic aural detail, a group of young people…well, suffice to say I spat my cocoa all over my pyjamas.

My point is I’m either getting old, or Mary Whitehouse was right, or both. Either way I shall be sending a dry-cleaning bill to the filthy-minded liberal pornographers currently in charge at the BBC, and watching repeats of Dad’s Army on Gold TV from now on.


BOWING TO THE KNEE

At least the BBC’s football coverage can be relied upon to be uncontroversial — or so I thought. Tuning in to Radio 5 last Saturday, however, I heard the reporter at the Millwall v Derby match speaking in the sort of solemn, regretful tones usually reserved for the death of the monarch. Had I missed the biggest news story of the year, I wondered?

Thankfully not:  it turned out that as the players took the now obligatory Black Lives Matter knee prior to kick-off, 2,000 Millwall fans, allowed back in the stadium for the first time since lockdown, had roundly booed them.

This was “disappointing”, according to former Everton player Leon Osman, who was on summarising duty across town at Stamford Bridge.

“Hugely disappointing,” agreed the commentator.

“But then you can only educate people in how you are expected to behave,” Osman added sagely, before returning to the subject he was actually there to discuss, namely Chelsea’s 4-4-2 system.

Millwall fans have form for this sort of thing, of course. Last year, the club was fined £10,000 after a section of their supporters chanted abuse about the Asian community during an FA Cup tie, and I suspect most who booed “the knee” last weekend did so because they are dyed-in-the-wool racists.

Then again, maybe one or two were educated Millwall fans who agree that black lives matter but were simply voicing their disappointment at the modern epidemic of virtue-signalling.

Who knows? Football is a funny old game. On Tuesday night Millwall’s shamed fans applauded when QPR’s players took the knee, while their own players stood around the halfway line looking bemused. And in the 24th minute QPR fans booed Millwall striker Jón Daði Böðvarsson for lying down on the halfway line — although replays later showed he had been elbowed in the ear by QPR’s central defender.

Black lives matter, but it’s clear that everybody is now confused about how to behave. Thank goodness we can turn to Leon Osman for guidance, or at the very least a summary, of what is expected.


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“I don’t give a rat’s fanny for what the kids think of me and what I do. They’re not going to control my life.”

Chuck Yeager, test pilot, first man to break the sound barrier, b. Feb 13, 1923 - d. December 7, 2020


DEPP AND MEANINGFUL

As Johnny Depp prepares to take his libel case against the Sun to the Court of Appeal, many questions remain unanswered from the first trial, which he lost.

Chief among them is who shat in his bed — Amber Heard or the dog? In the Royal Courts of Justice back in November Mr Justice Nichol blamed the dog — but controversy still swirls and, in the absence of a contemporaneous DNA swab, who you believe depends on whose side you’re on: Team Johnny or Team Amber.

Turds aside, it proved to be ruinous action for Johnny. Labelled a wife-beater, he was swiftly dumped by his film company Warner Bros. Indeed one of the few organisations to have stood by him is Dior — which brings us to the big question which was not asked at the original trial: namely, what the hell is going on in that ad for Eau Sauvage?  

If you haven’t seen it, Johnny is playing guitar in his hip apartment when he suddenly decides to drive into the desert. Narrowly missing a buffalo, he takes a shovel from the boot of his car and starts digging a hole in the sand.

I have spent many hours studying the script, but there are few clues to his motivation:

JOHNNY:  I gotta get out of here. Which way? I dunno. What am I looking for? Something I can’t see. I can feel it. It’s magic.

Presumably he’s talking about perfume, although in light of his libel trial it looks for all the world as if he’s burying a turd. In which case, whose? His? The buffalo’s? Or has Amber been round with the dog? (This would explain why he is in such a hurry to leave his flat, I suppose.)

Hopefully all will be revealed when Johnny is next in court, because frankly I’m baffled.


SICK MINDS

What did you think when you saw plucky nonagenarian Jack Vokes receive one of the first Covid jabs at Bristol Hospital this week?

Were you, like me, barely able to see the TV screen for tears of joy and relief that Mr Vokes will soon be protected from this deadly virus? That he is a shining example of what can be achieved when we all come together to protect the most vulnerable in our society?

Or did you secretly think it was rather a waste of precious vaccine, as you were hoping to get away skiing in January and, at 98, the old bastard might not even be around to receive his booster jab in two weeks?

If so, shame on you. You make me sick and you are hereby banned from reading this newsletter until further notice.

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A PERFECT 10

Following last week’s note about keeping a clean pair of rugby shorts, a reader has sent me this photograph of a fly half after my own heart.

“Proof,” he writes, “that the classic, non-tackling 10 is still alive and well.” He also wonders if I am now coaching in my retirement.

No – but I’m glad to report that, on this evidence, it seems my work is already done.


READ WITH CAUTION

What is Dominic Cummings’s favourite Christmas Song? Driving Home for Christmas.

© Craig from Manchester, 2020