Thursday, 31 May 2007

The greatest race ever run

You must watch the link below.
It is footage of a horserace I have been wanting to see for years. It is every bit a wonderful as I remembered it, with the wrong horse winning.
Crisp was giving Red rum about 24 lbs. in the Grand national, a race nearly 4 and a half miles long, with 30 fences, if I remember correctly.
It still makes me weep, and not just for the money.
Is it just me, or do others agree? I would like to read comments. Does anyone else have a favorite race? Through youtube, I found some great races, by Shergar, Barbero, Secretariat and Ghostzapper. There are probably more.
You need to listen to the commentary on the National as well, really. Peter O'Sullevan is superb.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Barking mad at a carrot

This may be a very short offering.

About three this morning, I rose from my bed to go to the bathroom. On the way back to bed - in the utterly dark, windowless room where I sleep, I stepped on something soft that let out a hideous and piercing shriek.

It turned out to be a yellow plastic carrot with a face on it that is the dog Una’s favorite toy. I can recommend similar incidents to anyone who needs a cheap, heart-stopping moment during the night.

Here is a story about my dog. You will know it is not true, because it is based on telegrams, and she is not old enough to have sent telegrams.

Una, my dog decides to send me a telegram.
“I would like to say, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof,” she tells the operator.
“OK,” he says, “but, if you like, you can send a tenth woof for no extra money.”
“Yes, “ says Una, “but then it would make no sense.”

But then neither does this blog. You should read my wife, Rebekah’s at…

Monday, 28 May 2007

Dinosaurs, wild hogs and morons

For the average American, weighed down these days with woes over the Iraq war, gas prices and the fate of Paris Hilton, some good news for once.

Today the Creation Museum, in darkest Kentucky, flings open its gates. No doubt they are pearly. Visitors will gape at, among assorted wonders, a full-scale Noah’s Ark, complete with dinosaurs aboard. Apparently, these “critturs,” as the locals put it, roamed the earth (why do dinosaurs always “roam,” never just walk about?) along with Adam and Eve, at the beginning of the world, some six thousand years ago.

The museum explains a lot. The flood caused the Grand Canyon. It took a week or so. And Cain married his sister. Incest. That’s where it started going downhill. This explains a good deal about the sanity of the human race.

As Pascal remarked, some three hundred years ago, “Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”

But what can you expect from a Frenchman? “The trouble with the French, “ as George Bush, once remarked to Tony Blair, “is that they have no word for ‘entrepreneur.’”

I confess I believe in evolution. How else can one explain that two and a half thousand years ago, we produced Socrates, and now we have George W.? People often imagine evolution means that things will improve. H. L. Mencken didn’t. This is his prediction on the American presidency over eighty years ago:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Absurd. Never happen.

Mencken was an old sourpuss anyway. Here’s how he described his follow countrymen in the twenties:

"The American people, taken one with another, constitute the most timorous, snivelling, poltroonish, ignominous mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages."

Of course, thanks to evolution, things are different now.

And, indeed, H. L. might not have been nearly as disparaging about Americans had he been able to read the stirring tale of 11-year old Jamison Stone last week.

It seems that the lad from Pickensville, Alabama - interestingly, not a stone's throw from the creationist museum - shot a nine foot long, 1,051 pound wild hog with a pistol. That is one big pig. And it’s all thanks to Noah’s Ark and a hand gun.

“It’s a good accomplishment. I probably won’t ever kill anything else that big,” said young Jamison, modestly.

Sadly, the stout little fellow, (the boy that is, not the boar), was born six thousand years too late. He could have bagged a dinosaur.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Hens, saxophonists and merry widows

This is a picture of me with Gladwys. (I'm the one on the right.)

I'm going to stop writing come-ons from now on because I keep changing my mind about what to write.

Although I have no proper work to do but bicker with builders, my days are full. What with the dog to walk, and the chickens to attend to, and Reb hogging the computer, the best time for me to blog (a horrible verb) is early morning, such as now.

And writing at all has been made more difficult in the last few days by the removal for replacement of the main house roof. No sooner had this been done, than we had three or four days featuring the kind of wind and rain normally only seen on news stories from Cuba or Haiti with names like Hurricane Gladwys. For some reason, the sight of our house resembling one
of the more neglected parts of downtown Gaza induced in me an obscure medical condition known to the Hippocratic
profession as "gloom."

But the chickens don't give a shit, except in the usual way. I would very much like to name them, but they all still look indentical to me, whatever my last boss John Block might say. "There are no such things as identical twins," he often carped, being a twin himself, and clearly not identical to anyone.

Maybe I'll just call them all Gladwys. This is a good chicken name, although they are Spanish chickens, and might be better suited to names like our neighbours, such as Celestino, Modesto, Anastasio and Secundino, although these are men, of course. Anyway, the hen girls all speak English now, and follow me when I say, "Good morning, ladies, time for brekkie," so British names seem appropriate. So, Gladwys, Gladwys, Gladwys, Gladwys, Gladwys and Gladwys, it will be. Let them sort it out.

And right now the sun is shining again, and a very melodious bird (don't know what sort) who lives locally and whom we know as "Placido," is doing selections from The Merry Widow.

Which reminds me. There was a jazz man in London called Ronnie Scott, who became known, along with his sax-playing, for his comments between numbers. "Embarrasing night last week," he said once. "I was half way through the Merry Widow when my reed collapsed."

Someone in the audience once asked him if he could play "Surrey With The Moon On Top."
"No, but I can do How High The Fringe," he snapped back.

And mention of Placido reminds me of Wagner, which also reminds me of Noel Coward, who, after seeing the musical "Camelot," was asked what he thought of it. "A bit like Parsifal, but not nearly as funny." he said.

Must go now, to feed the Gladwyses.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Hercules the Bear and Phil the Night Editor

One morning on the Daily Mirror, it must have been about 1980, Night Editor Phil Walker asked what plans I had for lunch.

"Just the usual, I suppose," I answered, "too much to drink in questionable company."

"Come with me to the Cartoonist," he said. "Hercules the reknownedwrestling bear is making a personal appearance in the very bar itself."

"Dangerous, isn’t it?" I asked. "Not a bit!," said Phil. "Hercules is esteemed in every corner of the four hemispheres for his amiable demeanor and equable temperament. It says here in The Sun. He has hardly ever killed anybody. Anyway, he will probably be on a lead."

"Well," said I, "I have seen a lot of people - similarly acclaimed as exemplars of decorum - do their nuts and start clawing faces in pubs just because some careless habitué has stubbed out a Silk Cut on their pelt, regardless of whether they were on a lead or not." I said. "But I will go with you, as you are my chum."

Erstwhile, adly, but perhaps wisely, satraps of the Lord Mayor had invoked some long-forgotten medieval law involving beast baiting with bulldogs, and barred the bear from the bar.

Hercules showed up anyway, in a stout cage. Perhaps piqued at separation from his fans, he spent the afternoon lolling there, his back ostentatiously to the audience. I got bored with this turn of events and took off. Phil stayed.

Some time later, after lunch, quite a long time in fact, I was in my tiny office waiting to talk to a nice man from Mirror Books about some dull things. Phil came in. He appeared to have been overcome with emotion at the sight of the mighty behemoth.

He quickly said, thickly, "I am overcome with emotion at the sight of the mighty behemoth, and will lie down behind your desk for a bit, if you don’t mind."

Once installed there, out of sight, he relaxed and dozed off.

By the time the nice man from Mirror Books showed, I had forgotten Phil was there. Things went smoothly for a while, then Phil made a sort of noise like someone pretending to snore.

"What was that?" said the nice man. "Nothing," I said.
More talk. Then another noise.
"What was that?" said the nice man.
"Only the Night Editor," I said.
Then, from behind the desk, an anguished howl.
"I am not a Night Editor..I am... A MAN!"
The nice man from Mirror Books made an excuse and left.

...for those of you who'd rather know what I am doing now, rather than hear colorful tales of long-forgotten lore, I'd refer you to a blog kept by my wife, the onetime-esteemed American journo Rebekah Scott. Find it at .

COMING SOON...The Donald and I..Zec, that is

Monday, 14 May 2007

Blogging Bernard, Jeff, that is...

Hard to know why I am doing a 'blog.' God knows what a blog is, anyway.

But Reb, my wife, has been telling me for years that I should write my autobiography. This will not be it, but, if anyone is interested in some scurrilous episodes from the sixties onwards, mostly involving journalists, the following screeds may not be without interest.
An autoblography, perhaps.

However, along with the ancient history, I will have the nerve to offer you, reader, my thoughts on a variety of contemporary topics, mainly if not mostly related to the United States. I lived there from 1990 to 2006, so regardless of whether or not you are in agreement with my generally acerbic judgements, you will surely conceed that I have some practical knowledge.

There will be a good deal of name dropping, I must warn you. But, thankfully, most of the names will be obscure to all but the dessicated detritus of dusty decades of decadence. ( That's enough awful alliteration, Ed. )

We will kick off by dropping the name of Jeff Bernard, because I owe the title of this blog to him. Possibly the nation's most famous drunkard in his day, he died within days of Lady Di and Mother Teresa, setting up what must have been one of the more bizarre trios so far assembled outside the pearly gates waiting for opening time.

Not that Jeff ever showed much interest in admittance to paradise. His attitude would surely echo the Tartar warrior, who when told about Heaven by the missionaries, asked what kind of horses God had there. On being told there were none, he said he'd rather go to Hell, then.

But back to the point. In the 1970's in Soho and Fleet Street pubs a gang of us used to play games like thinking up titles for autoboigraphies. "Downhill Struggle" was one of Jeff's winners along with "Starting From Tomorrow" which referred to foreswearing the Smirnoff and soda.

It was Jeff, in his Low Life column in the Spectator who pointed out some hitherto unrecorded great truths, such as when you vomit, no matter of you had not eaten a tomato in years, there are always bits of tomato skin in the result.

Many people could not see the point in Jeff.All he does is get drunk, lets everyone down and then writes about it, they said. The point was that Jeff was totally reliable. He always went too far. We need his like to make us feel good about ourselves.

One day, as one of my wives was going through the tried and tested old, "You make me sick,' routine, I found myself saying, "Well, you must admit I'm not as bad as Jeff." That's what, as the song tells us, friends are for. That, and naming blogs.

TOMORROW (or soon), three things that are wrong with the world today, and why Pascal was right about one thing, at least. ( What, only three? )