Lessons provided by the life of Jeremy Lloyd!

Boxing Day morning always feels like the aftermath of the Lord Mayor’s show. The decorations in the allotments hut seem diminished, my pals were bemoaning the acres of wrapping paper engulfing their homes, those like Albert who had over-indulged were boosting the sales of paracetamol. Much talk of having spent too much and consumed even more. Many pledges never to be taken in by Black Friday again, pledges that will undoubtedly be forgotten come next December. How could one day live up to hype that began months ago? Never mind, there is live football on the box and bubble and squeak on a tray once we reach home.

With such mind-blowing treats in mind we didn’t linger for too long in the warm shed. But we did have time to reflect on the death of a man who brought so much laughter to our lives. Jeremy Lloyd was born in Essex; his father was an army colonel, his mother a Tiller girl who had danced with Fred Astaire, but he was brought up by his grandmother in Manchester and spent his teenage years at a home for the elderly where he learned to mimic accents. Leaving school early he worked in a number of jobs, including road digger and paint salesman, then at 23 he turned up at Pinewood Studios and presented a script to the studio chief Earl St John : ‘What a Whopper’, a spoof about the Loch Ness Monster.

After appearing in a number of films and TV comedies during the 1960s, he was in the USA at the end of the decade, appearing in ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’. American audiences were enthralled by his portrayals of upper-class Englishmen. Returning to Britain in 1970 he was briefly married to Joanna Lumley – why anyone would elect to be only briefly married to her is a mystery to us codgers. He was then involved with David Croft in writing ‘Are You Being Served?”. The show with its high camp and innuendo-laden catchphrases, such as “I’m free” and its quips about “Mrs Slocombe’s pussy” entered the public consciousness. It gained peak figures of 22 million during its run of 69 episodes through to 1985 and made stars of such as John Inman, Wendy Richards and Frank Thornton.

The duo’s next project, ‘Allo ‘Allo, was based on the adventures of Rene Artois, a French cafe owner during the war. It was equally successful and drew TV audiences beyond the wildest dreams of today’s production companies. Of course there was no politically correct brigade then, no group of busybodies devoting their time to telling the rest of us what it was appropriate to laugh at. Although all Jeremy’s work was what we would be told today was homophobic, racist or sexist it was gentle rib-tickling humour that offended no one. Had the PC brigade and its fellow lunatics on such bodies as the Race Relations Board not emerged the humour of Jeremy Lloyd would have destroyed extremism through ridicule.

Perhaps the lesson of Jeremy Lloyd goes beyond the effect of the PC gang. Perhaps our new found practice of labelling, and attempting to punish, every deviance from the ‘norm’ is simply making things worse. Take the question of booze. Could it be that the more the Gods lecture young people about the perils of drink the more they are tempted to over-indulge? We now have town centres equipped with £500,000 trailers to get drunks off the streets, cleaned up, and bedded down to “sleep it off”. Perhaps a modern Jimmy Lloyd script portraying these people as the halfwits they undoubtedly are would be more effective?

Who knows? All we know is that a great bloke who proved just how funny extreme behaviour and attitudes can be, thus rendering them innocuous, has gone for ever. He left not merely hilarious recordings but lessons that we would do well to note. First amongst them is the need to take ourselves far less seriously!
QUOTE FOR TODAY; “The 150-year-old tradition of leaping into the sea in Brighton for a freezing Christmas Day dip was upheld by revellers this year as more than 50 people took to the water, defying a new ban imposed by Brighton council for health and safety reasons”….Independent 26/12/14

Happy Christmas !

Greetings from the allotments on this nippy Christmas morning. In line with long standing tradition only Albert and I were present to let out and feed the hens this morning. It is the only one of the year on which we don’t clean them out but whether that bothers them is unknown. By way of compensation we doled out extra handfuls of mealworms, largesse that will be repeated this afternoon when our late-rising colleagues work off their Christmas dinners.

By Albert’s standards he was in a cheerful mood, although he did seems disappointed at Mrs Albert’s reaction to his Christmas gift. It seems that she was less than enamoured by the portable cement mixer. His greatest regret seemed to be the amount of wrapping paper consumed and a general feeling that “some people are never satisfied”. I had no such regrets, having lacked the courage to inflame my relationship with she-who-must-be-obeyed with such a revelation of my covert belief in the apportionment of maintenance duties.

But we didn’t linger long. I was eager to get back to my new camera, Albert to his first sherry of the day. Today is the one of goodwill to all men – with the possible exception of Jeremy Hunt – and we avoided any chat about the news lest we break the immortal rule.

My sole intention on this Christmas morning was, and is, to wish all our friends and readers a very happy day and to express the hope that 2015 will be another year of regular discourse and debate.

Or, to quote the one and only Dickens, God bless you each and every one!
QUOTE FOR TODAY; “God rest ye merry gentlemen, may nothing you dismay!”.

There is magic in the air !

How sad that today of all days should be marred by yet another horrendous error on the part of the loopy politicians responsible for the NHS. More than 300 consultants have today published a letter warning that thousands of patients with cancer, heart disease and other major conditions will suffer “avoidable deaths” under new funding proposals which switch money to the pipe dream of switching treatments to “community care”. The lead author, Dr David Rosser of University Hospital in Birmingham, describes the move as “destructive and based on a failed strategy to shift services into the community”. He adds that a similar “punitive” measure has been introduced for emergency care and has dramatically reduced the ability of A & E departments to cope.

For how much longer the public will tolerate crass and dangerous incompetence on the part of Jeremy Hunt and his army of so-called experts is surely the key question as we head for another year. Insiders tell me that the hapless Health Secretary is now daggers-drawn with Downing Street because of his overt leadership ambitions. If Mr Hunt takes over, The Sun can use again its headline about the last person leaving turning out the lights. But for today at least I wish to focus on something more cheering. It is Christmas Eve, the one day of the year when for small children there is magic in the air.

For many years I used to visit an elderly lady resident in a Lancashire nursing home. She was delighted to provide details of a long and fulfilling life for a book I was working on. Memories of good times and bad, of world travel and service in the army medical corps would come flooding back as I sat beside her bed alongside the little window where the sun came peeping in each dawn. During our fascinating chats I always noticed a blonde-haired doll sitting on her bedside cabinet. Eventually curiosity overtook me and I asked about her constant companion.

It was on a Christmas Eve that Christine told me the story of Alice. My friend recalled such a day of some ninety years ago. In those long-gone days presents were few and far between. In the run-up to Christmas Christine had regularly paused, when out for a walk with her Mum, to gaze in awe at the doll which graced the window of a pram shop – an early example of a sales-aid. She didn’t know it then, but she was gazing at her lifetime companion. On December 24th the seven-year-old Christine found sleep elusive. It was a frosty night and all was quiet in a world yet to experience the noise of the internal combustion engine, slamming doors and late night revellers.

Just as her eyes began at last to close she heard the distant sound of sleigh bells tinkling across the frosty air. Just the briefest of sounds and then perfect peace. When she awoke that long admired face was peeping from the pillow-case draped over the end of the bed. As if by magic Alice had arrived, and she never left.

From that day until Christine died the doll always occupied pride of place alongside her, on bedside cabinets across the world. Every secret shared, every tear of sorrow and of joy. Companion can mean many things, but this relationship defied any categorisation. Precious, undemanding love is a rare gift, a magical addition to any life.

And magic was at the heart of Christine’s tale. To her dying day she believed that she did hear sleigh bells, but emphasised that only small children can hear such things. And only they can experience real magic and they have but a few years in which to do so. And most importantly of all they need help and encouragement from older folk.

Scoff if you must, but there is an important moral here. If you are a parent or grandparent, tonight may be the last chance to open the door to a sense of magic that will last a lifetime. As Ena Sharples was inclined to advise – think on!

Albert and I will be back tomorrow to wish you all a happy, magical Christmas!
QUOTE FOR TODAY; ” Life is rather like opening a tin of sardines. We’re all of us looking for the key!”….Alan Bennett.

Suddenly Salmon(d) is on the Christmas menu!

We were intrigued to learn that Colo celebrated her 58th birthday yesterday. She enjoyed a cake made of peanut butter, apple sauce, honey, shredded carrot and Greek yogurt icing. Colo lives in Ohio and was the first gorilla born in a zoo. As chicken-keepers we codgers have come to vaguely believe that our fellow creatures of the animal kingdom have relatively short life-spans and the news came as something of a surprise. That illusion is behind us now, particularly since the zoo owners have let it be known that Colo will be around for a long time yet. As we cleaned out the hens this morning we found ourselves wondering if Colo thinks about Christmas and the human reaction to it.

If so she may well wonder why we of the British variety have taken in recent years to aping the frenzied American approach. We have fought over cheap TV sets on ‘Black Friday’ and responded obediently to ‘Panic Saturday’, inventions of the less than subtle retailing ploys of our transatlantic cousins. Here in the North West we have turned Manchester’s annual market into a two-hour traffic jam, a frenzied mass of shoppers desperate to buy anything and everything. And we have swamped the new American style online ordering system to such an extent that yesterday supermarket websites were reduced to offering ‘slots’ for deliveries of Christmas dinner ingredients for early January.

As we munched our American style doughnuts in the warm hut we wondered at the wisdom of constantly following the American dream. It may be good news for the retail trade and the debt collectors but whatever happened to the peace on earth and goodwill to all men bit? Call us dinosaurs if you must, but we mourn the passing of those long gone Christmas Eves when we bought our presents in leisurely style and called at Aunty Ethel’s to deliver them and enjoy a sherry whilst the little ones slept with their pillow-cases lined up at the end of the beds. Christmas was a time to rest and quietly rejoice as we reflected on the greatest story ever told. No time for such indulgent behaviour now..whatever happened to Christmas?

Of course for many the supposed delights are now but a distant memory anyway. The tax-dodgers will be celebrating their bounty of £25 billion withheld from the Exchequer, but the “scroungers and idlers”, of whom Iain Duncan Smith likes to talk, will be struggling to find anything to celebrate. The entire gain to the national purse of their cuts will struggle to reach £1 billion but justice must be done. Their only consolation will be the realisation that they are not alone in their misery.

Our ruling classes will this morning be in a frenzy of their own. Their dreams of ministerial cars and slap-up donor dinners in Downing Street suddenly look as unlikely as fictional manifestos given today’s dramatic poll from ‘Survation’ in the Scottish Daily Record. it seems that their Christmas will feature Salmon with a ‘d’. The prediction is that 48 per cent of voters north of Hadrian’s Wall will vote SNP, and the nationalists will head to Westminster with 54 MPs, leaving Labour with just four and the Tories and Lib Dems sweet Fanny Adams. Former First Minister Alex Salmond is forecast to win the Gordon seat in north-east Scotland and seems likely to lead the pack.

The chance of him co-operating with his arch-enemies the Tories in anything, let alone a coalition, is akin to Scotland winning the world cup. And the price he will demand from Labour will not be to their liking. For some time now the two main parties have been agonising about Ukip, it seems that they have been looking in the wrong direction.

It has all the makings of a fine old mess. But that won’t worry the dour Alex. It won’t be Santa that will hold the attention of our dear leader or not-so-Red Ed over the next few days, but all the spin in the world seems unlikely to shake the resolve of the haggis men.

The truth is that the members of the Westminster bubble have for too long regarded the Scottish voters as an afterthought, a noisy irrelevance. Turkeys may not vote for Christmas but they are truly coming home to roost!
QUOTE FOR TODAY: ” A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it. It would be hell on earth.”….George Bernard Shaw.