De Profundis compared – Edinburgh Festival


De Profundis  must be one of the most powerful letters in English literature and each year, it appears, in one form or another at almost every Edinburgh Festival.

This year it was Simon Callow in a highly praised performance at the Assembly rooms on George Street.  He attracts, as one would expect for such a distinguished figure in the world of the theatre, large appreciative audiences.

I last saw De Profundis at the Edinburgh Fringe some four years ago, performed, on that occasion, in a much smaller theate, by Gerard Logan and I must say that it was a superior performance to that of Callow.

De Profundis is a very intimate letter and resonates its power when the theatre is smaller and the audience not so vast as that that gathers in the great music hall theatre on George Street.   That, I think, must have contributed to my preference for Logan’s performance.

But there is more.  Callow performs the prose in anger, accusatory anger, for it is an angry letter, whereas Logan’s performance was one of despair and regret.  He did not shout his accusations against Bosie and I think, by doing so he  caught the passion of it better.

The setting of such performances in Edinburgh, indeed, for must shows in Edinburgh, including De Profundis is mostly black curtains and almost nothing on the stage.   Callow had a wooden chair, rather a big chair.    The performance is set in prison but it did not look like a prison chair, nor feel like a prison chair.   It looked too comfortable for a prison, like an IKEA chair rather than a prison stool.  For most of Ca[low’s performance he was seated in the chair, sitting bolt upright angrily proclaiming his accusations against Bosie.   By comparison with Logan it was rather stilted, for Logan was at a desk and it looked much more like a piece of prison furniture; and he was standing, with the “letter” itself in his hands, and he moved with the rhythm of the despair in the letter and it produced a more convincing performance.

Wilde was 43 years old when he wrote De Profundis.   He was a broken dandy.   Callow is now 70 years old.   It is terrible to be so ageist but I think Logan rather carried it off a little more successfully.

For both men, the simple act of committing to memory, not just a few lines but the entire 50,000 word text of the long, powerful prose as it meanders over the minutiae of the Bosie/Wilde  relationship, at times petulant, full of self pity, seething with humiliation and regret, anger and love, is quite astonishing.

Callow’s performance brought forward prolonged  and deserved applause.  Logan’s, as I recall, brought us to our feet.


The wise and foolish Wicklow Virgins

It is the unusual, out of the way things you might accidentally stumble across that make a visit to a famous city memorable.   Edinburgh, like all great cities has it’s must see places, must go to events, its great houses and  art galleries, its long turbulent history, royal and religious and of course the Castle, the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh tattoo and the finest International and Fringe festival in all the world.

We took a house, for the festival, in the Broughton district.  It’s a little off the main city, to the east, close to Leith walk, but still full of those fine stone grey Edinburgh town houses.   traquair-church.jpgAcross the road was a rather noble and superior looking grey stone church, incongruous and a little anonymous, sitting as it does on a busy roundabout.  It turned out to be long de-consecrated. It had been a church of the Catholic Apostolic movement, zealous believers in the second coming, but it  is now preserved as a Scottish heritage project know as the Traquair centre.*

It is a fine building, from a distinguished Scottish Architect,**  but it is  the interior that is most important and for which the building is now listed and protected, for it is adorned with over 500 square meters of the most beautiful religious murals.***  A touch of Italy in the Auld Reekie.

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.28.23

For me, one of the more exciting aspects of the murals, far too little known outside of Scotland, was that the artist was Irish.

I like to think I know a bit about Irish artists. I  have a small collection of Irish works myself. But I know that I have much to learn and I must confess that I had never heard of this Irish artist, not a whisper of her name in Ireland.  And she was a real revelation, for she is exceptionally well known in Scotland, exceptionally talented and in fact enjoys an international reputation.

phoebe anna traquair

She was Phoebe Anna Moss, born in Dublin in 1852, raised in County Wicklow, the daughter of a prominent Dublin Physician, she studied art and design at the Royal Dublin Society.

She was employed, in Dublin,  by a Scottish paleontologist, Ramsey Traquair, then working at Dublin’s National History Museum, to illustrate his collection of fish fossils. They fell in love and married in Dublin, in 1873.  A year later her husband was appointed Keeper of natural History at the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art and she left Dublin for ever.   It was in Edinburgh that  she made her name as a major, internationally recognised artist.  One of her great admirers was W.B. Yeats who wrote of her, to Lady Gregory,

Nearly all my time in Edinburgh I was absorbed in Mrs Traquair’s work and find it far more beautiful that I had foreseen – one can only judge of it when one sees it in a great mass, for only then does one get any idea of her extraordinary abundance of imagination . . . I have come from her work overwhelmed, astonished, as I used to come long ago from Blake, and from him alone…”

She became a noted member of the Arts and Craft movement and the church murals, while clearly having an Italian influence in their concept, also  display influences from among otherstraquair centre Burne Jones, Rossetti and William Morris.  I was particularly struck by the Morris like details she painted above the arched stone doorways.

By all accounts she was a feisty red headed Irish woman, but five foot tall and full of creative energy.  It was she who simply approached the deacons of the church and told them she was going to paint their walls for them!

It took almost nine years, (between 1892 and 1901) to complete the work and for  the Irish, the greatest  interest will be her series of panels within the church narrating the parable of the wise and foolish virgins****

Here they are in all their glory, in one  of the five virgin panels, being summoned by  the Lord and clutching their famous oil lamps.  Five of them, the wise virgins, carry containers of oil.  The other five, the foolish virgins, have lamps but carry no oil.


The background landscape is  unmistakably the hills of Wicklow, and who, in Ireland will fail to recognise the Sugar Loaf mountain

Henceforward, at least for me, these virgins, wise and foolish, will always be known as the wise and foolish Wicklow Virgins!

Let the trumpets sound:

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.28.10



* Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB

** Robert Rowand  Anderson (1834 – 1921)    

*** Although the obvious Italian influence would suggest they are Frescoes it is more correct to describe them as murals.  The Fresco technique involves applying  pigment to a wet plaster surface whereas here, Mrs Ttarquaid has applied oil paint, diluted with turpentine,   onto a  hard dry surface prepared with lead white..

****  “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, “Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “What if there isn’t enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered, “Most certainly I tell you, I don’t know you.” Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man  is coming.”       Matthew 25:1-13








Dinner at the House of the Dead.

Sad to note that the House of the Dead on Ushers Quay in dear old Dublin has now closed and will not be available, this coming Bloomsday (16th June) for the wonderful Joycean dinner hosted by my great friend Brendan Kilty  that were such a joy in the years gone by.    This is a review I did of one such dinner, many years ago

To ushers quay, to the House of the Dead, wherein Joyce set the most famous of his short storieshouse of the dead, “The Dead”. The house is a tall elegant Georgian building with long and equally elegant windows overlooking the river Liffey and the new James Joyce Bridge designed by the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava and of which Joyce would surely approve.

The Georgian interior is lit by candles and the table set as it would have been for a well to do family Christmas in the early part of the twentieth century. We are gathered to celebrate Joyce, to recreate the dinner party, to sing the songs, recite the poems, to drink the wine, to enjoy the open fires, to indulge, reflect. In the same house, in the same rooms that Joyce himself recited the poems and sang the songs and drank the wine and from which experience he wrote such powerful prose.

There is turf on the fire and a beautiful Dublin girl is singing The Lass of Aughrim, accompanied by an Irish fiddle player, no less a musician than John Sheahan of the Dubliners. There are more songs from Joyce and from O’Casey, and tunes from the tin whistle the mandolin and the fiddle, there are poems and a visiting American academic dances and sways before the glowing turfs. Late into the night we spill onto the quays still haunted by the singing and knowing well enough that there will be few nights in Dublin, or indeed anywhere else that will be as enjoyable as dinner at the House of the Dead.

The Bingham Picket line Arrest…

There’s this school in Bingham.  The Toot Hill comprehensive school.  Popular with the children of  a large number of Nottingham commuters that have chosen to settle in this dormitory village,  more of a town these days, set halfway between Nottingham and Newark, just off the old Roman Road known as the Fosse way, or now, the A46.

bingham buttercrossIt’s not a very attractive town with most of the buildings being quite new and constructed with all the imagination of a dull municipal architect, although there is a very handsome and ancient buttercross set in the market square.

In 1979 the manual and ancillary workers employed by the Nottinghamshire County Council at the Toot Hill comprehensive became caught up in the Low pay campaign of the National Union of Public Employees and joined the strike action, popularly known to history as the great winter of discontent.    Thus, the caretakers and the cleaning staff together with the school meals staff came out. And it was bitter and controversial.

It was a bad winter and without the caretaking staff to stoke the boilers that kept the school warm then the Toot Hill school faced closure.  In addition, there was to be no cleaning.  Not of the classrooms, not of the corridors , not of  the toilets.   But Nottinghamshire County Council, under hard-line Tory control, was determined to keep the school open and face down the manual workers.   They hired dozens of Calor gas heaters and the school buildings became encased in a ring of large Calor gas cylinders placed outside the windows of classrooms and corridors.   The teachers decided not to support the strike and kept working and the council managed to find enough strike breaking cleaners to keep emergency cover.

Early each morning in the bitter winter cold, the striking caretakers and cleaners would mount a picket at the entrance drive, at the top of the hill where incoming teachers would drive up to the school carpark.   Their instructions were not to try and stop them entering the school but to hand out strike leaflets and to try and persuade them to support the low pay campaign.   For the teachers It was a fairly friendly “information picket” although there were real attempts to stop the regular deliveries of replacement Calor gas cylinders.

On and on went the strike through that dreadful winter and it was my task as the regional organiser to visit this picket line, and many others throughout the county, to keep support going, pay strike pay and generally keep an eye on things.

It was a bleak,  cold and frosty Monday morning,  horribly early, 5 am or thereabouts.  Five or six pickets, school caretakers and cleaning staff, well wrapped up, stamping to keep warm in the freezing temperatures, waiting for the gas cylinder delivery trucks to try and stop them entering, ready for the teachers to arrive to try and persuade them not to enter;  a few posters, official strike notices, armbands, stickers.

badge nupe picket

A white saloon car appeared at the bottom of the drive.  It was too early for the teachers.  The  saloon stopped and it was clear we were being watched by the driver.   He started to move up the drive and suddenly, without the slightest warning, he accelerated.   At high speed he sped towards the picket, causing them and me to leap out of the way, for had we not done so he would have hit at least one of us.   The car had swerved deliberately towards the picket and now sped off up the drive at high speed into the school carpark.    We were in a bit of shock.   I ran up to the car park to accost the driver,  He had spun round in the car park and was now facing the exit.  I ran to the driver’s window which was down.  Grabbed him by the throat of his white shirt and called him an unprintable type of person, accused him of deliberately trying to ram us and punched him in the chest.  Hard.

He resisted and grabbed my wrists and we struggled for a minute or so.  He shouted out he was a police officer and then produced a pair of epaulets saying he was Inspector Smith. And that I was nicked.   My aggression subsided, and he roughly handcuffed me and was bundling me into the car.  By now the other caretakers had reached the car park, equally angry,  I shouted to them that I was being arrested and they should call the regional office.

He took me, Inspector Smith, to Bingham Police Station where I was formally charged with obstruction and assaulting a police officer.  I was photographed and fingerprinted and an inventory of my possessions was made.  In the pocket of my Barbour jacket was £15,000.   Money I was distributing as strike pay to various locations around the county.   Russian gold, Inspector Smith called it as I was banged up in a Bingham cell.

It was not long before the Union solicitor arrived and I was duly bailed to appear before Bingham magistrates to answer to the charges.  I can’t now recall the name of the solicitor.  She had offices up on Derby Road and a large black dog and had been commissioned by the Unions regular solicitors, Thompsons, to deal with the arrest.  The arrest attracted a fair amount of press coverage.  Not that arrests on the picket lines were uncommon, they were not, but the arrest of a full-time union officer was a little unusual.

A problem arose in that the chairperson of the Bingham magistrates turned out to be the Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council Education Committee.  Notts County Council were the employers against whom the strike was directed.   I was advised to make an application to a High Court Judge at the Nottingham Shire Hall for an alternative venue for the trial because of the possibility of bias in Bingham.   A barrister was appointed and thus it was I appeared before Mr. Justice Savage, in his chambers, at the Shire Hall Courts.   The Shire Hall was in very poor condition as the cleaner’s caretakers and boilermen employed therein were all out on strike in the same low pay campaign.   Thus, the place was freezing cold,  it stank, the toilets were blocked, the ancient stone floors filthy with litter, uncleaned for many weeks.  Mr. Justice savage wore a red robe, but no wig.  I think he only wore the robe because it was so cold with just a two bar electric heater. There was a military officer in the room in dress uniform with a sword across his knees.

“Are you the chap responsible for the strike here?” asked the judge.

Despite my lengthy political explanation of the low wages that the  Shire Hall manual staff earned, in comparison with that of judges for exapple, and the deep political necessity for the strike and the need to establish a mimimum wage,  during which my barrister was desperately trying to shut me up, the application to change venue was denied.

And so, to the Bingham magistrates court.   Councillor Minkley, she who was the chairperson of the Education Committee decided not to sit and I do not now recall who it was who heard the case.

As luck would have it we had found an elderly German piano teacher who had been out walking her dog on the relevant morning.  She had witnessed the white saloon car, driving at high speed and swerving towards the picket.   She had not seen what happened in the car park but was a first rate independant witness as  to the behavior which prompted the subsequent confrontation and she completely corroborated the narrative and evidence of the other picketers.

My own evidence was that as the responsible union officer I felt it necessary to advise the driver that I would have to report him to the police for dangerous driving.   When I told him this, in a polite but firm manner, He replied by saying “  I am the fucking police and you, you communist bastard, are nicked”

I somewhat doubt that the magistrates believed this was the truth of what occurred in the carpark, but the evidence of the German piano teacher was so strong that it was sufficient to have the charges struck out.

There was quite a lot of press coverage of the trial.  It was the days before social media and I am sure if it happened today the local twitter feeds would be full of negative comments.   To express your hatred in those days required that you find a notepad, a pen, an envelope, a stamp and then search for an address and go to the trouble of visiting a post box.   Even so, there were one or two rather horrible letters.  The one that most pleased me was from the British National Party who sent a letter addressed to the “communist bastard” Nottingham.   No name no address.    The local post office kindly filled in the details and delivered it safely to my home in Snienton!


The story of the strike at the Shirehall is told here:  Winter of Discontent and the Nottingham Shire Hall

We never really reconcilled with Councillor Minkly, even though we sent her a valentine card:  Cuts valentine poem






50 Yards of Florence;

The medieval lanes and streets and alleys provide welcome breaks of shade from the heat and the sun, and occasionally from the crocodile lines of tourist groups faithfully following their guides.  But you tire easily for you are not so young now, the back hurts a bit, the legs ache,  the sun is hot, you need to pause, to sit down, recover a little and you look for a pavement bar or café. But they can be intimidating these Italian bars and cafés,  and you pass that one and avoid this one and then you come across a rough looking bar in a little rough looking space, a small scruffy square; there is graffiti on the walls and a few battered tables and chairs clustered outside the very ordinary and un-prepossessing door of the bar “Mingo”  There is a van, and a motor cycle lazily  parked across the small square but it becomes, for the tired intimidated hot uncomfortable you, a little oasis, and you slump into one of the battered chairs at one of the battered tables.

Florence square

A Screengrab from Google Earth showing the scruffy square at Piazza San Marinio

A beer, a cold Italian Moretti beer.  And you relax, stretch, calm down, cool down, revive, become human again. Begin to look about you.

You are in the Piazza San Marino on the narrow non-descript  Via dei Magazzini as it opens into the scruffy square and forms a junction with the Via Dante Alighieri.  At number 2 Via dei Magazzini there is a municipal office or yard of some kind, almost adjacent to the square and the bar.  my Italian is poor, the sign suggests the office of urbanisation?  This must make café Mingo a worker’s bar for it has none of the pretensions to being one of the touristy places that abound in Florence.   Number 1 Via Maggazini, next to the run down municipal offices of urbanisation, is a tall building of rough stone.  It is a tower!  A Florentine tower, a 1000-year-old tower, there is a sign upon it, something about it belonging, I think, to the Garibaldi society or the Garibaldi association, is that something to do with united biscuits?

You are intrigued now, relaxed and intrigued.  The tower is closed up, its tall forbidding doors, brown and studded, faded by the weather and the sun.  Occasionally a crocodile of tourists stops, and the guide tells them something of the tower, two minutes and on they go.  I can’t hear what they say for nowadays the crocodile tourists have small receivers around their necks and an earphone, the guide talks softly into her microphone and only the crocodile tourists can hear.   It is the 11th century Torre della Castagna, (Tower of the Chestnuts) , once the  stronghold of the Baccadiferro family at a time when Florence was ruled by gangs and clans and was far more dangerous and lethal than the wild west ever was.

Directly across, from the tower, on the opposite side of the scruffy square, a small private chapel, an oratory.   The crocodiles don’t point their trailing charges at it or even seem to notice it but there are one or two visitors who enter, sometimes a couple, often alone.

beer glassAnother beer, a cold Italian Moretti, served as they always do in Europe, in a wonderful glass, a goblet, a chalice, it works so well in the warmth of the Italian sun, or the Belgium architecture or the French café.  In England, and in Ireland we take our beer in plain pints, in Europe, in a painted goblet.

There is a parked motorcycle, the city is full of them, a Lambretta type, parked across the tables at the top of the square by the Via Dante Alighieri, immediately outside the chapel or oratory.   Two local Florentine municipal carabinieri (vigili urban) march purposefully into the square.   They wear helmets, like a London policeman’s helmet,f;premce [p;oce,am 2 but in white, of plastic or perhaps Bakelite, they look odd, a little comical, white Sam brown belts, cool Florentine white leather satchels, pistols in white holsters, they surround the motorcycle in officious determination and write on notebooks taken from the white leather satchels, noting the number, looking for tax discs, take photographs.   A man in the bar talks to them, agitated, agitated Italian, he goes off to fetch the owner and another man, leaning, relaxed from an upper window on the via Dante Alighieri begins to shout at the officers, good-humouredly, perhaps telling them to do something useful, as natives do, in all the cities of all the world.  They take an enormous amount of time securing their prey, a young lady turns up, it is her machine, she opens the panniers, looking for documents, she is distressed, they chastise her, she cannot find the documents, , they are insistent, a ticket is given, everyone shrugs and off they go these white-helmeted carabinieri, in their comical white hats. Looking for more Lambrettas,

In the chapel, the small oratory opposite the tower.  it is dark and cool, it takes a while to adjust from the bright shade of the square.   It is quite beautiful. It is the 15th Century Oratory of the Buonomini of San Marinoalms 1

The Buonomini,  in medieval times, gave alms and comfort to those in the city who fell upon hard times, the walls have a series of ten wonderful frescos, bright as the day they were painted,  showing the noble fraternity of the Buonomini distributing alms to the poor, visiting the sick, burying the dead, performing the Christian works of Corporal mercy:   It is religious, but not spiritual, it is the charitable works of the Lord, it is the salvation army, the good Samaritans.

You have stumbled across, in this scruffy square, with its battered tables and graffiti, a little treasure of Florence.   A 1000-year-old tower and now a 15th-century oratory with frescos by Florentine masters, and no ques, and no crocodiles of tourists.

Refreshed, you follow the via Dante Alighieri for a few yards, no more, and there is the house of Dante.  He knew these streets, he walked here, you are walking in the footsteps of Dante, in his very neighborhood, he would have known the scruffy square where you had taken the Italian beer.

A gallery, in a charming old building, with great studded doors and wooden shutters, of contemporary art.   It is small, and it is free and there are no long crocodiles waiting to get in.

You continue along the via Dante Alighieri  and there is a door, no more than 40 yards from the scruffy square, a large tall open door and sign upon the steps, a cardboard sign inviting you in to see the “produce of our monastery” and inside, in  a little cubbyhole of a space a nun presides over the jars of honey, the bottles of wine, the rosaries and the small sacred figures of those who lived with Christ.   The Chianti of the monastery is €7 for a bottle and you cannot resist, God bless the monks.   Music is playing on a small CD player.  It is the music of the monastery, the chanting of Vespers by the nuns and the monks.  The nun sees you admiring the sound.

“You can come to Vespers,” she says, “and hear us sing”.

It is late now, almost 6pm and Vespers will begin on the hour of six.   You are in the Bardia Fiorentina, a church and abbey, once owned by the Benedictines but now the place of worship for the Fraternita’ di Gerusalemme, or the Fraternity of Jerusalem    It is quiet, there are no crocodiles, there is a small pleasant courtyard and a great church, dating from 978.

So, you go to Vespers, the sunset service..  In the Bardia Fiorentina.  It is dark, lit by candlelight, there is hardly anyone there, a congregation of ten or twelve, in this massive, soaring Italian Romanesque interior, a great Byzantine cross hangs over the altar, it’s gold leaf picking up the reflecting candlelight.  And gathered before the altar rails are the nuns.

They are robed in full-length white cloaks, kneeling before their god.  There are monks too, across the aisle, again all in white, before the altar rails. And there are priests.  There is incense, swung by a monk from a golden thurible on a heavy chain; and an organ is playing.


The singing is so sweet, so wonderful, so soaring, so respectful.  In Italian.   Dante, in his day, would have heard the Mass and the vespers being sung here.  It is his neighborhood and has been sung here in this church since medieval times.  It is said that it was here he first saw Beatrice. He would have heard it in Latin and how his heart would soar to hear it now, in the Italian, the language of his poetry, the language he gave to Italy.

The nuns are like ghostly sculptures, singing softly in their long white robes

vespers 4

You are not a man of God, but few would fail to be moved by this.  It is the essence of medieval Florence

It is over, and you emerge from the cool darkness of the church.

You have traveled not more than fifty yards since you sat in the battered seats of the bar Mingo in the scruffy Piazza San Marino.    You have been to the Duma, to the grave of Michelangelo in the church of Santa Croce, to the Uffizi, following the tourist crocodiles around Giotto and Botticelli and Raphael; to Tuscan vineyards and to the Etruscan heights of Firenze, but that 50 yards of Florence that you stumbled across, by accident,  that, non-descript fifty medieval yards, that  is what will remain with you, when you leave this gorgeous medieval city and get back to the plain pints of Ireland and the  cold climes of Northern Europe.


When I were a lad in Gibraltar….

shackelton over gibraltarWhen I were but a lad in Gibraltar the RAF had a squadron of Shackleton bombers. Quite big beasts that resembled the old Lancaster bombers of WWII and which had a deep throaty roar as they flew over the rock out to sea.
Down at Europa Point alongside the lighthouse there was a kind of ledge and from time to time the military, probably the Royal Artillery, would set up a line of anti-aircraft guns, six of seven of them, probably a whole battery of guns although I’m not sure how may guns are in a battery. We would watch them, had a grandstand view only a few yards from the ledge. They would practice drills for hours, loading, unloading, traversing, and cleaning gun barrels and running around with boxes of ammunition. In the afternoon one of the Shackleton bombers would appear far out to sea, flying high, North to South and towing behind it, on an enormously long rope, an orange target. And now the guns would open fire and there was a great cacophony of noise with men in tin hats running about with shells, loading the firing guns, more tin hats, moulded to the gun seats spinning little brass wheels and tracking the target,t and more tin hats with binoculars watching the target and shouting instructions. The poor orange target didn’t stand a chance and there was acrid smoke from the guns and it was really really exciting. Afterwards would come a NAAFI tea van, or maybe it was the WRVS and serve the soldiers large mugs of tea and huge white sandwiches, “wads” they called them and the soldiers would chat to us and give us a sip of tea

The President’s Club “do”

Well well, that was a bit of to do about those President’s club men having a night out on their own.  Their annual “charity dinner” at the Dorchester.

Their problem, I reckon, was they are too rich.  Wearing a tux at a really really posh expensive hotel, that’s where they went wrong.

After all the working class have being doing it for years.  And the middle class.  They still are.

Years back, when I worked for a local constabulary we used to have what were called “gentlemen’s smoking evenings”  I went to one up at the old   Commodore  on Nuthall Road.    It wer well attended, constables, inspectors, superintendents, detectives they were all there.   It was a night of alcohol with comedians making graphic sexual jokes, alcohol with strippers, alcohol with young pretty waitress in classic waitress uniforms, skimpy of course.   All interspersed with raffles and auctions and collections for local charitable causes.     The jokes were foul, in subject and in language – Roy Chubby Brown standard, bit worse really.  Oh yeah, lot of racist jokes.


There wer even officers on duty.  Uniformed and CID.   The CID guys left early, called out to investigate something urgent, probably a rape or someat.

Organisers were making a fortune for these “gentlemen’s smoking evenings” they were popular as hell.  Firemen, bankers, sales meetings, doctor’s conferences, college lecturers, we were all at it.


And the pubs in Nottingham, and I’m sure in every other cit.  Many many had their “gentlemen’s attractions” .   I used to have a drink from time to time at the Duke of Cambridge on the Carlton Road.   It was where the local labour party branch met.  Manvers ward.   Chairman was the local vicar.   On Thursdays, the entrepreneurial landlord would have a topless barmaid night.   Very popular it was.  Often met labour party colleagues there “just for a drink” you know.  Probably still going on, if the pub still there.  Barmaids will be pensioners by now.     Caught on in quite a few pubs, the March Hare, just up the road, stared its own topless night to compete with the Duke of Cambridge.  Manvers branch started to meet there too.


But it still goes on.   Not even with any great subtly Have you been to a live show of some of the mainline BBC and every other bloody channel comedians?  Put the Presidents Club do into the ha’ penny place.   But big difference is that they are attended by both men and women, all paying top dollar for foul vernacular language, graphic misogynistic sexually explicit jokes and stories.    They’ve cut the racist jokes, but its just as bad, worse in fact.

I went, up in Edinburgh, year or so ago, to a huge gig  by Jimmy Carr, tax dodging doyen of  all the TV  comedy chat shows.


He picks out a pretty girl from the audience.

“Your boyfriend asked you to piss on him?  guffaw guffaw guffaw.  Did you like it? guffaw guffaw guffaw”

He shows a slide of a drawing of a man masturbating himself with the hand of a dead arm belonging to a man in a coffin, sperm spurting onto his coat:  guffaw guffaw guffaw.Ha ha ha ha guffaw,

“Anal sex is a load of shit, Ha ha ha, guffaw  “And it hurts like buggery, ha ha guffaw  ha haa And it bores my wife ha ha oh ha ha oh guffaw guffaw ha ha:

There was a heckler, angry about him dodging tax. “where’s your accountant?”  he shouts.

Guffaw, Ha ha ha. He’s at your place fucking your mum. Ha ha ha ha guffaw ha ha. Go home and wipe the cum off her mouth: ha ha ha guffaw ha guffaw ha ha,

What a put down. What wit.  What misogyny, what respect for women.  Was it that bad at the President’s culb?

The audience, the sophisticated festival loving, well heeled, university educated, guardian reading, leftist  bourgeoisie, packed into the venue in their hundreds,  they loved it, roared their appreciation, lapped it up

He invites woman from audience to join him in a “playlet” he has written.  She is pretty, of course. He gets her to read her part in the play from a prepared script.

“ I want you, Jimmy, for your large fat cock” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .

There’s a collection at the end.  Its , for abused children he tells us. With every £100 we can buy their silence; ha ha ha guffaw guffaw ha ha ha ha .ha ha ha ha”.

The Presidents club?   Small beer mate.  We all need to take a hard look at ourselves, and our television comedic heroes