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The Trouble with Aristocracy

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When I was thinking of an idea for my first novel, I began thinking of all the things in life that interest me. One of these is the concept of the landed gentry and the way they have always led a totally separate life to the great unwashed.

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A privileged life where peasants doff their caps, waiters serve you meals and maids make up your magnificent four-poster bed. Oh and you get to live in a humble pad about the size of the Dorchester hotel. In fairness, some of them allocated a few square yards of land for peasants’ hovels within their thousands of acres of countryside.It is the fascination with this concept that spawned blockbuster TV series such as Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs.

What makes the subject even more intriguing is the fact that these noble families are struggling to adapt to the modern era and this in itself provides the world at large with an immense source of fun

It is this undoubted entertainment value and the potential humour involved in this struggle that made up my mind to base a novel on it. I have always loved reading humorous books, so why not write one. Why not create a farce from a fictitious, clueless family of aristocrats who watch their castle disintegrate around their ears and do not have the wherewithal or nous to do much about it. So Open House at Cove Castle was born.

As a starting point I unearthed a piece of text about Burleigh House, which typifies the rocky road that most of our magnificent stately homes encounter. Sincere apologies for not crediting the piece, but I have absolutely no clue as to its source. It does, however, highlight when and how our aristocracy began to experience problems.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BURLEIGH

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He was born on a chill April morning in 1880. His mother, diminutive in the massive four-poster bed, was exhausted by her long labor. After he had nursed and been cleaned, his father, the Duke of Wiltshire, took him out of the bedchamber and held him aloft for the servants in the hall below to see. They smiled and clapped, welcoming the eighth Lord Burleigh, healthy and robust, into his privileged world.

The family home, Burleigh Hall, was a famous landmark, a massive, 18th century porticoed stone edifice topped with statues. It was surrounded by landscaped gardens and served as the seat for twenty thousand acres of rich farmland, all owned by the Duke. The vast estate included villages of houses, shops and pubs and small farms with cottages and barns.

Lord Burleigh wanted for nothing. From the moment of birth, servants saw to his every need: nursemaids to rock him and read to him when he was small, a gardener to lead him around the grounds on a pony, and a gentleman’s gentleman to put out his dinner attire and attend him when he was a young man.

His father the Duke was a hereditary member of the House of Lords, as Lord Burleigh himself would be one day, and was often in London attending Parliament. The family had an elegant town home there. His mother, the Duchess, gentle and kind, directed the household activities of the servants from the drawing room with her books or needlework close at hand. From her Lord Burleigh learned the advantages of an even temper and steady habits. His father was less even-tempered, and one of his most vivid early memories was of the Duke raging through the house damning Prime Minister Gladstone to hell. “He’s done us in!” the Duke had roared. “Given the vote to every dreary shopkeeper and tradesman! No good will come of this!”

Lord Burleigh’s education was the best–public school at Eton, then Oxford, where he excelled at history. After graduation, he returned to Burleigh Hall to prove himself a worthy heir to the Duke. Then came the government’s efforts at land reform and its determination to raise taxes. Lord Burleigh winced at the vicious attacks on his class by Lloyd George and others, who accused them of being useless wastrels. His father had his first stroke that year, after months of fighting the reforms.

The Great War gave Lord Burleigh hope that he and his fellow aristocrats could at last forcefully prove their mettle and value to the realm. He raised a company of working-class men from the estate, and crossed the channel with them as their captain. “I can’t wait to see the show,” he wrote to his mother from France, “I’ll give them what for.” But “the show” proved more terrible than he or anyone else could have imagined. Virtually all the boys he had known at Eton and Oxford were killed or wounded during the first two years of fighting.

By the summer of 1916, he had no more illusions: He was there because he was there. He knew it was no longer a question of if he would be killed, but rather when. In the nightmarish world of the trenches he became closer to his men. Whatever their social backgrounds, he respected them as soldiers, shared their hardships and grieved over their deaths. And then came the fateful day of the big push. When the signal to attack came, he clambered out of the trench and led his men forward. They were met by a sheet of flame.

He awoke in hospital days later, unable to remember anything other than the noise and the unbearable pain. The nurses explained that he had taken shrapnel in his leg, and that his unit was decimated. Within a matter of weeks he was walking with a cane, but for him the war was over. He was shipped home, physically and mentally scarred. The sight of Burleigh Hall was a balm to his soul, however, and he gloried in the smell of the gardens and the cool feel of the marble halls. His parents had worried desperately over his fate, and were visibly aged and worn.

The Duke died two years later, and Lord Burleigh came into his inheritance. At night he would pore over the records and bills, wondering how he was going to hold it all together. Rents were down, taxes were up and competition abroad had significantly depressed agricultural prices. Awful as it was to admit, there was nothing to do but sell off enough of the estate to financially square matters. Though Lord Burleigh was now a hereditary peer, he rarely attended Parliament (after all, it was the blundering politicians who had foolishly sent him and his fellows into the trenches). And so, painful as it was to do so, he sold the London residence to a war orphan society. He also sold off over 5,000 acres of Burleigh Manor itself to several different parties. Land was no longer the key to power; it was, instead, a distinct liability.

The postwar social scene was a dismal run of parties attended by obnoxious, socially obscure young people and vulgar businessmen chomping expensive cigars. Lord Burleigh attended several out of a sense of obligation, but then became disgusted and determined to spend some time abroad. After his mother died, he closed Burleigh Hall and paid an elderly caretaker to keep watch over things.

At age 52, he married a much younger American woman. They had two sons and for a time Burleigh Hall seemed alive again as the delighted giggles of children once more echoed through its rooms. But the house was more than the family needed or could keep up, and in 1938 they demolished the wings. Then came the Second World War, and though the family was safe from the bombing raids that devastated the cities, their lives were disrupted as the British army commandeered the house and grounds for a training base.

After World War II, Lord Burleigh was forced to sell off most of his remaining acreage. The older he got the more his war wounds pained him, and his children thought him sad. He died in 1955 after a stroke. His widow struggled to keep the house up, but servants were impossible to get and she despaired. Home from Oxford, her eldest son suggested she open the house for tours, charging the public to wander through Burleigh Hall’s magnificent spaces. Being an American, she was nothing if not practical, and thought it an inspired idea. In 1957 Burleigh Hall opened to the public and people streamed through by the thousands, gawking at its treasures. Lady Burleigh would stand on the staircase as they came in, smiling and nodding. Occasionally, a guest would stray outside and marvel at the green fields and hedgerows stretching towards the horizon, and wonder what it was like to live in such an extraordinary place.

A great piece of text that identifies the reasons that such wonderful country seats fall.

If the wars don’t get you, plummeting rent, escalating taxes, falling agricultural prices, a crumbling building and shortage of staff will.

Many others families have survived in a similar fashion. Ironically Highclere Castle in Hampshire has survived by allowing ITV to film Downton Abbey there, effectively  saving a stately home by allowing it to be used as a prop for a blockbuster about a stately home. Nice one!

But not every family of aristocrats had the foresight to take action. They have clung on and on hoping for the best.

A recent television series, The Guest Wing, highlighted several such families. One of them owned Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. Sir Humphry, a charming but steely septuagenarian, was keeping the 13th-century castle ticking over by hosting 1,500 paying overnight guests a year. “If you love this place, we love you,” he explained. “If you don’t, bugger off

The Spooky Chillingham Castle

The Spooky Chillingham Castle

In my mind I allowed Chillingham Castle to morph into my fictitious Cove Castle. It is widely regarded as one of the most haunted places in the country with hundreds of paranormal events being recorded.

And so ghosts in my story were born. Three distinct tribes of them. All up to no good, all playing an integral part in the plot. And just for good measure I’ve added hippy activists, explosions, drugs, smuggling, major art forgeries and assassination attempts. All designed to help and hamper Cove Castle’s attempts to survive in the 21st century.

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Open House at Cove Castle is available for less than a dollar and less than a pound from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

 

A Guest Blog from Karl Wiggins: The Trouble With The Bible

Welcome to my first ever guest blog from Karl Wiggins, one of the most interesting author’s you’ll ever meet.

He is a prolific writer of comedy and I love him, because humour is my favourite genre and Karl makes me laugh…and laugh…and laugh.

The guys day jobs are a wonder in themselves. They include; Hod carrier, hotel waiter, kitchen porter in France, waiter on a cruise ship, bouncer, dosser, market stall on Venice Beach California, cab driver in South-Central L.A. (home of the infamous Bloods & Crips), cab driver in England (both of which are the subject of his book ‘Cab Driver,’ which can be found on Amazon Kindle). He spent five years on the road in America, working with a travelling sales crew, North in the summer, South in the winter, and 1000 other jobs. He’s also worked in construction management for the past 15 years.

Now before I go any further I want to make it clear that Karl’s views are Karl’s views and I don’t necessarily share them. I think it’s fair to point out that this blog is not for the faint hearted or the easily offended. It appears to take a light hearted swipe at many aspects of the Bible, and, as with Karl’s books, is likely to polarise views. Look away now if this does not sit comfortably with you.

So off you go, Karl. Entertain whoever is left…

The Trouble With The Bible, a blog from Karl Wiggins

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Yo Christians, help me out here. I’m aware that orthodox, conservative Christians oppose same-sex marriage, and (correct me if I’m wrong) I think that’s because of the words of Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” and I think it’s Romans 1:27 “Men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” So I get that. Even David Cameron has stated that he wouldn’t attempt to redefine marriage

And, as I understand it, marriage in the bible is only discussed as between a male and a female. Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Corinthians 7:2 “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Ephesians 5:23-24 “ For the husband is the head of the wife even as is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Wow! How about that? I’ve just called Sue in to show her what I’ve found; “Wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Actually that didn’t go down very well at all. In fact, she was none too impressed.

Anyway, the church opposes same-sex marriage. I mean, God made a woman out of Adam’s rib, didn’t he? Not another bloke!

Having said that though, I’m still trying to get my head around it all. You might as well oppose interracial marriages as well. I know you’re not supposed to plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together, but what about interracial marriage? What does the bible say about that? Well Leviticus 19:19 “Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” Hmmm, getting close there. Is this a biblical metaphor for marriage between people of other nations or are they just rabbiting on about agriculture?

But what about Ezra 10:2 “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us.” And this goes on. It seems there were a stack of people who had sinned by marrying foreign women including descendants of priests, rock musicians, bouncers and who knows who else? Ezra 10:44 “All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.”

So this is where I need some help. If I’m to be a good Christian I also need advice concerning other elements of God’s law;

Leviticus 6:3-6 says that if I find something which is lost and lieth concerning it then I’ve got to offer a ram without blemish to the priest. Well, when I was about 17 or 18 I was walking past one of those Afro-Caribbean Nightclubs in Wembley with my mate, Tony. The club mainly catered to patrons from nearby Chalkhill Estate, where Tony lived.

Outside the club on the pavement were two suitcases. Just sitting there. Tony and I were a bit pissed and thought to ourselves, “Bloody hell! It’s got to be money from a bank robbery or something.” This is absolutely true. So we had one of the cases away, believing it to be stuffed with banknotes. We ducked down an alley and opened it, convinced we’d be set up for life. I guess we really were pissed because all it contained was some geezer’s clothes. He’d probably just got off the boat from Trinidad or Tobago and had aimed himself in the direction of Wembley, poor bastard. Now he’s lost half his clothes.

Anyway that was a long time ago and although the suitcase wasn’t exactly lost I did find it. And although I didn’t exactly lieth about it I thought I’d better make amends. So I drove out to the country and found a herd of sheep. I’d read up on it and learned that buck goats acquire a unique and strong odour when they’re rutting, although rams don’t, but that wasn’t really much help because by the time I got there no one was doing any rutting at all. However, there was one of them with horns and a dark face, so I figured he’d do. He put up a bit of a struggle but I managed to get him in the back of the car and drove around until I came to a church. I told the vicar about finding the suitcase full of clothes outside the Afro-Caribbean club in Wembley and said I’d brought along this ram to make amends. He told me to fuck off!

So now what am I supposed to do with it? I’ve stuck it in the back garden for the time being but Sue’s getting well pissed off with it. It keeps chewing all the clean washing.

Anyway, you can see I’m making an effort to be a good Christian.

Now, I’m having a little trouble with this one. Leviticus 11:1-6 “And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.”

Can you see my problem here? It just goes on and on and on for another 41 verses, talking about fowls that creepeth and locusts and camel toes and vultures and ravens and none of it makes any sense to me whatsoever. What’s a coney by the way? And if I order a lamb donor kebab does a lamb parteth the hoof or cheweth the cud? And supposing they’ve stuck horsemeat in there? Help me out here?

Now Leviticus 18 says that if anyone has sex with their uncle’s wife they’re to be cut off from their people. Well, there’s this bloke down the pub who shagged his aunty. He said she was gagging for it. He was a bit pissed, she was a bit pissed and one thing led to another, you know how it is. But we’ve now got to cut him off from all his people. Which people? His family? Or everyone in England?

Now Leviticus 19:20 says “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free.” Okay, now this bloke down the pub, same bloke actually, went over to Germany to see Arsenal play Bayern Munich and while he was there went with this prostitute in the Frankfurter Ring who he later suspected might have been a victim of sex slave trafficking. We’re not supposed to put him to death, I get that. But what kind of punishment does the bible say we can give him?

Revelations 20:15 says that anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life is to be cast into a lake of fire. This bloke down the pub, I don’t think his name is likely to be written in any book of life, do you? But do we really have to cast him into a lake of fire? Can’t we just flick matches at him in the pub or burn him with cigarettes. Won’t that do?

You see, as I understand it, there are a lot of people I’ve got to burn with fire. Back to Leviticus, “If a man takes a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they.” You see this bloke down the pub, different bloke actually but one of his mates all the same, says he quite fancies his mother-in-law. Well if he ‘takes’ her, we’ve got to burn him as well, yeah? But you see, I’m wondering if there’s any leeway in this. I do have a day job, you know, and if this keeps up I’m simply going to be too busy going around burning people.

I’m also troubled by Leviticus 19:27 (and I swear this is the last time I’ll mention the book of the Levites) because it tells me I’m not to round off the side growth of my head. And I guess I’m okay with that because I haven’t got any side growth, but what really concerns me is Leviticus 19:28 “Do not mark your skin with tattoos.” I’ve got four tattoos, so I’m in a bit of a spot here, aren’t I? Does that mean my name has been stricken out of the book of life?

I’m also told that I’m not to go around spreading slander, which I do all the time on Facebook. But I don’t know what punishment I’m to expect for this. Could I perhaps rend my clothes and fall on my face? They’re doing that all the time in the bible. That’d do, wouldn’t it?

In Deuteronomy 13 I read that if someone tries to get me to go and join another religion then my hand shall be the first against him to put him to death. Okay, I don’t mind that so much but afterwards we’ve got to get all the people to stone him to death until he dies. I was thinking this might be best done at half time at a football match. You know, sometimes they have penalty shoot-outs between kids from different schools, well why not get everyone in the crowd to stone this bloke to death one week instead of penalty shootouts? That’d work, wouldn’t it?

I tell you what; most kids football matches take place on a Sunday. So instead of going to church, why don’t we get one of these blokes who’s tried to get us to join another religion – a Jehovah’s Witness or someone – and stone him to death at the half-way line? We could chuck him in one of the goals until the end of the match.

In fact, the more I read I can see there’s a lot of people I’ve got to stone to death. Numbers 15:32-36 says that if a bloke picks up sticks on a Sabbath day, I’ve got to stone him to death. To be truthful, I don’t really know anyone who picks up sticks, on a Sabbath or otherwise, so could I just stone the bloke who collects all the trolleys at Tesco’s? Would he do instead?

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 if a woman’s not a virgin on her wedding night I’ve got to stone her to death also. Well, I hate to admit it, but No-Knickers Nicky who I used to sell Timeshare with wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night, I can assure you of that! So she’s another one!

Witches and Wizards have also got to be stoned to death as well. What’s that bloke’s name who played Harry Potter? I’ll put him on my list. Bastard!

Now Deuteronomy 13:12-16 “If you hear someone in one of your cities, which the Lord your God gives you to dwell in, saying, ‘Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods”’—which you have not known— then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it, all that is in it and its livestock—with the edge of the sword. And you shall gather all it’s plunder into the middle of the street, and completely burn with fire the city and all its plunder, for the Lord your God. It shall be a heap forever.”

That’s a bit of a tall order, isn’t it? Even for someone who’s pretty keen, like me? I’m willing to give it a go but say Watford’s playing away at Derby and as I get off the train I hear that someone’s been saying, “Let us go and serve other Gods.” Bloody hell! I’ve got to strike all the inhabitants of Derby with the edge of my sword, utterly destroy the city and all it’s livestock, gather all the plunder in the middle of the street and completely burn the whole city. Do you think I could watch the game first?

Here’s another one I’m puzzling over. Deuteronomy 20:13-18 “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her and give occasions of speech against her then the damsel’s father shallsay unto the elders, “I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her,” then the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him.” What man? The bloke who hateth his wife or her father? I’m asking this because there’s a bloke at work, Ryan, who hateth his wife (although apparently when they first got married he did go it unto her) and I don’t know whether to chastise him or his father-in-law.

Ryan also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot, so I think it’s probably best if I chastise him. What do you think?

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 “If you have a stubborn and rebellious son, who is a glutton and a drunkard, then you and the other men in your neighbourhood shall stone him with stones that he dies.” Blimey! They’ll be no teenagers left in my area! Do you think it would be a good idea if I went around smiting them all straight away?

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 “If two men fight and the wife of one grabs the ‘secrets’ of the other, then thou shalt cut off her hand and thine eye shall not pity her.” Now wait a minute here, let me get this straight. Two blokes are having a row in the pub car-park. One of the wives steams out of the pub, jumps on the other bloke and grabs his ‘secrets,’ and we’re supposed to cut her hand off.

And besides that, who’s going to do it? Not me, I’m telling you. I’m up for smiting people and throwing them in lakes of fire and burning cities and stoning people to death and whatever else it takes to be a good Christian, but if this bird’s waded into the fight by grabbing the other fellow’s ‘secrets’ then I’m going nowhere near her! Can’t we get a more experienced Christian to do that?

And then you’ve got the problem of the poor bloke who’s had his nuts grabbed hold of by his enemy’s wife. Deuteronomy 1 “A man whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off may never join the assembly of the Lord.” So not only has he had his bollocks squeezed, but he’s never allowed to go to church again!

Actually, I think there are a lot of people who aren’t allowed in church. They’re all mentioned in Leviticus 21:18-20 and include a hunchback, a dwarf, someone with an eye defect (I wear glasses to read) and again, anyone with damaged testicles. Hmmm, I can see the church doesn’t like people who’ve had their gonads grabbed.

Just a couple more queries then I’m done for now. I know I promised not to mention Leviticus again, but this is the book that’s giving me the most problems. Leviticus 25:44 says “You may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.” I’ve just had an argument about this with Sue. She’s telling me not to be so bloody stupid, but why can’t I acquire a slave from Scotland? They’re a pagan nation, aren’t they? I wouldn’t want to own any Welsh slaves, I mean, you wouldn’t would you? What would the neighbours think?

Sue’s also giving me another problem. You see I’ve been offering up burnt offerings to the Lord. I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing it correctly as in Leviticus 1:8-10. I’ve been arranging the head and the suet over the wood, I’ve been washing the legs and entrails with water and I’ve been offering “up in smoke all of it,” as the aroma is pleasing to the Lord. The trouble is the aroma’s not pleasing to Sue, and she keeps going on and on about it. She was the same when I was brewing my own beer, and had to boil the hops in the bath.

Leviticus 15:19-22 is giving me some difficulty too. “When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean,” “Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.” My problem here is that I don’t really know if a woman’s in her period of menstrual impurity or not? The only way is to ask them, but if I note a lady giving her seat up on the train home at night, and I want to jump in there, they seem to take offence at me asking if they’re menstrually impure! I’ve tried explaining that I’m not allowed to touch anything on which she’s sat but it hasn’t gone down too well.

The last thing that’s troubling me is although same-sex marriage is obviously an abomination so are haughty Eyes (Proverbs 6:16), sexual immorality, jealousy, drunkenness, orgies (Galatians 5:19-21 – I know, I couldn’t believe it myself, surely not orgies), your wife putting on your jumper if she’s cold (Deuteronomy 22:5), lying with an animal (Leviticus 18:23), arrogance (Proverbs 16:5), turning your ear away from hearing the law (Proverbs 28:9), scoffing (Proverbs 24:9 – although I don’t know whether that’s scoffing at rival football supporters or scoffing your sandwiches down at lunchtime), lighting joss-sticks (Isaiah 1:13), uncovering the nakedness of your father (Leviticus 18:6), lying sexually with your neighbour’s wife (Leviticus 18:20), uncovering a woman’s nakedness while her sister is still alive (Leviticus 18:18 – I’m having a little difficulty with this one), pursuing unnatural desire (Jude 1:7-8 – do you think that include MILFs? I mean, I’m only asking), writing the name ‘Mystery’ on a prostitute’s forehead (Revelations 17:5) and eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10).

My question is that all of these are abominations, they’re all vile and detestable, but are they all as bad as each other? Is there a kind of ‘Hierarchy of Abomination’? Is eating shellfish and scoffing at rival football supporters as bad as, say, lighting joss sticks? Obviously same-sex marriage is at the top of the ‘Abomination Hierarchy’ but what else is up there with it? Your wife wearing your jumper if it’s cold? Uncovering your father’s nakedness? Having haughty eyes? Surely not pursuing unnatural desires towards MILFs?

It’s not as easy as it seems, being a Christian, is it? But I’m doing the best I can. I’m rending my clothes and falling on my face, I’m smiting every same-sex couple I can find, I’m preparing burnt offerings by killing them on the north side of the barbeque (our garden is North-facing, you see), washing the intestines and sprinkling blood all over the lawn, but I just can’t get past the last two obstacles; 1) my tattoos and 2) the fact that I’m third generation bastard. Deuteronomy 23:2 “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation.” And that includes me.

I need some help here!

Wow, I think we all do, Karl. Many thanks for enlightening us on a myriad of topics from the Bible, none of which will ever be viewed quite the same again.

 

CHARLIE’S NEW BOOK IS FREE TODAY!

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Charlie’s New Book Out Today!

Did you know Charlie Bray had ‘arrested’ one of the Beatles, lost Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, got drunk with Keith Moon and pulled a gun on the Great Train Robber? His new book is out today and it tells all!

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Join Charlie as he takes a hearty swipe at the famous. Well, he’s got more reason than most to have a pop. He’s been knocked out by one, peed on by another and had to pull a gun on one of the Great Train Robbers. He also lost Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, got drunk with Keith Moon and ‘arrested’ John Lennon. Oh, and Charlie went to school with a mass-murderer. Always there to help others, Charlie’s even saved an old lady from a handbag swinging Lady Archer. Add that to one of your novels, Jeffrey!

Celebrities Say the Funniest Things

Did you know East Anglia was an African nation and that Sherlock homes invented toilets? It’s not and he didn’t, but a certain celebrity thought otherwise. Help Charlie unravel the weird mind of celebrity

The famous and their toys

Learn who lands his own jet liner about ten yards from his front door, and who swims to his Ferrari via his indoor swimming pool

How did Peppa Pig corrupt a two year old?

Find out how the wayward pig and a whole host of celebrities were caught behaving badly

Celebrity Wars

Why do famous stars throw phones at hotel staff and punches at toilet attendants? Some even grab testicles and bite noses off. Join Charlie as he names names, and see how the public are fighting back

Special Needs for Special People

You’ll be amazed at the dressing room demands of some of your heroes. But don’t worry, Charlie’s got the answer. A perfectly designed dressing room for all, that doubles up as a green room

The Trouble With Celebrities is a 5 star read that you won’t want to miss!

You can download this hilarious book now from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

The Trouble With Celebrity

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THE TROUBLE WITH CELEBRITY

piers-morgan

Piers Morgan – the unloved

 In real terms, celebrity is a generic term and loosely describes anyone who is deemed by anyone else to be famous.

 The Encarta Concise English Dictionary describes a celebrity as a recipient of fame, or the state of being famous.

So then we’re left to find the meaning of fame, or the famous.

Now, you may wonder why I’m bothering to dig deep into the generic force that is celebrity. Quite simply it’s because enough of the twerps within the celebrity group manage to get up my nose on a regular basis, and it’s time someone took a swipe back at them. I am that soldier. I need to know what they actually are, what they actually do.

Anyway, fame and the famous. The same dictionary describes fame as the condition of being very well known, and the famous as being known and recognized by many people.

Now, I bet you’ve noticed that the dictionary’s interpretation of fame and the famous makes no mention of any skill or talent. And there is the rub. Flash a pair of synthetic breasts at the camera during a particularly nauseating scene from the reality programme, Big Brother, and you’re a celebrity. A random act that requires no skill, no talent, and even less intelligence. But how would such an oik be invited on Big Brother anyway. Quite simply by flashing their synthetic breasts at the camera during the auditions for this classic show, which actually is a programme for oiks. Ooh, the price of fame, eh?

Now, my real frustration lies with the fact that the term celebrity is so generic that it’s impossible to hate all celebrities.

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I love Clint

No one would ever argue that Clint Eastwood is not a celebrity and I love him. I love Jack Nicholson as well, and David Beckham, and Michael Caine. I even love the celebrity that is Joan Rivers, and she’s not always that pleasant on stage. I have great respect for Stephen Hawkins. I don’t really love him. He salivates too much for that to happen, but he is, at least, gifted. The point is that, although this little gang exclusively comprises celebrities, it also comprises people with enormous talent.

I don’t love Piers Morgan, Katie Price and about ten million other celebrities though.

Maybe we should insist that the word celebrity carries an adjective with it at all times. Then David Beckham would carry the title skilfull celebrity, Joan Rivers, talented celebrity, and Stephen Hawkins, gifted celebrity.

It certainly wouldn’t raise many eyebrows if Piers Morgan carried the title talentless celebrity.

Stephen Hawkins. Respect, not love

Stephen Hawkins. Respect, not love

But that’s just me. I know my views aren’t shared by all, or even many, if you look at all the celebrity magazines that sit on news shelves each week. And that’s where editors are clever. They fill their pages with a whole range of celebrities, including the skillful, gifted, talented and talentless. This provides a safe harbour for the talentless ones to thrive.

It’s those that I’m after.

In our own minds, I suppose we do tend to categorize celebrities, hence the expressions A-listers and Z-listers. But even then we put up with it. We tend to watch hours of reality drivel, whilst muttering, “Bloody bunch of z-listers” under our breath. Or, in my case, to my wife, not under my breath. She doesn’t put up with it for long before she banishes me to the small tv upstairs, where I can at least escape to watch Top Gear. Yes, alright…

So, short of standing all talentless celebrities up against a wall and shooting them, which never goes down well, I’m not sure what the answer is. But I’m certainly going to enjoy thinking about it.

 

Forgettable Jelly Moulds

I love really old men with long hair, sporting a couple of earrings and wearing  Black Sabbath tee-shirts.Eccentric old man

Now, before you unsubscribe, unfriend me, and slowly back towards the door, please hear me out.

What I really love is any form of eccentricity, anything slightly off beam, a tad off centre. Well, I say any form of eccentricity, but there is a line. I suppose Adolf Hitler was an eccentric, and I don’t love him. When I was researching images to illustrate long-haired old men, the screen was suddenly filled with images of Jimmy Saville. I screamed and switched off my computer. I certainly don’t love him. I went to school with Harold Shipman, the eccentric who morphed into a serial-killing doctor and saw off half his patients. I didn’t love him.

But Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses is alright. Phew, I’m back with nice, weird people.

Unknown-1And it’s not just outlandish people I admire. When you drive along any main road, you come across hundreds of jelly moulds driving towards you, so unmemorable that you’re hardly likely to spend time discussing any of them at the water cooler. But come across a gleaming red Morgan and, guess what, it has your attention.

If you’re a tennis fan recalling the glorious days, do you reminisce about Bjon Bjorg or John McEnroe? Both as skillful, both from a similar era, but one of them, the one with ridiculous hair, famous for shouting obscenities at the umpire and anyone who’d listen. You cannot be serious!

Or, if you were a snooker fan in the eighties, who commanded your attention? The bland machine that was Steve Davies, or the whiskey swilling, womanising, foul mouthed Hurricane Higgins?

Bee manI once saw a little fat man walking around Verona dressed as a bee, for no other reason that he enjoyed walking around Verona dressed as a bee. He made me smile – he was interesting. I couldn’t describe anyone else that had been walking around Verona that afternoon.

Variety is the spice of life. Some people stick like glue to the archetype, some vary dramatically. Who do you tend to remember? And don’t answer, “The nutters!” They’re not usually nutters, although I do accept the fact that nutters are specially equipped to excel at such activities.

Let’s be kind and call them head turners. I met someone at a hotel in Rhodes recently, and he certainly turned my a_man_dressed_as_a_woman_thumb10624116_207head, because he was dressed as a woman. There with his wife, whom I should think helped choose his wardrobe, he strutted his stuff around the hotel for seven days. Lovely gear, but I’m guessing he didn’t turn many guys on, because he was so obviously not a woman. He knew that, we knew that, but he held center stage all week. He was happy and I suspect most of his captive audience was happy, because he showed them something different. He was on the same return flight as me, now a very normal, grey haired sixty odd year old man, who could, and did, get lost in a crowd. In a way the real guy proves my point perfectly. Normal, run of the mill, mundane people don’t stand out in a crowd. They’re instantly forgettable.

But wait. I suppose you could turn that around. If everyone in a room, except one, was an outlandish, centre of attention, larger than life character, and that one person was a little, bland old lady, maybe she’d stand out. Because she’d be the different one.

So maybe there is a case for the occasional jelly mould after all. Go on then, make it a double.

See you next week,

Charlie

I look at all the lonely people

The other Sunday, The One Who Must Be Obeyed and I were invited to a function at a friend’s village hall.

I have to say I went with some reluctance but, whilst there, I met what can only be described as a lovely bunch of Unknown-3people. But I couldn’t help noticing that this lovely bunch was made up primarily of women. That’s not indicative of a village that secretly despises men. It’s indicative of the fact that men tend to shuffle off this planet a bit quicker than ladies, and, bless them, the women folk are left to do whatever deserted old ladies do.

Now because the odds are that one day, and I hope it’s in the far distant future, I’ll shuffle off before The One Who Must Be Obeyed, I’ve started piecing together what it is they actually do.

Well, for starters, in my village, a coach, that can only be described as past its prime, trundles up to a lay-by adjacent to the village hall each Tuesday, to a muted cheer from a queue comprising forty-two old ladies and one old bloke. I suppose the current status of the coach  reflects the status of its passenger list.

Unknown-1I often wonder what the one bloke’s motivation is for joining this weekly soiree. I really hope he’s not a dealer.

If it’s to find a partner, he’s not really succeeding, as there’s always quite a gap in the queue between him and the ladies.

Mind you, he does make John McCririck look attractive.

I did look into where the coach goes, and wasn’t surprised to learn that, usually, it ends up at an out of town shopping outlet , which subsequently does a roaring trade in beige cardigans, beige handbags and beige shoes.

Well at least they go somewhere. The few old men that still survive tend to sit on benches in small groups and chunter to each other about God knows what.

Unknown-2So, we’ve got buses full of old ladies, and their dealer, hurtling around the countryside in search of beige leather goods and we’ve got benches full of the endangered species that is old men,  sitting on park benches, probably talking about the amount of beige that’s around these days. Both groups appear to me to be a bit lonely and sad.

There’s got to be a way of bringing these hapless groups together. Not on the bus or on the bench. More a joint venture involving pastures new.

It wouldn’t be breaking new ground to organise a tea dance, or even a speed-dating circle. These folk aren’t too speedy anyway. No, I think it’s time to think outside the box.

I look back at what has brought me together with females in the past. Sixty years ago, Valerie Crosby let me watch her have a pee on the way home from school. Let’s build on this. “Show me yours, Ada, and I’ll show you mine!” No, that’s not going to work.

A week or two ago, I saw a poster that proclaimed, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!’ And then it hit me. These old folk need shaking up a bit so they can start living. It’s all well and good toddling into a village hall, or strolling around a shopping mall, or sitting hunched up with your mates on a park bench. But that’s just existing.

So, I’ve fathomed out how to kill two old birds with one stone. On reflection, that’s perhaps not the best expression to use.

What the oldies, of either gender, should do is step over the edge of their comfort zone, start living again, and meet up with a like-minded potential life partner. And I know just the thing that will help them achieve this.

A friend of mine has just been treated to a hair-raising zip wire experience in Wales. Hair-raising in that you are hurled over hill and dale, whilst strapped in a harness, which scoots along an elevated wire at up to 90 mph.

Now, here’s the thing. Oldies tend to suffer from knee,hip and back problems. Which is why you see them shuffling around everywhere. I can feel the onset of such wear and tear myself and can sense the dreaded shuffle beginning to take shape, or rather mis-shape.

Well, on this super zip thingamajig, these knackered old body parts are given a complete rest. Your stance is horizontal, with arms held akimbo. A bit like Superman in full flight. You are actually encased in a sort of body bag, which again is good training for the future, and you fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane?’ No, it’s Aggie and Horace, her new life partner, sampling the liberation of life above civilisation.

I can’t see how this can fail. So I’ll design a poster, distribute it around village halls, bus stops and park benches, and watch loneliness and beige accessories slowly disappear.

Viva les wrinklies!

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