Friday, 24 April 2009


Stromboli was fuming this week Madder than I have seen him yet. He practically short circuited his new laptop firing off e mails hither and yon.

The reason for his hyperactivity? Of all things, a pair of clowns shoes.

A young man called Valerik Kashkin, employed by the Moscow State Circus, has been told by Elf and Safety that he can no longer wear his size eighteen clown shoes as they constitute a health risk.

It seems that he was performing in a show at Sefton Park when he fell off a ten foot high wire while wearing the offending articles and ended up spending a week in hospital. The young man did not hold the shoes personally responsible and was perfectly willing to put them on again when he resumed his duties. In fact, he insisted that they were a vital part of his act - his personal signature, if you like, but the superannuated gnomes were having none of it.

Well that was more than enough to press Stromboli's buttons. "Nanny state gone mad!" he yelled in the Daily Mail. "An unwarranted interference in the artistic process", he expostulated in the Guardian.

It was a difficult time, I can tell you, but he was just beginning to calm down when he had the bad luck to run into Beppo; head clown, head union negotiator for his compatriots in mirth, and........headcase!

Beppo is a fool. Yes I know he is paid to be a fool but he's a fool even when he is not being paid and very good he is at it too. He's argumentative, hot headed, a disruptive influence and, altogether, quite unstable. I should think that the only other type of employment open to him would be a post in Gordon Brown's cabinet.

Anyway, he had heard about the Russki's unfortunate accident and was in a right three ring flap about it.

Apparently, he was on his way to see Pettigrew to tell him that he would be handing in his comedy shoes because he feared his own fall from a great height. The fact that the "highest" he has ever been was when he got his hands on that cheap Paraguayan Rum seemed to have slipped his memory. In any case, from what I know of Beppo and the way he rubs people up the wrong way, his own fall from a great height will come from behind, caused by a determined push and will have nothing to do with comedy shoes.

Apparently, Stromboli was close to punching him on the nose - the real one, not the prop - but given Beppo was still wearing the big shoes he would just keep springing back again and again and again.

It just goes to show there is always some clown ready to spoil your day.


Labour Bribes Public Sector

I would like to nominate Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the P.M.'S right hand man (but only cos' its Brown's right hand that's operating this puppet) for this week's spot in Stromboli's "Aunt Sally".

Shortly after midday on Wednesday April 22Nd, 2009 he got up to tell us how he planned to get Britain out of its worst financial mess since the end of the Second World War.

Anyone expecting some brilliant and dashing strategy, or even a modicum of common sense, was to be sorely disappointed. Such strategy as there was seemed to consist of "max out the nation's credit card and keep your fingers crossed for a new Gold Rush. Oh, and on no account ask public sector employees to shoulder any of the burden.

He played that loathesome Labour trick of talking of the Public Sector as if it was made up entirely of selfless nurses, brave policemen and dedicated teachers. He, of course, made no mention of the army of pen pushers, trampoline instructors and general busybodies.

Oh how Labour love the Public Sector. They are joined at the hip. The Public Sector is Labour's largest and most easily identifiable constituency. They win elections don't they?

A final word to Mr. Darling: Bailing out banks and car makers is bad enough, but being pushed further into penury so that you can buy Labour their next General Election victory is just too much!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


I soon worked out that Stromboli's caravan was a realm set apart from the outside world. In there was peace and calm. In there was music and beauty. Stromboli loved his music and, being generous, he was not selfish with his pleasure.

It was here that I first discovered the glories of the Enigma Variations, Handel's Water Music and, my own personal favourite, Saint Saen's Carnival of the Animals.

Stromboli, as I think I have already said, greatly enjoyed reading aloud and so I was introduced to the wonders of F. Scott (Come back, come back o glittering and white) Fitzgerald's luminous prose and so many of the great classics. It was a mystery to me how all of that heart tugging beauty could be wrought from that ugly, confused place on the other side of the caravan door.

The only thing that I didn't like was that wretched little glass box that sat, bug eyed, in the corner. The main reason that I didn't like it was the effect that it had on my friend. It seemed that every time that he switched it on gloom settled on him like a mantel - usually because of some new evidence of the world's wickedness as explained on the latest news.

It might be something earth shattering or something relatively unimportant but, if it touches a nerve, the effect is much the same.

He marches up and down the length of the caravan fulminating against the ways of the world and then sits down to compose an email to be sent to some newspaper, broadcaster, M.P. or other on the subject in question.

For most of us this sort of behaviour would very quickly exhaust us but Stromboli cannot rest until he has righted the "wrong" - even if only on paper. HE is exhausted until he does so!

Last Saturday, however, it was the Radio, not the T.V., that had my friend wearing out the carpet.

Some dour Scots writer called A.L.Kennedy who, incidentally, is no oil painting herself, was having a "go" at Susan Boyle, the You Tube singing sensation. Kennedy was being all post modern and "Sunday Supplement Clever" about her "victim" and her looks and I could see my dear friend getting more and more worked up. After listening for a while and before the steam started to come out of his ears he switched the contraption off so violently I feared that the nob might come off in his hand.

He strode up and down the length of the caravan, as is his custom, cursing a world which cannot accept the beauty of a voice such as hers without questioning the packaging or attempting to qualify it in some way.

He worried for the lady herself and worried that the wretched media, having built her up, would soon be dragging her down again.

We listened to her sing a few more times on You Tube and every time we did he got more and more angry that people couldn't just accept this wonderful gift with gratitude.

He then spent a tortured hour composing a letter to The Times and then, happily, the anger faded away. His self administered therapy had worked once again and the sun, once more, shone in our little world.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


And then there was Stromboli. After all the upsets, the alarms and excursions, of previous weeks, finding a billet with Stromboli was like coming home. I would still rather have been gazing up at the moon sailing through an African sky, surrounded by those I loved but, if I had to be in this strange place, Stromboli was the best place to be in it with.

He was a STRONG man all right and in more ways than one. Apart from his physical prowess, he had certain basic beliefs that he would not betray in any way. Not for money. Not for social acceptance. Not even, I suspect for his life. Yet he readily accepted the rights of others to hold different beliefs provided that they did not try to persuade him that he was misguided in his.

Despite his moniker and the occasional lapse into cod Italian he actually hailed from Wythenshawe and loved his country with a passion and magnanimity that did not require him to hate those who did not belong to it or those who had found an honest home here.

He loved his country - yes - but he was in an almost permanent state of grief for what had become of it. He didn't like the fact that much of its power had been sucked away by those who lived beyond its shores and cared little for it.

He didn't like the fact that weak and stupid and, yes, sometimes wicked people cared more for the criminal than the victim. He believed in forgiveness but he also believed in appropriate punishment. He was not one of those fools who keep confusing weakness with compassion.

He loathed the effect that the electronic window in the corner of the room that you all keep gawping at was having on day to day life in his beloved country because it seemed to promote very stupid people into the position of being experts on this or that purely because they were famous for being something else. Even worse, for every one of those so called "experts" there were another ten thousand who hung on their every word.

But he reserved his strongest condemnation for Political Correctness because he regarded it as the chief weapon of a race of tyrants who used it to make words mean what THEY wanted them to mean and not what they actually DID mean. He thought of it as an evil attack on common sense and the sort of thing that Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler would heartily approve of.

All this makes him sound dour and humourless but he wasn't. In his loneliness, and as a way of escaping his despair about Britain,he filled his world with books, music and poetry. He used the beauty of these things to cleanse his soul and gird his loins for his letter writing campaigns which were his attempt to warn people through the letters pages of various newspapers and journals that they had better wake up to what was happening to their country before it was too late.

Joy of joys he read out loud to me although he could not have been aware of how much I understood ( most of it I, can honestly add) but I suspect that he took pleasure in having an audience and hearing the beauty of the sound of the words instead of just having them echo soundlessly in his own head.

In this way I discovered the works of Dickens, Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ayn Rand, Mickey Spillane and so many more. Every now and then he would stop, gaze at me for a long moment and say "You understand, don't you". I usually replied with a bashful little smile before looking away in mock embarrassment and this pleased him greatly. I wouldn't indulge in this shameful play acting, outside of a professional performance, for anyone else but if it gave this complex, tortured man a moment's pleasure that was all right with me. It was little enough recompense for all his kindness.

Truth be told, there was not a lot that I would not have done for him by that point. What's more, I'll just say this, a creature as fine and noble as he was could have had the leadership of my tribe for the taking - whether he could climb trees or not!

NEXT WEEK: My education continues. New humiliations.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


No time was wasted in making me earn my keep at Pettigrew's Circus. I was barely back in the land of the living when I was marched down to join the other monkeys in what was, I have to admit, a rather generously sized cage. They had even put some branches in it so that we would have something to climb around on to stop us getting bored. Hah! They were obviously not aware of my notoriously low boredom threshold. I suppose it comes of being rather more intelligent than the average monkey or the average human being for that matter. (No offense!) Still, it was better than anything that meddling French charity had to offer.

I quickly gathered that I was to be part of a group of simian performers rejoicing in the title of Bobo's Bavarian chimps and what is more, I was to be, as they say in show business circles, the "fall guy". So, not only was I going to have to endure the humiliation of having to wear a Tyrolean hat, complete with peacock feather, and, of course Lederhosen, but it looked as if I was going to be getting my backside kicked regularly, both literally and metaphorically, by a group of creatures who, as it was to turn out, bore me no good will whatsoever.

They were a grim lot those other three. The first thing they did was to accuse me of being an illegal immigrant and stealing British jobs. The cheek of it. At least I was captured in what used to be a part of the British Empire, which is more than you can say of any of them.

Chico was the oldest of them and the self appointed leader. He had great broad shoulders and was obviously adept at using them to barge his way through life. Pedro was his lieutenant. A bit of a sycophant really. Whatever Chico said or did was all right with Pedro.

Then there was Candy. What can I say about poor Candy. She was definitely a "glass half empty" type of monkey. When she wasn't moaning incessantly about her lot in life or imagining that Chico and Pedro were laughing at her behind her back she was throwing dirty looks in my direction which I found a little strange since I had not been there long enough to offend her. I was later to find out that she was one of those little monkeys who need to feel offended by someone. It gives a perverse sense of order to their life.

No, she was not exactly my favourite "monkey girl" and I can safely say that, as far as my emotional state that night was concerned, I would have felt more comfortable with my bonce wedged between a tiger's jaw. I did try to get some sleep, but YOU try sleeping with one eye open

Then, out of the blue, my "guardian angel", yes, Stromboli, came to my rescue. He showed up early the next morning and, seeing me curled in splendid isolation on one side of the cage while the "Three Stooges" were huddled up on the other, he immediately worked out what was going on and took pity on me.

It was quickly arranged that I would bunk up with him in his rather spacious trailer. Surprisingly, the arrangement worked well and without any awkwardness. The only drawback being that if I was caught short in the middle of the night I had to go out into the cold to relieve myself but that proved to be a very small price to pay for his friendship and the education he was about to give me.

NEXT TIME: Stromboli (Renaissance Man). My Education.