Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair’s Stupidity

January 16, 2023

Yeah, I know this ad hominem, but it is funny. Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani interviewed Tory iconoclast Peter Hitchens the other day. The two don’t really have much in common, but Bastani justified the interview saying that if you want to be certain in your political views, you should test them by talking to people who hold the opposite. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the right, and some of his views are odd, if not barking. He believes, for example, that we shouldn’t have gone to war with Germany as it was not in our interests. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we had signed the defence pacts with France and Poland, And if we hadn’t gone to war, I think we would have still lost the empire sooner or later. Plus we would have been excluded from a continent under Nazi domination. And this is not to mention the carnage that would have been perpetrated by the Nazis, with the Jews and Gypsies becoming extinct in Europe, followed by the Czechs and the Slav populations enslaved as peasant farmers supplying produce to their German overlords.

On the other hand, Hitchens has said that he never supported Thatcher’s sale of the council houses or the privatisation of the prison system, because justice, as a principle, should be in the hands of the state. He also states in one of his books that he was shocked into an awareness of how fragile civilisation was after visiting one of the failed African countries as a journalist in the 1980s. The country had descended into vicious gang violence, but walking through its capital Hitchens saw everywhere grand architecture and all the signs of modern corporate development. I think this gives an insight into the basis of his own Tory views. I remember reading in the Spectator years ago that the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton abandoned the left when he witnessed the rioting in Paris during the 1968 student and workers’ protests. He was alarmed by their ‘anti-civilisational rage’.

Back to the interview, Hitchens described Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, as being frightening intelligent. He mentioned people, who really thought for the first few months of Blair’s regime that it was Campbell running the country. He joked that it was probably because of Campbell’s mighty intellect that he was kept away from voters, as he would probably frighten them all away.

But Blair, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly bright and Hitchens doubted that he could have run the country without Campbell. To illustrate his point, he told the story of how he briefly met Blair just before the 1997 election. Blair was in Oxford, travelling in his motorcade. Hitchens was following him by bike, but as the traffic was bad, he got to Blair’s destination before him. After Blair had arrived, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd taking pictures. Hitchens wanted to talk to Blair, and so, after the crowd had finished and dispersed, he walked up to the future Prime Minister. He decided to open the conversation by asking who the crowd were. Blair replied, ‘They’re Brazilians. I’m very popular down there.’

‘Oh, you should learn Portuguese then,’ replied Hitch.

‘What?’

It turned out that Blair thought they spoke Brazilian in Brazil. Hitchens concluded that what Blair really wanted to be was a pop star, and you didn’t need to ascribe any deep ideological motives to him.

There was, nevertheless, an ideological basis to his policies. He was a product of BAP, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which was set up by Reagan to influence the rising generation of British politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour. Blair had started out as a supporter of nuclear disarmament, but after going on a BAP-sponsored trip to America and hearing the views of various right-wing think tanks, he came back as an opponent. He was fervently Thatcherite, believing in the superiority of private industry and strongly influenced by the American political system. Private Eye ran several pieces about the American private healthcare and prison companies lining up to donate to New Labour in the hope of getting some of that nationalised action. He took over advisers and staff from private healthcare companies as well as other businesses, and pushed the privatisation of the NHS further than the Tories would have dared. As stupid as he may have been, he set the course for right-wing Labour, and Starmer shows every indication of returning to it.

Yes, the Germans Have Banned Muslim Vigilante Sharia Police

January 6, 2023

Yesterday, Simon Sideways, a self-proclaimed ‘White activist’, put up a piece on his YouTube channel asking people what they will do when the Muslims finally take over and start forcing people to convert. It was once again the Eurabia myth, that Muslim birth rates are far more than White Europeans, and so in a few decades they will become the majority religion on the continent and take it over. It’s nonsense, although Muslim populations are set to expand and this could cause problems if the alienation and turn of some Muslims to radical theologies continues. He illustrated his prediction by stating that Muslims had established sharia police in Germany, who were forcing both Muslims and non-Muslims to attend the mosques.

I checked this story by Googling it, and it appears to be several years old. From what I’ve uncovered, it appears that a group of seven radical Muslims led by a German convert, Sven Laue, set up an Islamic sharia patrol in Wuppertal in Bavaria in 2014 or 2016. The German police arrested them and charged them under the Basic Law. This is article in the German constitution that forbids anti-democratic organisation and political parties. It’s a product of the denazification after World War II and has been used against neo-Nazi organisations like the National Democrat Party. The German Communist party evaded a ban by dissolving themselves and then holding a special congress at which it was declared that they recognised that society would have to go through a period of democracy. This is standard Marxist dogma, in which society goes through a stage of bourgeois democracy in which the remains of feudalism are cleared away before the workers take over and establish socialism. The seven were acquitted, but there was some kind of appeal, and in 2019 they were convicted and sent down.

The German authorities are as concerned as our political class about the growth of parallel societies. In the 1980s the German trade union confederation accused the Turkish sections of practising separatism while claiming to integrate with ethnic Germans. A few years ago the mayor of one of the German cities with a large Turkish population wrote a book describing their alienation and anti-social behaviour, sometimes violent, towards ethnic German. This was somewhat surprising, as he was a member of the SPD, the German socialist party, who I think expelled him soon after. It hasn’t, however, been only in Germany that vigilante sharia police have appeared. A group of fanatics at Anjem Chaudhury’s mosque in London set one up and posted their exploits on YouTube, before the police pounced on them.

As for forced conversion, Islamic laws forbids the forcible conversion of Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and/or Hindus, although massacres have occurred throughout history. This law was obeyed by the Ottomans in the Balkans. In the 7th century one of the sultans wanted to convert the indigenous Christian population by armed force, only to be told by the majlis, the assembly of Muslim clergy, that it was not permitted. Such toleration does not extend to pagans and atheists, who may be forced to convert to Islam on pain of death.

Sideways seems to have seen or read a garbled, very dated version of the story about the German sharia patrols, probably from an extreme right-wing source. There are problems with the growth of parallel Islamic societies in Britain, France, Germany and no doubt elsewhere, but the Muslims aren’t set to take over Europe and what attempts there have been to set up sharia police are minuscule – there were only seven members of Laue’s wretched outfit – and have not been tolerated by the authorities.

Lachlan Stuart Defends Women’s Rights Against Trans Ideology at the Left-Wing Labour ‘Expel Me Rally’

December 23, 2022

There’s been a new, serious development in the battle over women’s versus trans rights. Yesterday the Scottish parliament passed their gender recognition act, which lowers the age at which people can declare themselves trans to 16 and further limits the time required to live as a member of the opposite sex and the medical supervision also demanded to make it easier for trans identified people to be officially recognised as members of their declared sex. The issue is enormously controversial. Feminists and other people across the political spectrum have criticised the trans ideology because of the way it impinges on women’s sex based right. The ideology and legislation based on it demands that trans-identified men should be given comprehensive access to women’s spaces, which raises problems for women’s safety, privacy and dignity.

Already some men are claiming to be trans, according to the Scottish Daily Record to get transferred from men’s to women’s prison. According to the Record, these men do precious little to behave like women in jail and when they come out revert to identifying as men. There is also the problem that some of those men are violent sex offenders against women and girls. In Scotland this includes a hulking 6/3” brute who tried to indecently assault a 12 year old girl in a public toilet. Black American anti-trans YouTuber Karen Davis has pointed to 50 to 60 per cent of incarcerated transwomen being there for sex offences. She put up a post the day before yesterday commenting on a report that an American female prison officer is suffering from PTSD thanks to being ordered to monitor a trans-identified man on suicide watch, even when he relieved himself or masturbated. This brought back personal memories of sexual abuse. From the newspaper account, the woman was a conscientious officer serving in a women’s prison. She had absolutely no problem watching the female inmates at risk from suicide, self-harm or banging their heads. The prisoner in this case demanded that female officers were part of the team watching him.

I do feel that he did so deliberately to cause upset to the female officers. Way back in the 1980s I read a piece about the cons in male prisons, who masturbated in front of female officer. They were nicknamed ‘gunslingers’ and there seemed no way to stop them doing it. Not even making them wear pink prison uniformed helped. The laws allowing transwomen into the female estate was clearly passed with the best of intentions. I can easily imagine that men’s prisons, for unaggressive, feminine men, let alone those who genuinely identify as women, would be hell. But I feel that very evil, predatory male offenders are abusing it to gain access to vulnerable women.

There are similar questions over hospital care, particular women requiring intimate treatment and would naturally prefer that this is done by someone of their own sex. It is also a problem in sports and sports changing rooms. One of the complaints by Lia Thomas’ teammates was that he was persistently naked in front of them, leading to their obvious embarrassment and discomfiture. Some women are also required by their religion not to be seen by men in an undressed state. Kelly-Jay Keen and her people from Standing For Women held a rally at the open air swimming baths in Hampshire. There were three such baths. One was for men only, another for women only and a third that was mixed sex. The women’s baths had open up to transwomen and this posed a problem for Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women, who could not share it with men, even those who identified as women.

I gather that the passage of the law resulted in angry scenes at the Scots parliament. One irate feminist lifted her skirt to reveal her private parts. A petition has been started to repeal or amend the new act. There is also the question how it will be received by the Westminster parliament and whether Rishi Sunak will overrule it. And if he does, what will this do to the UK? There are theories that Sturgeon is using the act to widen the divide between Scotland and the rest of the UK as part of her independence campaign.

There are also deep implications for the political parties. It’s an issue that crosses the political divide, but conservative activists like the American YouTuber Matt Walsh consistently misrepresent opposition to gender ideology as coming solely from the right. The EDIJester, however, put up a video about it yesterday stating that he has no confidence in Sunak to combat the act and the advance of the trans ideology. He states that if Sunak doesn’t overrule it, then critics of the gender ideology will have to look to founding separate political parties.

Kelly-Jay Keen has already taken a step in that direction with her decision to stand against Keir Starmer under the Standing For Women banner at the next election. Starmer has fully embraced the trans ideology, which has led to several awkward scenes. When asked whether women have cervixes, he replied that it wasn’t a question that should be asked. Other senior MPs have dodged answering the simple question ‘What is a woman?’ Keen was originally going to stand against Eddie Izzard if he got selected as the Labour candidate for Sheffield, This didn’t happen, and so she’s decided to go after Starmer. She particularly feels that Labour under him has betrayed women. At the last Labour conference, trans activists were allowed a platform, but the LGB Alliance, which campaigns exclusively on gay issues but not trans, was excluded from having a place.

This is why I’m putting up this video of Labour policy-maker and gay rights activist Lachlan Stuart speaking at the 2020 ‘Expel Me’ rally. Stuart was a member of Corbyn’s team that included comprehensive support for trans rights in the manifesto. After the election, which he thinks gave people like him enough rope to hang themselves, he went back and reconsidered his opinions. He has now reversed them because of the above issues of women’s privacy, particularly regarding medical care. He states he is haunted by the idea of his mother being examined for cervical cancer by a man. He states that his research uncovered numerous cases where women were abused or disadvantaged by the policy. He was also very concerned at the way the treatment for people with problems with their gender identity only seemed to go in one direction – to transition. He also makes it clear that when he dug into the issue, he found a network of lobby groups and the persecution of doctors and other health professionals who dared to challenge the ideology.

Stuart was a member of the gay rights movement and the solidarity campaign between gays and miners back in the 1980s. He describes campaign against Thatcher’s Clause 28, which sought to ban the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Considering Thatcher’s own association with fascists like Chile’s General Pinochet and the outspoken hatred of gays by many Tory MPs, there was a real fear that this would lead to renewed persecution. He talks about the Solidarity with Miners campaign, and urges his audience to watch the British film, Pride. He states that they didn’t no-platform some of the extremely bigoted and homophobic miners, and speaks with real pride about the first cheque his organisation received from a Welsh miners’ union. He also talks about the way trans activists have distorted some of the policies in the manifesto. This was a clause which committed the party to age appropriate and respectful sex education. This is a real issue, as some schools have been pushing teaching children about gender identity at primary school. He also states that the policy was also meant to educate children that violence against women is unacceptable. But the clause has been taken and expanded by the trans rights activists to mean educating children about trans people at any age.

He also talks about the way his new criticism of the trans ideology has resulted him losing friends and support from other organisations and party members. Stonewall backed away, and Dawn Butler stopped taking his calls. But he remains determined to carry on. And if the party don’t like, they can expel him.

This could become an important issue for all parties at the next election. Kelly-Jay Keen intends to use her position as an aspiring MP to get round the ban that councils and other organisations have imposed on her campaigning. A few years ago she paid for the dictionary definition of woman as ‘adult human female’ to be displayed on a billboard in Liverpool. This was taken down on the orders of Liverpool council, which ruled that it was hateful.

Gender critical feminists are unfairly accused of being fascists by the supporters of the trans ideology. This is flat wrong, but there is a real danger that this issue is being exploited by the right and the extreme right. This includes the real fascist outfit Correct, Not Political. They stage counter demonstrations against Drag Queen Story Hour, gay rights marches and environmental, socialist and trade union rallies, along with anything they think is ‘commie’. Their livestreams begin with old footage of Mosley and his Black Shirts marching, in uniform and with the ‘Roman’ salute, all to the Adagio for Strings, as if it was a tragedy these ratbags were rejected by the British working public and rounded up by the government and interned on the Isle of Man. They’ve also posted discussions suggesting they believe in the stupid, noxious and murderous conspiracy theories about Jews and Masons. And unfortunately, one of the places they targeted for a protest was a library near me in south Bristol, which was staging a Drag Queen Story Time.

While I profoundly disagree with the trans ideology, I don’t want to see trans people persecuted. I’ve no doubt the majority are decent people who just want to get on with their lives. But there are fears that ordinary trans and gay people will suffer from a terrible backlash because of the very visible support for the ideology by intolerant activists. I don’t doubt that if they had their way, for example, Correct, Not Political would round up trans people and gays for imprisonment. There are signs that might be happening in America because of the controversy over Drag Queen Story Hour. I came across a report on YouTube that a Democrat politician in New York, who supports it and went to a drag show, had his offices and home vandalised with accusations that he was a ‘pedo’ and a ‘groomer’.

We need to keep this debate well out of the hands of the far right. And there is obviously a place in it for left-wing activists, because people like Stuart are serious when they state that they tried to reconcile their new opposition to trans ideology with support for them as a minority. Quite apart from the absolute need to protect ordinary, decent people from victimisation and prejudice because of their sexuality or gender identity or expression.

The Stupidity of Black Anti-Semitism

December 23, 2022

Last week, the American rapper Kanye ‘Ye’ West successfully managed to torpedo his career and popularity by making stupid and bigoted comments about Jews. Unfortunately he isn’t the only person to hold stupid and malign anti-Semitic beliefs. His comments, however, led to one YouTuber putting up a half-hour long video examining whether Michael Jackson was anti-Semitic. I don’t know whether Jackson was or wasn’t. He may have been, but at the end of his life one of his friends or associates was, I believe, a rabbi, Shmuely Boteach. This suggests he probably wasn’t, or if he was, that any anti-Semitic views he had may have been nuanced and riddled with exceptions. But I confess, I didn’t watch that part of the video because I’m not that interested in Michael Jackson. As far as I’m concerned, Jackson was an immensely talented musician and dancer, but a deeply flawed human being. He seemed to me to be a perpetual child, surrounding himself with toys and exotic animals, and his musical achievements are tarnished by the accusations of child abuse.

What I found interesting instead was the beginning of the video, which included clips of other rappers and Black musicians airing their prejudices and negative opinions about the Jews. Many of them were complaints that they were being exploited by the music industry, which they believed was run by the Jews. I dare say that there may be a higher proportion of Jews in the music business, as there supposedly is or has been with the film industry. But this doesn’t come from any kind of stupid conspiracy to control the media. It’s simply because the entertainment industry, by and large, was more tolerant of Jews than other sectors of society. As for exploitation, there are any number of White musicians as well who’ve fallen out with the record label and feel they’ve been cheated on issues of recording rights and royalties. Where this has occurred, it’s been because their managers or the recording companies are acting as exploitative individuals. Again, it’s got nothing at all to do with race, and everything to do with the fact that there are people in every industry who will try to exploit and cheat their clients.

The video began with Professor Griff, who was sacked from NWA because of his anti-Semitic views, and included a clip of Griff explaining them and the circumstances of his sudden exit from the band. And from what he said, Griff certainly appeared to have genuinely Nazi views. He claimed he carried a library of books on them around in a suitcase, in order to educated people, and he’d lay them out on a table. These included such classic anti-Semitic texts as Henry Ford’s The International Jew. Ford was certainly a member of the extreme right. He hated socialism and trade unions, as well as Jews and Lord knows who else. I think he was a favourite of Hitler and the Nazis, who also believed that Blacks were racially inferior. One nasty piece of Nazi doctrine, according to Orwell, was that Blacks could interbreed with gorillas. I really do wonder why any self-respecting person of colour would read anything by people who believed such vile rubbish.

He then came out with some of the class anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like the Jews caused World War II. This is still being repeated by White fascists after Hitler and Oswald Mosley over here in the UK. No, the Jews had nothing to do with it. The War started because Hitler invaded Poland, thus provoking France and Britain who had made pledged themselves to defend the country.

He also talked about the Rothschild’s and other Jewish banks extending credit and loans to Nazi Germany. This is true. They did, along with a number of other big American companies like IBM. This has absolutely nothing to do with the owners of these banks being Jewish. It’s simply because they, and the other gentile-owned companies that did business with the Nazis, were run by utterly amoral people who cared only about profit. Their dealing with the Nazi was naturally deeply and bitterly resented by ordinary Jewish peeps. And it should be a problem for any daft conspiracy theories about a secret Jewish plot to gain global domination. I really don’t understand how that can be squared with Jewish banks, which are an integral part of this putative conspiracy, collaborating with a regime dedicated to destroying their people. There are attempts to do this, in which a distinction is drawn between the Jewish elite behind the conspiracy and normal, decent Jews, but it’s still an obvious, glaring inconsistency that should show that the conspiracy theory is utter nonsense.

I do wonder where this anti-Semitism in parts of Black popular culture comes from. The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan are one source. Farrakhan blames the Jews for the slave trade and in the 1980s a ‘historical research institute’ connected with the sect published a book promoting this idea. Proper historians of the slave trade dismiss the idea. Very few of the merchants involved in the trade in America were Jewish. I think Hugh Thomas says there were just four in his excellent book The Slave Trade. There were Jewish financiers involved, but again I don’t think there were that many. And as has been pointed out by historians of transatlantic slavery and anti-racist activists, they were employed by Christian princes.

I do wonder if some of this Jew-hatred comes from racial politics in Harlem during the 1920s and ’30s. The book Colour Prejudice notes that there was considerable anti-Semitism among Harlem’s Black community. This might come from the fact that many of the stores were White-owned, and despite selling to a Black clientele they wouldn’t employ Black staff. This resulted in a concerted campaign by an alliance of Black labour organisations against the policy. They organised a boycott of these stores under the slogan ‘Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work’. One of the leaders of the boycott was Sufi Abdul Hamid, a colourful figure who dressed in exotic eastern robes. He was another native-born Black American, who had converted to a form of Islam. Hamid was particularly vehement against the Jewish owners of such stores, as well as Greeks and Italians, who he derided as ‘spaghetti-slingers’. The boycott was successful, but Hamid lost control of the movement because the other leaders were acutely embarrassed by his racism. See the chapter on Hamid and his literary followers, ‘”In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism and Labor’ in Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature and Culture Between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007), 87-116.

And against ideas of a Jewish racial antipathy towards Blacks, there’s the long history of Jewish support for the Black Civil Rights movement. Many Jews worked as social workers, school teachers and other professionals within the Black community and so were deeply sympathetic to their cause. The awesome Black Jewish pro-Palestinian activist, Jackie Walker, is an example of this. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist from Georgia and her father was a Russian Jew. Her parents met at a rally by the Communist party. I’ve forgotten the fellow’s name, but one of the Jewish supporters and campaigners for the civil rights of Black Americans was a rabbi.

Griff’s endorsement of Ford’s wretched tome did confirm something that I’ve suspected: that Black anti-Semites were also reading and being influenced by White racists. The same thing appears to be the case in much Afrocentric literature about ancient Egypt being the source of both European and African civilisation. It’s based on long out-disproven theories by White colonial anthropologists, for whom the Egyptians were White Hamites, who spread southward and colonised the continent. The Black Afrocentrists who took over this view simply flipped the races, so that the Egyptians were Black. The result, however, was much the same in that the indigenous African peoples were denied the credit for their own cultural achievement made independently of Egypt, whatever skin colour the Egyptians had.

If the ultimate source of Black American anti-Semitism does come from the racial politics of pre-World War II Harlem, then it’s profoundly depressing that it should still cast a shadow over race relations nearly a century later. Quite apart from the fact that no-one, of any colour, should believe Nazi conspiratorial rubbish.

Correct, Not Political’s Anti-Semitism Now Blatant with Livestream on ‘Talmud Revision’

December 15, 2022

This is a sequel to an earlier piece about the wretched Mosleyites of Correct, Not Political I posted today. This morning they put up a meme strongly hinting that the Jews were responsible for mass immigration. Now they’re running a livestream with the hashtag Talmud Revision and a thumbnail that says ‘Fact: We “conspiracy theorists” are trying harder to save your life than any government or doctor has for free.’ Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists frequently refer to various passages in the Talmud condemning gentiles as proof that the Jews see themselves as superior to non-Jews and intend to enslave them. Jewish scholars, on the other hand, make it clear that the Talmud is an immense work of 12 books, with the obvious implication that those are only a few passages far outnumbered by other material. A history of the Jews I read back in the ’90s, written by an Anglican priest, stated that those passages were written during persecution by the Romans, and reflected that experience. As for the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming the Jews for mass non-White immigration, this is a load of twaddle coming from American fascists on the one hand and home-grown, British Nazis like Arnold Leese on the other. Leese was one of the scum before the War demanding the expulsion and mass murder of the Jews. He had a nervous breakdown after the War when he found out about the horrors of the Holocaust. When someone asked him why he was upset, because the Holocaust was what he wanted, he replied, ‘Not like that.’ Well, there is no humane way of committing genocide.

When it comes to confronting their opponents, Correct, Not Political don’t behave like the stereotypical Nazi thugs. They’re generally polite and just try to engage them in conversation to attack their beliefs. But they’re nostalgic for Mosley and the thugs of the BUF.

And the anti-Semitism they’re promoting ends at the gates of Auschwitz.

Sketch of Legendary Astronomy Author and Presenter Patrick Moore

December 3, 2022

Moore was for many years the face of astronomy on television in the UK, thanks to him presenting The Sky at Night from the 1950s almost to his death. He was known as much for his eccentric appearance as his subject, so there were plenty of jokes about him wearing the same rumpled suit down the decades. He was sent up on programmes from The Two Ronnies to Dead Ringers, who spoofed him as ‘Old Moore’, a fairground fortune teller. But he remained dedicated to his subject, publishing a plethora of popular books on the subject. This included a series of Sky at Night books, one of which I found in the school library when I was a lad, as well as editing the annual Yearbooks of Astronomy. He also collaborated with the amazing British space and science fiction artist David A. Hardy on books such as The Challenge of the Stars. He also wrote at least two books on Mars. I found one in the central library in Bristol in the 1980s. A decade later, during the excitement about the series of probes NASA and other countries were sending to the Red Planet, he published Patrick Moore on Mars. Its title invites all manner of jokes along the lines of ‘best place for him.’ He also wrote a series of children’s science fiction books about a boy space explorer, Scott Summers. These were hard SF based on the science of the time and what was expected to develop later. They’re now obviously very dated. In one of these, Wanderer in Space, Summers flew to intercept an antimatter asteroid that was threatening Earth aboard an ion driven rocket, clearly anticipating developments in such propulsion that haven’t materialised. Ion drives exist, but they aren’t being used for manned space missions. Another of these was about a human colony on Mars, living in a glass dome. This ends with the colonists looking forward to one day emerging and living free on its surface. This one has been superseded by Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the settlement and terraforming of Mars. As well as these books, he also contributed to a string of popular science and astronomy magazines like Astronomy Now, New Voyager and Focus.

I think he was one of those scientists, with Arthur C. Clarke, who worked on radar during the War but I’m not sure. He never had a formal qualification in astronomy but was always strictly amateur. He was, however, granted an amateur doctorate by one of the universities. I’m sure, however, that at the level he was active in astronomy he would have probably easily passed a university degree in the subject. His maps of the Moon were so good that they were used by NASA in selecting landing sites for the Apollo missions. He never married because his sweetheart was killed during the War in an air raid. In his personal politics he was extremely right-wing, founding the One Country party, which was later merged with another small, extreme right-wing group. I can also remember him appearing on one of the chat shows and remarking that we’d be ‘in the cart’ without Maggie Thatcher. Like many people who have genuinely been through a war, he was deeply critical of it. In one of the chapters in The New Challenge of the Stars, about a possible hostile encounter between an asteroid ark and the inhabitants of an alien planet in whose system it has appeared, Moore makes a sharp comment about man’s folly of war entering a new battleground in space. He was also a staunch opponent of fox hunting. Back in the 90s he was a guest on the comedy programme Room 101, in which guests compete to have various useless and irritating objects or people consigned to the room made famous by Orwell’s 1984. In the vast majority cases, this is just light-hearted fun. But Moore was absolutely serious about sending fox hunting there and talked about how he’d written to various authorities to get it banned. Away from astronomy he also taught himself to play the xylophone and composed numerous pieces for the instrument. One of these was published in a classical music magazine. This did not translate into a career in music, however. He got very annoyed when his planned concert at the Hippodrome was cancelled due to lack of interest.

As well as serious, professional and amateur astronomers Moore talked to during his long career, he also met and talked to various eccentrics, including UFO contactees. One of those he interviewed on the Sky at Night was a man who believed he was in contact with peaceful aliens, and could speak four of their languages, including Venusian and Plutonian. This gentleman demonstrated it by saying the greeting, ‘Hello, space brothers’, in one of them. And although Moore persistently denied it, it seems he was one of the hands behind a hoax book by ‘Cedric Allingham’ about how he encountered an alien spacecraft and its inhabitants during a walking tour of the Scottish Highlands. This was during the first wave of UFO encounters in the late 40s and 50s. When people wrote to the publisher hoping to contact Allingham, he could not be traced. One excuse was that he was off walking in Switzerland. Computer analysis of the text reveals that it was probably written by Moore and revised by someone else in order to disguise his authorship. Moore remained very willing to meet ordinary members of the public and talk to them about his subject even in his retirement. He publicly gave out the address of his home in Herstmonceux, Sussex and said if people had questions or wanted to talk to him, they could drop in, shrugging off the obvious dangers of theft, burglary and so on.

Moore belonged to an age when popular science broadcasters could be real characters, often with eccentric mannerism. There was Magnus Pike, who was famous for waving his arms around while speaking, and the bearded dynamo of Botanic Man himself, David Bellamy, sent up in impressions by Lenny Henry. Since then, popular science programmes have been presented by people who are younger and/or a bit more hip. One BBC programme on astronomy a few years ago was presented by Queen guitarist Brian May, who had studied astrophysics at university before getting caught up in his career as an awesome global rock star. May had just handed in his astrophysics thesis after decades of touring the world with Mercury, Deacon et al. His co-presenter was the comedian Dara O’Brien, who had tried to study maths at university but had dropped out because of its difficulty. The Sky at Night is now presented by about three different hosts, including Black woman Maggie Aderin-Pocock. And I think the face of astronomy and cosmology now is probably Brian Cox after all his series on the subject. But for all this, I prefer the science presenters of a previous generation with all their quirks and foibles. These people were enthusiastic about their subject and were able to communicate their enthusiasm without trying to be too slick to connect with a mass audience. And they succeeded.

The 1984 Yearbook of Astronomy and What’s New in Space, just two of the books edited and written by Moore.

Sketches of Comedy Writers and Broadcasters Frank Muir and Dennis Norden

November 26, 2022

Frank Muir

Dennis Norden

Muir and Norden were a duo of comedy writers who together were responsible for some of the radio comedy hits of yesteryear. I think they may have started out with Take It From Here before producing possibly their best-known series, The Glums. This was their response to the one of the first British soap operas, Life With The Lyons. The Lyons were a very clean, respectable family. This was well before the gangsters, crims, adulterers and murderers now populating British and international soaps. Their answer to this was to create a comically horrible family. This consisted of the blokey Mr. Glum, played by Professor Jimmy Edwards, his gormless son, Ern played by Ian Lavender, and Ern’s girlfriend, Eth, played by June Whitfield.. Mrs Glum never appeared as a distinct character, except for growling heard coming from upstairs. The episodes usually began with Mr Glum in the pub. As the landlord rings the bell for last orders, Mr. Glum orders one last pint before recounting that week’s tale of comic woe to his cronies. The series was adapted for TV in the 1970s, the scripts were collected and published as a book, and the series is also available on DVD.

Apart from writing, the two also appeared on a number of TV and radio panel shows. Dennis Norden appeared on My Music, with three other singers and experts: John Amis, the opera singer Wallace, and Arthur Marshal. After his death, Marshal’s biography appeared in the book Three Gay Lives, along with two others. This revealed that during the War, Marshal had been part of a team sent to hunt down one of the leading Nazis – I think it may have been Himmler. Marshal himself commented wryly that he was a strange choice for such a project. He had a gentle, camp manner, but appearances can be deceptive. Sometimes the men with gentlest or most camp demeanour can be some of the toughest. But possibly not in Marshal’s case. Norden was a specialist in the peculiar hits of yesterday. I particularly remember a hilarious rendition he gave of the 30s pop song, ‘I Love Me (I’m Wild About Myself). This has stayed with me so much, that when I found the sheet music for it in a secondhand shop in Cheltenham, I immediately bought it.

Muir and Norden also appeared together on another BBC 2 show, Call My Bluff. In this show, two teams competed to present the definitions of obsolete words. Three were given for each word, but only one was correct. The object was to deceive their opponents into choosing the wrong definition, while guessing the right meanings themselves. Both My Music and Call My Bluff were originally broadcast in the evening. After the original series of Call My Bluff ended, it was later revived as an afternoon show.

They also appeared on another panel show, this time on the radio, My Word. The teams were given a famous saying or literary quote and asked to make up a story inspired by it, ending with a pun on the original saying. In one edition, they were given the phrase, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. This was turned into a story about how tall men have small wives, who stop them getting to sleep at night with their snoring. This culminated in the pun, ‘The massive men need wives of quiet respiration.’ In yet another edition, they were given the line from Pepys’ diaries, ‘And so to bed’. This inspired a very convoluted story which produced the final, punning line, ‘And saw Tibet.’ These stories and their inspiration were also collected and published.

I also remember that Dennis Norden also had his own afternoon show in the 1970s, in which he took the audience back to the cinema of yesteryear. But the films he chose were obscure, rather than the big cinema successes, and he definitely had a taste for entertaining B movies. These were often films so bad, they were entertaining. One of these was a fifties movie which featured a great White hunter staggering out of the jungle before collapsing. As he did so, a voice intoned, ‘He came out of the jungle drained of man’s essence’. I think the story was about how he’d been captured by a tribe of women, who then banged him till he escaped utterly exhausted. This seems to have been part of a series of films of the time in which male explorers stumbled on all-female societies. This was a particular favourite in Science Fiction. There was one about earthmen landing on such a female society on Venus, and another one where the matriarchal society was on one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn. Hammer also contributed to this particular theme with the 1948 Devil Girl From Mars. In this flick, a Martian woman lands on Earthy on a mission to kidnap men for use as breeding stock on her homeworld. As the taste for such terrible movies increased and they became a genre in themselves, Badfilm, aided by the Medved brother’s Golden Turkey Awards and Michael Medved’s 1980s Channel 4 series, The Worst of Hollywood, this film was reissued on DVD in the ’90s. I wonder if these films were part of crisis in masculinity caused when men returned from the War to find that women had taken over their roles in industry and society when they had been away fighting. One of the other films he commented on was Glen/Glenda or I Changed My Sex. This was a tale of one man’s struggle with his transvestism. It’s quite a daring subject, considering the very conservative morality of the time. It could have been done well if intelligently handled. A few years ago, the Beeb broadcast an autobiographical play by ceramicist and transvestite Grayson Perry, Mr. Misunderstood, about how his own shame and struggle over his crossdressing. However, Glen/Glenda was one of the demented products of Ed Woods, whose films have become bywords for spectacularly bad films. His Science Fiction outing, Plan 9 From Outer Space, about UFOs invading Earth and causing zombies to rise from their graves, was voted the worst film of all time. I think its place may now have been usurped by the recent Badfilm, The Room. Glen/Glenda isn’t that bad, but it does boast leaden dialogue, a dream sequence in which furniture moves about for no reason, and Woods’ friend Bela Lugosi, appearing as God, saying, ‘Dance to this, dance to that, but beware of the little green dragon sleeping on your doorstep.’

Later Norden starred as the presenter of the long-running show presenting hilarious bloopers and outtakes, It’ll Be Alright on the Night. This started in the 1970s but has continued to appear sporadically ever since. Since Norden’s death it’s been presented by Griff Rhy Jones and David Walliams. Muir had a rather impish sense of humour. In a Christmas article in the Radio Times one year, he described a trick he liked to play at that time of year on his relatives north of the border. He’d include with the Christmas card a completely made-up quote from Rabbie Burns, and chuckle at them trying to work out which one of the works of Scotland’s national poet it appeared in. His voice also appeared in a comic TV advert for fruit and nut chocolate. This had him singing ‘Everyone’s a Fruit and Nutcase’ to the tune of one of Tchaikovsky’s classics.

Muir and Norden in many ways were highly influential figures in the development of British comedy and their programmes were very witty. The gentle humour of their panel games now seems to me to be a world away from today’s much more savage and cutting humour of satirical shows like Mock The Week, The Last Leg and Have I Got News For You, at least when that first came out.

‘I Love Me (I’m Wild About Myself’ was a vaudeville song recorded in 1923 by Irving Kaufman of the Avon Four. I found this original recording of it on Daniel Melvin’s channel on YouTube. I hope you enjoy its comic absurdity.

I also found these two versions of the Fruit and Nut advert on YouTube. This one’s from IanLucey1972’s channel.

And this from Findaclip.

Three More Heroes of Comedy Sketched – Alan Coren, John Wells and Roy Hudd

November 24, 2022

Here’s another three sketches of some of the people I consider to be great comedy talents – the satirist Alan Coren, and the actors John Wells and Roy Hudd.

I’m not quite satisfied with the picture of Alan Coren, as he really wasn’t jowly or fat in the lower face. But I do think he is one of this country’s greatest comic writers of the 20th century. He was for many years the editor of Punch, and just about the only reason in its last years to read the magazine. Coren’s method was to take a ridiculous story from one of the papers, and then write a ridiculous piece about it. Thus, a story about a ‘sexy actress’ missing her pet tortoise turned into a tale of the said reptile making an excruciatingly slow bid for freedom before finally getting caught. The beginning of package holidays to Spain with booze included turned into a tale of a totally blotto bloke trying to write back home. 1984 is rewritten as if it was about 70s Britain, where nothing works. The press runs headlines like ‘Come Off It, Big Brother’, the Youth Spy is annoying brat who shouts to its mother that Winston Smith has a lady friend, and Room 101 isn’t really terrifying because due to supply problems they can’t get a rat. They offer Smith a hamster instead, but he isn’t afraid of them and annoys them by telling them so. They inflict the hamster on him anyway, and he has to pretend to be frightened. Coren has been accused of racism because of a series of pieces, The Collected Speeches of Idi Amin, and More of the Collected Speeches of Idi Amin, in which he depicted the thug using the stereotypical Black pidgin English. I dare say it is racist, but as it’s directed at a brutal torturer and mass murderer, I honestly don’t care. Amin deserved far worse, and I don’t see Coren as personally racist.

At the same time as he was editing it, Coren also appeared as one of the contestants on Radio 4’s News Quiz, facing Richard Ingrams and Ian Hislop on the opposing side representing Private Eye. I read Private Eye now, but back then I far preferred Punch, which seemed more genteel and funny without being vicious. Punch died the journalistic death after Coren left it to edit the Radio Times, but he still continued to appear on the News Quiz until his sad death in the early ’90s. He eventually stopped editing the Radio Times and took up writing a column in the Times giving his humorous view of life in Cricklewood. These pieces are funny, but the really good stuff was earlier in Punch.

His pieces were collected in a number of books, some of which had deliberately bizarre names. In an interview on Pebble Mill he revealed how one of them got its particularly striking name. He rang up W.H. Smith to ask them what their bestselling books were about. They told him, ‘Cats’. He then asked them what their second bestselling books were about. ‘Golf’, they replied. He then asked them what the third most popular books they sold were about. They told him it was the Second World War. So, he called it Golfing for Cats and stuck a swastika on the cover. For his next book, he contacted them again and asked them what the most popular product they sold was. They told him it was tissues for men, so that’s what he called it.

Coren’s humour was distinctive – it was dry, but also slightly silly. Answering a question on the News Quiz about one of the members of Thatcher’s cabinet, he replied, ‘Oh – this is the ministry of Gummer’. A question about Prince Philip on an edition of the show in Edinburgh prompted him to reply, ‘This is the patron of this fair city, Zorba the Scot’. When the Tory election broadcast for the 1987 general election showed Spitfires and other World War II planes zooming about, Coren remarked that it was the Royal Conservative Airforce and pointed out that when the servicemen came back from the War, they all voted Labour. He’s been succeeded as broadcaster by his daughter, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, who is genuinely erudite and intelligent, and his son, Giles, who is a right-wing snob, and who made a sneering comment about people in council houses. Although Coren edited the patrician and eminently establishment Punch, he himself was a former grammar school lad, and there was a bit of class friction in the News Quiz between himself and the genuinely upper-class team from the downmarket Private Eye. I stopped listening to the News Quiz a long time ago because I got sick of the anti-religious sneers when Sandi Tokvig was chairing it and didn’t agree with many of the views of the panellists, who seemed to be stuck in the London bubble with a contempt for the rest of the country. Previous series are available on DVD, however, and they are well worth listening to, not least because of Coren. A great comic wit, sadly missed.

John Wells. He was one of the Private Eye team and was as patrician and establishment as the people that magazine skewered. He was the headmaster and French teacher at Eton. He was also one of the writers of the Dear Bill diaries in the Eye, which were supposed to be the letters of Dennis Thatcher to Bill Deedes, one of the writers in the Times. The book’s hilariously funny, especially when it describes Keith Joseph getting egged everywhere, but no-one can work out why it’s only him that does. Other highlights include him visiting the old folk’s home in which Ted Heath and Harold Macmillan are respectively housed, with Heath hating and ranting about Thatcher while Macmillan still hates and rants about Heath. As with Bentine and the Bumblies, this work of fiction excited the interest of the security people, who asked Wells where he got his information from. Wells replied that he just made it up, and he wasn’t getting any information from anyone. ‘Thank heaven for that,’ the rozzers replied, ‘We thought there’d been a leak.’ Wells had got the tone of Dennis Thatcher’s speech and mindset exactly right, in my opinion. He also appeared as Thatcher’s husband in the farce Anyone for Dennis?, which I can remember being put on TV. There’s a piece of very Cold War humour there, when the Russian ambassador fears that a nuclear war is imminent and talks about the brave Soviet soldiers with their eyes fixed on the last dawn, before collapsing with relief when he finds out that he’s mistaken.

Wells also appeared as a guest on a number of TV shows, including Lovejoy, and the radio shows The News Quiz and Tales of the Mausoleum Club. He had a camp manner, which he knew how to use for great comic effect. For example, when the teams were answering a question about the controversial portrait of the royal family that showed them all nude, he remarked that it was glad one royal was absent because ‘that would have been really gristly’. A question about the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland prompted him to describe her as a woman, who wrote covered in small, white dogs. Tales from the Mausoleum Club was a series of parodies of Victorian classic literature. One of these was a spoof of Treasure Island, ‘Trevor Island’, in which a gang of pirates go after the treasure buried on the island of Tombola. Wells played the pirate’s camp captain, who at one point remarked, ‘Oh damn, I’ve snapped my second-best bra!’

Roy Hudd. He was on TV quite a bit in the early 70s only to subsequently vanish. I can remember him from when I was at junior school presenting an afternoon programme for the elderly. While he vanished from TV, he carried on broadcasting on the radio, where he was the star of the satirical News Huddlines on Radio 2 with June Whitfield. He also appeared from time to time on other programmes, including as an astral seaside entertainer playing the Wurlitzer on the Reeves and Mortimer revamp of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). I’m including him here as he was also an expert on the Music Hall. Back in the 1980s he appeared on a Radio 4 programme about the original Peaky Blinders, who were so notorious that they even wrote Music Hall songs about them. The one he performed was about how they could drink a brewery dry. Away from such elevated matters, he also apparently appeared as the Litterbug in the 1970s public information film against littering.

Sketches of Another Three British Comedy Heroes

November 22, 2022

Here are three more pictures of British comedy legends of a certain era for your enjoyment: Ken Dodd, Tony Hancock and Michael Bentine.

Ken Dodd is also remembered for the Diddymen from Knotty Ash, which I think was the suburb of Liverpool where he came from. I can remember him being on television with them when I was very young. They were originally puppets, but I can remember a later programme in which they were played by children in a musical number. Dodd was a real trouper, carrying on performing right to the end of his life. He was also notorious for running well over time. I heard at one performance in Weston-Super-Mare, a seaside town just south of Bristol, he carried on performing so long after he was supposed to have ended that the janitor threw the keys onto the stage. As well as the Diddymen his act also involved his notorious Tickling Stick. It was years before I realised it was an ordinary duster and you could get them in Woolworths.

He ran afoul of the taxman in the late 80s/ 90s, and I’ve heard two versions of that story. One is that he really was dodging taxes and had all the money he owed the Inland Revenue hidden in boxes in his attic. This was supposed to be because he had a very poor childhood and that had made him reluctant to part with money. The other version I heard was that he sent it all to the taxman, as demanded, but didn’t say which department and so it just got lost. His problems with the taxman was at just about the same time the jockey Lester Pigott also got caught not paying it. This resulted in a postcard I found in Forever People in Bristol showing Ken Dodd and Pigott on stage in pantomime. Pigott was riding a pantomime horse, while down from the sky was a giant hand pointng at them, saying ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell undeclared income!’

Although he’s been off the TV for years now, there are still DVDs of his performances, particularly the Audience he did on ITV. And way back in the 90s I also found a tape of him telling jokes. Since his heyday in the ’70s, comedy has become far more observational, but his jokes were still funny. One I remember went, ‘What a day, what a day, missus, for going to Trafalgar Square and throwing white paint over the pigeons shouting, ‘Hah! See how you like it!’

Tony Hancock – what can you say? He truly is a British comedy legend. He’s been called a genius, though one critic said that his genius really consisted in performing the scripts written by Galton and Simpson. Even so, they were absolute classics of British comedy and a couple of them, The Radio Ham and The Blood Donor, really are comedy classics. On the radio he was supported by a cast of brilliant actors – Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques. This was cut down to Sid James when the series was transferred to TV, and then even further until Hancock became the sole regular character. His series were on record – I used to listen to them when I was at school and are also on DVD. He also made a series, not written by Galton and Simpson, when he was in Australia. That’s also available, I think, though I deliberately avoided watching it. It may just be prejudice, but I didn’t think it could ever be a patch on Galton and Simpson’s scripts.

Paul Merton, who seems to have given up performing comedy for appearing on panel shows, is a massive Hancock fan. A few years ago, he performed as Hancock in a series of remakes of classic Hancock episodes. I deliberately didn’t watch them, because with remakes I find that it doesn’t matter how good the actors are, you’re always comparing them with the original stars, and they just can’t compete. One of the cable/ satellite channels a few years back tried to remake Yes, Minister with a different cast. This flopped. I think it may have been that the audience it was aimed simply far preferred to see repeats of the original series with Paul Eddington and co. As well as TV, he also appeared in a number of films, such as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, and starred in two: The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man. The Punch and Judy Man, in which he plays that character in a seaside resort, is supposed to be the better film, but I prefer The Rebel. In this movie he plays an office clerk, who gives it up to become a painter in Paris. He’s a failure but becomes a celebrity artist after passing off a friend’s paintings as his own. It all comes crashing down when he’s invited aboard a millionaire’s yacht and the man’s wife wants to run off with him, just as he’s run out of the other fellow’s paintings to sell. Again, he has an excellent supporting cast, including John Le Mesurier as his exasperated boss and Irene Handl as his landlady, outraged at the nudity of his sculpture ‘Aphrodite at the Waterhole’. It’s also on DVD, and I think it’s brilliant.

Michael Bentine – another great actor and writer. He was, as I’m sure many people reading this well know, a member of the Goons, whom he left quite early on. He also had a number of his own series, including Square World and the one I remember, Michael Bentine’s Potty Time. This featured small ‘Potty’ puppets acting out various historical events, like the Battle of Waterloo. He had a similar puppet series, the Bumblies, which got MI5 interested in him. The Bumblies were puppets, but they were supposed to be operated by remote control. This would have been quite an advance at the time, as radio control was impossible because it interfered with the cameras and other equipment. According to Bentine, he left his house and got on the bus to go to work as usual one morning when he was met by someone from the security services, who asked him to follow him upstairs for a little chat. He wanted to know how the Bumblies worked. Bentine explained that they were puppets and not radio controlled at all. ‘Oh thank God!’ said the Man from the Ministry, ‘we thought you were going to defect!’ That gave Bentine the vision of Bumby Six hurtling towards Russia on a missile.

He was also very much into the paranormal, following his father, an engineer who was keenly interested in psychical research. Like the other Goons, he also fought in the Second World War, though he was a member of a bomber crew in the RAF. He was deeply anti-Fascist, and strongly believed that the Nazis had come to power through real black magic. In the 90s he toured the country with his one-man show, From the Sublime to the Paranormal. I and a few friends went to see him when it came to Bristol. He was a hilarious raconteur, especially when describing how the army chased him round Britain to get him to join up when he was touring in repertory theatre. Wherever they were playing, his name was naturally on the cast list. When he asked the army, why they had ignored the posters for the theatre company when they finally caught up with him, they replied that they thought it was a ruse! During the performance he also demonstrated the power of the Nazis use of light and sound to mesmerise their audience. He described the Nuremberg rallies and the way it would start with the great searchlights blazing up into the sky as a ‘temple of light’. Then the drumbeats would start up, performed by the Hitler Youth, the twisted version of the boy scouts, and the soldiers and Nazis would start chanting ‘Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Fuhrer!’ He repeated this, getting louder each time, and the lighting in the theatre dropped. The atmosphere immediately changed, became far more sinister. Then he snapped out of it, and said, ‘Sorry to scare the sh*t out of you.’ A friend of mine told me later that wasn’t the reason he cut that bit short. He reckoned it was because some people were responding to it in the way the Nazis intended. He asked me if I hadn’t noticed the pair in one of the boxes who were nearly out of their seats giving the salute. He was very critical of the power of television and the way it could be used for propaganda and mass brainwashing and urged people to complain if they saw anything they found offensive.

I think he was also very scientifically interested and literate. He appeared a long time ago on the Beeb’s popular science programme, Tomorrow’s World, presenting his own scheme for turning the Amazon jungle into productive farmland. And then there was the flea circus. This was entirely mechanical but was supposed to be worked by fleas performing high dives and so on. He was interviewed by Wogan when the dulcet-toned Irishman took over from Parkinson back in the 1980s. He told the broadcasting legend that he’d been stopped by customs when he tried to take it into America. The customs officer thought that he was bringing real fleas into the country. And so Bentine had to show him the entire act in order to convince him that it was, indeed, mechanical.

From the Sublime to the Paranormal was broadcast on the radio back in the ’90s. I don’t know whether it’s available on CD or on YouTube. He also wrote his autobiography and two books on spiritualism and the paranormal, The Door Marked Summer and Doors of the Mind. He was truly another great titan of British comedy.

Sketches of Another Three Great British Comic Talents – Spike Milligan, Dick Emery and Terry Thomas

November 21, 2022

Spike Milligan is, in my opinion, a genuine comic genius. He wrote the Goons, one of the great classics of British comedy. I have wondered if the pressures of writing it contributed to his nervous breakdown. The contracts at the time were for 25 episode series, and I got the impression that he was one of the writers, whose mind was blank right at the start of the week and only got their inspiration almost at the very last minute, when the show was due to go on air. As well as the Goons, he wrote his war memoirs, which are really funny despite the horrific nature of the subject. Milligan was left shell-shocked from the war after his gun emplacement was hit by an Italian shell. The Goons were a radio show and according to the cast, bitterly hated by the Beeb management. They believed it was due to the fact that they had served in the War, and they hadn’t. They also had their suspicions about some of the servicemen’s slang Milligan put into the show. Hence, when it first aired the Corporation insisted on calling it The Junior Crazy Gang. The Goons also briefly appeared on the box as The Telegoons. And after that there were the Q series. John Cleese has said that he admired Milligan and his silliness, and he influenced Monty Python, which amazed me when I first heard it, as the Pythons seemed to be aimed at the university level or come from that academic level with some of its material. Milligan also wrote children’s poetry, was an accomplished musician and he was also an environmental campaigner in the 1950s. For the sketch I selected a picture that showed him as I remember him – in middle age, but still bright, energetic and radiating his comic craziness. So, you got this picture of him in a vest wearing a very ragged hat.

I think Dick Emery is probably mostly forgotten today, but for a long time he was one of the country’s foremost comic actors. In the 1970s he had his own Saturday night comedy show, in which he played a range of bizarre characters. This included a Anglican vicar, a moronic young lad, with the late Roy Kinnear playing his father, a middle-aged woman desperate for younger men, a flamboyant gay man, and another young woman, whose conversations with men ended with her saying, ‘Oh, you are awful, but I do like you!’, followed by a shove with the hand which sent the unfortunate male flying. The comedy’s obviously very dated now, especially the gay character, who is stereotypically camp and dressed in colourful, effeminate clothes. While it grates on contemporary sensibilities, I really don’t think it was meant spitefully. It was just part of the general stereotype and attitude towards gays in the 1970s following the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1968. He also appeared in a number of British comedy films, some undoubtedly best forgotten. He also appeared in a number of other British comedies, including Michael Bentine’s Square World. Bentine described one incident in the show’s career in his one-man show, From the Ridiculous to the Paranormal in the 1990s, in the show reported that China had declared war on the UK. The show’s cast sailed up and down the Thames in a junk, with Emery dressed ‘as Fu Manchu’, firing rubber rocks at parliament. This was before the Troubles and real terrorism. Eventually a police launch sailed towards them to investigate. One of the cops on board hailed them, and asked ‘Do any of you gentlemen speak English?’ Outside his screen appearances, he was also patron of the Airfix Club, run in one of the war comics in the 1970s, for all the boys and no doubt some girls who like sticking plastic models of WW II airplanes and tanks together. I’ve tried to show as the toothy vicar.

And Terry Thomas is British comedy’s greatest and most notorious cad, appearing in films from The School for Scoundrels with Ian Carmichael to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, with Tony Hancock and Eric Sykes playing his put-upon servant. I heard a while ago that the characters Dick Dastardly, the villainous air ace, and his dog, Muttley, in the Hanna Barbara cartoon were based on Terry Thomas and Sykes in the above flick. He’s still remembered by today by the younger generation. I’m sure I’ve seen his fizzog gracing the sign for a nightclub in Bristol.