University Of Beestonia

The spires at the University of Beestonia are dreaming; and the dreams are nightmares…

OK, so that’s over-egging it a little bit, but it’s probably fair to say no one’s sleeping particularly soundly, there’s something out there causing a fair degree* of restlessness.

Our brightest and best minds are searching for the cause of this unease, but if you read around there’s much being written about the battle for the soul of our universities at the moment.

T’internet (2017) defines the prefixes super- and para- as something beyond, or apart from, amongst other possible meanings, so when we add these to words like natural or normal what are we discussing?

During my time working in universities I’m not sure that a natural or normal state of things has actually ever existed, so defining what is beyond those is also a little tricky. Time does not stand still, things do change, some we can influence and some we can not, but, and before I turn completely into Baz Luhrmann talking about sunscreen, recently those changes are pushing – probably wrong tense – have pushed universities into a place where logic does appear, at least at times, otherworldly.

When is the tipping point between para- and new-, is it definable?

In our new normal, and that’s a strange term too, given this issue’s focus on the para-normal, and I’ll come back to my point, but if para-normal is some kind of inexplicable parallel type of universe, how long do conditions have to change for before they become the new normal? When is the tipping point between para- and new-, is it definable? I’d be interested to know if anyone’s worked on this…

Back to a point, in our new normal we are too often torn between which policy we are meant to drive for, student fees have been increased again recently in our current, to me at least bizarre, political reality, our democratic system means we will leave the group of nations which provide a substantial amount of our research funding… the list goes on.

Whether these things are normal, or beyond it, I’m not sure but in the mean time mind the seagulls and sleep well my friends…

Prof J

*oh look, unintentional HE pun (Lord B would be proud, or horrified…)

The Yorkshireman Speaks… on pets, audience etiquette, noise and sneaky toddlers

A new addition to the family

As a family of four my wife and I thought that two children would be enough. Our house is already jammed to the rafters with mountains of soft toys and plastic landfill; I had to circumnavigate a course of Duplo blocks this very morning just to relieve my bladder. This all changed however, when last week my wife told me she wanted another, and this time we decided to adopt.

It was a big decision but last week I found myself getting ready to welcome the latest addition to the family. We fell in love with him straight away, he’s from Beeston, he’s called “Squidger” and he’s a goldfish. My daughter desperately wanted a pet so naturally we started with Dog then gradually worked backwards until we compromised with a goldfish; it was either that or a worm from the garden. When I was a lad I remember getting a goldfish, I say getting I actually mean “winning.”

Whenever the fair came to town, I’d go out with a fiver, lose a filling on a toffee apple, throw up my burger on the waltzers and come home with a live pet in a plastic bag. No one really knew what they were doing; you just got it home, stuck it in a Tupperware, called it Alan and left it on the windowsill to die. Dad would then have to go out and replace him with Alan MK2, who looked identical and then pretended that nothing was wrong.

We had one for years, he was like some sort of aquatic Bruce Forstyth and he grew to a huge size. Frankly he was too big for the tank; it was like a human trying to swim in a foot spa. I half expected to come home one day to find Alan kicking back with his fins out of the tank, wearing a dressing gown, swigging brandy and smoking a cigar. Thankfully this has all changed; you now have to be assessed to see if you are responsible enough to allow Alan into your home.

I thought it was ironic that the human I was buying this fish for was less well planned than the fish itself, but that’s just the way it is. We set up the tank a week before Squidgers arrival. Gravel had to be washed thoroughly, the water treated and a sample taken back to the garden centre to be tested in the lab. We were asked questions about where we were putting the tank and told what meals to give Squidger and how often. I’m pleased to say we passed with flying colours and Squidger is settling in well. They’ve said we need to go back in a month to assess how he is “getting on with everything” but so far so good.

He’s not sleeping because he’s a goldfish, so the bedtime story drags on a bit, but apart from that he’s great. He loves the film Finding Nemo and has already got his 50M swimming badge after only one lesson. Sometimes it can get awkward however, last night we had fish and chips and had to eat them in the shed, it just didn’t feel right.

But I’m on the phone

As a performer I love being on stage, there in the moment, connecting with the audience. However over the years I’ve started to notice something, people are utterly ruled by their mobile phones.

It’s getting to the point where you have to make a decision as an act to stop and deal with it or ignore it completely. I will often look out into the crowd and you’ll see that one person, face lit up like a low budget E.T, as they paw at their screens in the darkness. If you do confront them, they can often look at you as if to say, “but I’m on my phone?” It’s a strange phenomenon.

I’ve been at the theatre and someone in the audience has facetimed a friend to do a live video. I doubt that Shakespeare ever dreamt that one day the majesty of the line “to be or not to be” would be punctuated by the beep of an iPhone and a tiny voice from Wigan asking someone to angle the screen so they could see Prince Hamlets Jacobean ruff. I watched some you tube videos of concerts from 1995 the other night, yes the sound and picture quality was poor but the crowd certainly wasn’t. They were all facing forwards, all united in that moment and not a mobile phone to be seen; pure nostalgic bliss.

Shhhhhhhhhh!

As I sit and type this article I am working my way through my evening bowl of cereal, a regular night time treat and my wife is scowling at me. It’s not the fact that I’m using all the milk, it’s because the chomping and tinkling noises I’m making are getting on her nerves.

I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew

Since the arrival of the new baby, noise, or should I say, and I’m whispering as I do, the reduction of it, has become the number one priority at Bennett towers. We always argue about it, which we have to do via sign language of course, which often looks like two angry mime artists facing off in an argument over territory in Covent Garden.

I can’t eat an apple after 7pm, because I sound like a racehorse having its breakfast, I get told to turn the television down before I’ve even switched it on which is frankly impossible and all the creaky floorboards in the house have been marked out like a chalk line around a murder victim. It’s getting to the point where I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew.

I’ve tethered cushions to my feet using the belts from my trousers and if I ever need to cough or sneeze I have two options, run into the garden and unload into the wheelie bin or reduce the outburst by plunging my head into the fish tank and letting it out underwater. The medical term for this is called Misophonia, which literally translated means “hatred of sounds.”

There really should be more awareness of this condition but probably no one would be allowed to talk about it. Interestingly my wife has no issue with our one year old playing a drum or the six year old stomping round the house in tap shoes blowing a kazoo and wearing a skirt made from bubble wrap, so I can’t help wondering if it’s just me.

Sneaky toddler

Our one year old is on the move now, bounding round the house like a borrower on speed. Every day is like a baby version of the film Final Destination, corners of coffee tables are missed by a whisker, and an open stair gate is pounced upon like a prisoner looking to breakout. Frankly it’s an achievement that we get her through a day unscathed.

The latest hobby she has is to take our essential items, house and car keys, watches, jewelry and scatter them throughout the house. We’ve found remote controls in the bin this week and I couldn’t get my trainers on today as they were full of loose change a wallet and a angrily chewed Duplo brick.

It’s like having a tiny gangster living with us who has been tipped off last minute about a raid from the drug squad and desperately shedding their stash of gear.

If I see my daughter passing small parcels rolled up in a bib at the next “tiny feet” play session, I’ll know something is going down.

Scott Bennett

What A Relief!

Hello, good citizen of Beeston, how are you this lovely spring day?

Very well, thank you – the sun is shining, the Crown has been refurbished and… hang on a minute, you don’t normally start your turgid ramblings with an individual greeting, what’s going on?

Ah. Bother, you noticed. Weeeell… this column is a bit different. It tackles some… er… odd subject matter. I just thought I’d warn you. Don’t read it out loud, m’kay? Especially in the pub.

As some of you may know, my lovely wife Sal is really quite poorly with a scary and incurable breast cancer which has spread to her bones, liver and brain. She’s coping with it reasonably well though, for the most part she’s in good spirits and we have our beautiful three year old daughter to keep us laughing which helps a lot. Moreover, thanks to the enormous generosity of a considerable number of very lovely people we recently had our garage converted into a downstairs bedroom for her as (just after we got married last September) Sal lost the use of her legs and partially because of this is unfortunately now quite often in considerable pain.

I’d promised her and her best friend Lou a spa break before Sal’s diagnosis nearly two years ago as who wouldn’t enjoy a champagne filled weekend of pampering, relaxation and massage? Because of her condition though it appears almost impossible now as there don’t appear to be many hotel/spa resorts that will treat clients with advanced cancer (insurance issues I guess). So I thought I’d see if there was anyone locally who could help, not only for Sal and her pain but also for me as I do a lot of lifting these days and Sal keeps insisting, probably very sensibly, that I need to look after myself as well as her.

So I went online and Googled ‘Beeston Massage’.

Wow.

Wow? Why ‘Wow’?

Erm… look, I’m not hopelessly naïve, nor do I imagine Beeston is a haven of purity, decency and light (after all, our town topped the list of ‘Places People Have Extra-marital Affairs’ a couple of years ago) but one of the first links I found was to a site that reviews the… ahem… professional services of ‘Ladies of Transactional Affection’, so to speak.

Come again?

Very funny. Imagine a ‘TripAdvisor for Personal Services’ with a very in-depth and detailed review of the ‘goings on’ at the (now already closed) new massage parlour on Regent Street, as well as a many other locations. It was, to quote Star Trek’s Mr Spock, “Fascinating”. I read sections of the reviews out to Sal, her Mum and a group of friends when they were round and we were all laughing fit to burst (which was actually great therapy in itself).

I find that hard to swallow…

Stop that now. Anyway, it just got me thinking about the ‘darker’ side of Beeston, what goes on behind closed doors and how much of a good or bad thing it was. As I said, I’m not that naïve to think it doesn’t happen everywhere and Beeston is surely no exception – so I’m not sure why the Broadgate establishment only lasted a few weeks before closing…

Maybe they’ll wait fifteen minutes and try again?  

You’re just being silly now. But as I said, maybe Beeston is packed full of naughtiness – or is demand drooping (sorry, dropping)? Was the closure due to local pressure, lack of demand or not paying the right business rates? Might it simply be that Beeston is no longer the illicit nookie capital of the UK, (and if not should we be pleased or disappointed)?

No idea, I’m going to the pub for a stiff one.

Oh suit yourself, I can tell you’re not taking this seriously. The really sad thing is Sal and I still haven’t found somewhere who can provide a nice, soothing and entirely respectable massage.

Oh, that’s a real shame. I do so love a happy ending…. 

Tim Pollard

Food…And Film!

 

Food scenes in films have always existed to remind the audience that even though the people onscreen are much hotter, richer and more talented than the viewing audience, they still need a decent meal like ordinary folk from time to time.

This month I list my all time favourite food scenes while binge eating a bag of own brand peanuts. Please enjoy.

Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene:

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Until I was 4 years old I didn’t really believe in love, I thought it was a dystopian ideal circulated by a corrupt government to get people to pay more taxes, but then I watched 2 dogs kiss by accident while eating Italian food and I knew love was real. I still think Lady could do better, though.

Jurassic Park jelly wobble:

jpark

This scene still makes me anxious. We learn that raptors can open doors and it still frightens me as much as when my toddler managed it for the first time and caught me plucking my ‘tash.

What We Do in the Shadows:

shadowes

Regardless of a hilarious late-night chippie takeaway scene, seek this film out for its sheer hilarity. A bunch of vampires film a mockumentary about the perils of modern life, one of which is not having chips after a mental night out. I definitely could not be a vampire, you couldn’t even have garlic sauce on them.

9 ½ Weeks:

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This entire film marked my transition to womanhood and gave me a lifelong interest in top of the range fridge-freezers. Bet theirs was A+ for energy conservation. Not sure about a blindfolded buffet though, I’d prefer toast and Netflix if I’m honest.

The Martian:

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Matt Damon becomes a farmer on Mars. Stay with me, he does science stuff too and is funny with some actual jokes, but mainly he’s a space farmer. How many crops have YOU grown on Earth? EXACTLY. Impressive stuff if you like extreme farming. Which I do.

Beetlejuice:

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Do yourselves a favour and rewatch The Banana Boat Song scene on Youtube. I’m assuming you know what I mean, and if you don’t then I’m afraid we probably can’t be penpals any more. I once showed this to my daughter and she had nightmares about hands coming out of soup for months. She just really doesn’t like soup.

Daisy Leverington

University Of Beestonia

Although we’ve had little chance to share it with you over the last 18 months (our consultants suggested an Overstreet and Schlitz approach to communications recently) it’s been a busy time at the University of Beestonia. 

It’s a challenging time for the industry and it’s important we are correctly positioned to make the most of the opportunities on the horizon as we move forward. We’ve therefore been working hard to ensure The University of Beestonia can continue to lead both nationally and internationally in the coming decade.

Re-imagining and re-imaging not only what our University is but what it should be in the 21st century is a real challenge. We are now constrained by REF, TEF, increasing internationalisation, BREXIT, white papers asking for more with less… to name but a few. This means there is no one clear path and our institutional and individual ability to understand wtf is going on has been stretched to and beyond breaking point.

We are not the only institution harmed by the post-truth (i.e. bullshit) narrative and the 2016 fad for demonising the expert. However, what this trend has highlighted is that saying nothing at all does not say it best (we sacked those consultants, despite any evidence to the contrary in these short paragraphs). We need to say it more, say it better, say it louder and say it backed up with facts (pre-post-truth) and years of experience in what we are talking about. Once we’ve worked out what it is we’ll let you know, but fear not, we have lots of experts working on it.

Here at the University of Beestonia we aim to spend 2017 looking for the solutions and not pointing out more of the problems (it might be another quiet year from us!). We’d love to hear from you about what you want from your university so please do get in touch (thebeestonian@gmail.com) and we’ll read your ideas before ignoring them :p

The Yorkshireman Speaks…on Trump, TV Dramas and kids clubs.

Top Trumps?

As I write this article we are about to see one of most potentially controversial presidents in living memory, being “sworn in” This is a term that is quite apt, as most of the world is thinking, “what the bloody hell happened there?” America has raised a star spangled middle finger to political elitism and voted for a man of the people.

Yes, to the rest of us he’s a figure of ridicule, a wig wearing toddler with a temper problem and a penchant for grabbing females in their unmentionables, but to many Americans he is a blueprint of the American dream. A self-made man, one of their own, you can see this in that famous family photograph. He, sat on a gold throne in a tailored suit, Ivana draped in fur and precious gemstones and his youngest son riding on the back of the lion.

In an eerie parallel with our own Brexit vote, I can understand how it happened. Poor opposition, campaigns embroiled in dirty tactics and lies and a desire from the electorate to regain control and kick out at the establishment. Americans have voted for change and this is much easier to sell than more of the same. It’s hard to tell what will happen when Trump takes over.

As a comedian people have said it must be a gift from the gods having him in charge. In truth, yes he is perfect comedy fodder, I mean which other president fires out tweets at four in the morning in a slanging match with an Oscar winning actress? He’s like an angry, drunken uncle with a broadband connection.

To be honest though I would prefer some stability in the world, comedians are not that masochistic, that’s like saying a lifeguard only does the job because they want to watch people drown. However I do think the world has changed. I hate the way that showing compassion nowadays brands you as a “lefty” or “snowflake.”

Since when was this trait categorized as a bad thing? I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months, Trump may trigger Armageddon, but I think they’ll be plenty of laughs along the way.

No more dramas

It was the finale of the series Sherlock last weekend and I must admit I am a fan. It’s all about that 9pm Sunday evening slot now and it’s a firm favourite in our household. I like to watch the Antiques roadshow first, because I’m basically a pensioner trapped in a 37 year-old’s body, Imagine, if you will a Yorkshire Benjamin Button. I like to watch it on catch up, that way you get the extra frisson of excitement knowing the items are worth even more.

Anyway I’d love to tell you about the series finale of Sherlock, I would, but I’m still utterly confused. There is an irony in a detective show being so baffling you need a degree in criminology just to be able to follow it. It appears Sherlock had a long lost sister, who had been dressing up as various characters and stalking him. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo. The final straw for me was seeing Paul Weller (of the Jam) laid out on the floor dressed as a Viking, I don’t know why and I don’t think he does either; utter twaddle.

Television drama is having a renaissance at the moment. Ever since the mumblefest that was Wolf Hall, I said ‘WOLF HALL!” it’s all about the feature length drama. Apparently people are writing in to complain about the lack of diction from some of the main characters in these dramas. I think they should have an interpreter, like they do late night for the deaf community. They could bring in Brian Blessed, a man who’s known for vocal projection skills so impressive they could start an avalanche. You wouldn’t be able to have your television volume above eight but at least you’d be able to follow the plot.

The latest hit is Taboo starring the intense and brooding Tom Hardy, (“cheer up son, give us a smile!”)  I haven’t seen it but my father-in-law offered a succinct but devastating review; “It’s all filmed through chair legs and mist.” They turned it off and watched “How stuff’s made” on Quest instead.

It’s not the winning it’s the taking part

It’s a natural thing for parents to think their child is unique and wonderful. It’s true some children will go on to achieve great things, future leaders, scientists who have moments of genius and cure diseases. However statistics dictate that some of them will reach the dizzy heights of middle management in an estate agents in Wigan and stay there until death brings the freedom they crave; but there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios.

It’s in the environment of the kids club we see this competitiveness magnified. Parents of children in the junior football team, screaming at their first born from the touch-line “mark him” “spread the ball” and my favourite “let me live my dreams vicariously through you!”

In the case of my daughter we had to endure the nightmare that is ballet lessons. I’ve sat through hours of recitals and paid thirty odd quid a month to essentially watch her bow in pumps. She enjoys it but she’s not a natural, she’s clumsy, which is an issue for the ballerina. Yesterday she fell over on a lino floor, just collapsed into a heap like a controlled demolition, she’s passionate and enthusiastic but she’s no Darcey Bussell.

But it doesn’t matter, it’s all about confidence. I myself did karate as a child, albeit only for two weeks. I failed to see how doing my little routines up and down the floor of a working man’s club in Yorkshire, taught by a man who I’m convinced had just been recently released from prison, was going to help me in a real time combat situation. Imagine it kicks off in the middle of Nottingham, fists are flying, men wrestling each other to the ground, broken glass everywhere and then here I come, doing my little moves, “stop everyone, look at this, we appear to have been joined by an angry line dancer!”

I’m not worried about my daughter. She’s already an independent thinker. I realised this last week when I tried and failed to put the fatherly foot down. “Olivia,” I said, “if you don’t get dressed this minute, mummy, daddy and your sister will all go out and you’ll be left here at home all on your own!” She looked up at me from her My Little Pony magazine, thought for a moment and replied, “Okay daddy that sounds great!” “No!” I said, “that’s not how this should go!” She continued, “You’re right daddy, I need to be punished, I’ll just stay here in bed with my magazine and think about how bad I’ve been.” I tried again, the desperation evident in my voice. “This isn’t right Olivia, you’re meant to be scared!” “I think you’re the one that’s scared daddy,” she said smiling. ”It’s Sunday morning and you’ve got to go to IKEA.”

New Year New Food

It’s a new year and the gyms are full of people blinking like newborn fawns at the flashing dials of unknown machines. Regulars sigh, knowing only the toughest will keep up their new routines. Health food shops sit back; it’s their time to shine. There is a national courgette shortage. Healthy eating adverts are everywhere. People hold their wobbly bits and sigh, knowing that if only they could have the discipline to make 5 days worth of packed lunch on a Sunday evening they would be True Adults.

Food is the cause of so much guilt during the January purge. It feels extra naughty to some people to indulge in a chippy tea or eat out somewhere posh after the extravagance of Christmas. BUT NOT TO ME. This is important, as I guide you through the January blues with a sexy calorie count and a love of my own wobbly bits.

If you find yourself adding lentils or quinoa or couscous to a meal in lieu of delicious pasta, or if you use a can of fizzy drink to make a chicken curry sauce, stop. Pasta is not the enemy here, and neither is a delicious korma. The enemy is the insane amount of marketing designed to make you feel bad about what you eat and how you look, and people are getting richer by the second while you spend your wages on stuff which tastes like the box your crimbo pressies came in. Pasta won’t kill you.

If you’re convinced it’s the work of Satan, just put a bit less in your bowl or buy wholewheat. Likewise if you’re hell bent on a health drive, just chuck a handful of frozen veg into your sauce, you’ll feel virtuous without breaking the bank or your soul. Any veg is better than no veg.

I’ve spent January eating from the 5pm priced-down range at my local supermarket thanks to literally everyone I know having a birthday just after Christmas. Selfish…. Weird recipes involving malt loaf and 9p steak slices have formed the basis of our diets for weeks, and do I feel bad about it? Of course not. My kid has the energy for 3 after school sports clubs and I work night shifts, so we’re doing something right.

No need to spend hours soaking lentils until they transform into edible fart-nuggets, a bowl of spaghetti shapes and some tinned tomatoes keep us flying along nicely without me skimming the back pages of women’s magazines for ‘new fitness regimes’ and feeling awful about every part of my life.

So eat the chips, feed your soul and don’t let the media tell you that any time of year is a time to change. Diet if you want to, but not because you feel you should. Enjoy those carbs and use the time you’d have spent looking at calories to read a book or play outside or take up needlework. New year, same old you. You’re lovely as you are.

 

A Genuine Beestonian Accent

Our resident Robin Hood talks propah…

Over the years Sal and I have had a lot of weird things happen to us: watching the birth of our daughter become the top story on the BBC news website; being mentioned in a question on a national TV quiz show and recently discovering someone had written us into a play where the ‘real’ Robin and Marian appear in modern day Nottingham and bump into us, meaning we are genuinely characters in someone else’s play (which on reflection may explain a lot).

Performance-wise I have done a few other things over the years; some TV work, music videos and even a proper play (for most of which I had to stay hidden under a huge pile of empty beer cans, pizza boxes and other detritus so I could ‘amusingly’ emerge halfway through proclaiming ‘Great party, man’ which didn’t require quality acting skills so much as the ability to stay awake). And several years ago I was also hired to dress as a vicar and act out a marriage service for a couple of people who wanted it to be filmed; I still have no idea at all what that was about.

I’ve also been in a couple of movies – not huge, big budget epics or lavish musicals but more what you’d call ‘very low budget horror movies’, the splendidly titled ‘Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned’ and ‘Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate’ written, directed and produced by my old friend James Baack in and around his home in Chicago (and even now available on DVD from Amazon in the US).

A few years ago James asked me if I’d like to appear in his films to narrate/introduce as ‘Lord Victor Fleming’, a collector of arcane and mysterious stories. Wearing evening dress and having dressed our living room look as much like a 19th century gentleman’s club as possible Sally filmed me setting the scene for the film (“The story you are about to see is a tale of terror that will freeze your very soul” etc.) including some filming at Wollaton Hall to imply it was Victor Fleming’s ancestral home. We both enjoyed the experience greatly and were delighted to get copies of the final, finished film(s) several months later.

And then reviews of the movies began turning up online, and oddly the one thing all the reviews had in common were comments on the narrator’s ‘fake English accent’, which amused us all greatly. I can maybe see why American reviewers watching a film mainly shot in America with American actors might assume my accent was fake (and to be fair my ‘posh’ voice may not be entirely consistent anyway) but when I jokingly replied to one such reviewer on the Amazon US site recently,  pointing out I was genuinely English in what I hoped was an amusingly and vaguely sarcastic way, the Nottingham Post got involved and ran a story ‘Robin Hood slammed for ‘fake English accent’’, and that really was weird.

Although it was quite fun, albeit presumably on a slow news day, it also got me thinking. Much like Russell Crowe I know I’ve never spoken in a ‘Nottingham accent’ but I’m not sure what my accent is. I’m sure I do have some Nottingham influence but I don’t think it’s very strong (I’m sure growing up listening to a lot of Radio 4 has affected it much more) but that led me to further wonder – is there  ‘Beeston accent’? I don’t think there is, but is that due to the excellent cosmopolitan makeup of the town, with so many varying languages, people and cultures all mixing together?  Are there any particular words or phrases that we can claim as our own? Because if I’m going to be castigated for having a fake English accent I’d like to console myself with knowing I have a genuine Beestonian one…

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Mr & Mrs Christmas

Scott Bennett pays tribute to his mum and dad who love Christmas

Well the festive season is almost upon us, where families come together as one.  It’s the same every year; you’re welded to the sofa, unable to move due to the calories consumed, it almost become normal to hurt after every meal. Sitting there in an ill-fitting Christmas jumper wearing a pair of slippers bought for you by someone who doesn’t understand either you or modern fashion trends.

You cast a booze addled eye around the room and look at all your relatives; uncles, aunties, Grandparents, parents and cousins all in your house and you think, “aww, look at them all, sitting there, isn’t it wonderful, you know I reckon its time they cleared off. Come on then, one more game of charades Nanna, two words, sounds like “your taxi” times up old cock.”

Christmas is a strange time to be a comedian. We are all now familiar with the phenomenon of “Black Friday” a tradition passed to us from our friends in the US, which sees retailers bombarding us relentlessly for a week with offers on the cheap tat that has been sat gathering dust in their warehouses for most of the year. We have seen people lose their minds in this capitalist orgy, men punching other men for coffee makers, and televisions being ripped out the hands of a frail pensioner in the foyer of an all-night Asda.

For a comedian the term “Black Friday” is something very different. It refers to that Friday before Christmas where a comedy gig can quickly resemble a bad day in Beirut. People on a works Christmas night out, sat in wonky Christmas hats, drinking heavily just to blot out the resentment and anger they feel for their colleagues sat just across from them. Shows that start hours late because the venue has tried to serve two hundred people a three course Christmas dinner with only three members of staff and being heckled mercilessly by an accountant called Nigel who thinks he’s the office joker.

I’ve had a few experiences with Christmas gigs over the years and it inspired me to re-write the classic Christmas hit Happy Christmas (war is over) by John and Oko. I see this as a fitting tribute to my fellow comedy warriors venturing out to entertain the British public this festive season:

A comedy show at Christmas oh what have you done

Another show ruined, no ones’ had fun

Comedy at Christmas It’s not a bad idea

But the bellends, the pissheads, they’re here every year

A very Merry Christmas, let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

Comedians at Christmas (the shows not over)

We try to stay strong (get off your phones)

We’re here to entertain you (the shows not over)

And It won’t last long (please stop talking)

So Merry Merry Christmas (the shows not over)

We stand in the lights (you’re the office prick)

Ignoring the heckles (the shows not over)

And avoiding the fights (stop being a dick)

A very Merry Christmas let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

 

Now I like Christmas, but some people just love Christmas, and I mean LOVE it, my parents for instance. They embrace the festive season like no-one else I know and it’s truly a sight to behold. Every year since I can remember they have had a party at their house for Christmas Eve. There are games, a lucky dip tub of presents, and food galore.

My mum starts cooking early, normally mid-November, the party goes on late into the night and only comes to an end once dad is too drunk to make it up the stairs and mum gets out the Dyson for some festive hoovering.

When I was much younger, my dad would even dress up as Santa Claus himself at the party, to give out presents to the other children. At the time I didn’t know this obviously, I assumed it was the man himself, particularly when I was very young. However I vividly remember the Christmas where I found out the truth about these bizarre moonlighting activities. I was nine years old and, as had happened every year before, with the party in full swing and the guests settled, at about seven o’clock my mother would suddenly announce to my father, loud enough for everyone to hear:

“Oh look Roy, we appear to have run out of beer and you’ll have to go to the shop for more”

My dad knew his line and played along with this ridiculous farce to the confusion of the assembled guests:

“Oh no love, this is a disaster I will go now I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

I’ve often wondered for years whether my mother and fathers friends thought he was a raging alcoholic or just incompetent when it came to judging drinks quantities for a social gathering, but no one ever said anything. Then came the moment, my mum, right on cue would switch on the outside light and we’d all have to look out of the window into the back garden. “Look everyone!” my mum exclaimed, “someone very special is here!” We’d all press our faces to the window and there sat on the garden bench, on the patio next to the water butt was Santa himself, it was a Christmas miracle.

I remember one year when the snow started to fall, this was the mid-eighties before global warming, when seasons were still individually recognizable. With Santa Claus sat there it was like an image straight from a Christmas card. All the children would then take it in turns to go and visit him, telling him what they would like for Christmas.

Most kids are quite gullible and most were none the wiser, “Santa comes to your garden Scott, how cool are you” “Yeah me and Santa are pretty close” I’d say, enjoying the adulation, “we go way back” I had quite good patter for a nine year old.

Then came my turn. I walked down the garden path and approached Santa. “Hello boy, said a booming Yorkshire voice, have you been good this year?” “Yes I said.” “Well come a bit closer and tell me what you would like me to bring you for Christmas” I moved in towards him, he had a jolly face which was strangely familiar. I looked him up and down, the red hat, the white beard, the red suit and belt, and then I looked at his feet.

It was at that point I knew. Santa Claus appeared to be wearing a pair of knackered old Reeboks, spattered with magnolia emulsion that my own father would use for doing the decorating.

My heart sank, the game was up. “I know it’s you dad” he looked at me and whispered, “I couldn’t find me wellies son, don’t ruin the magic” “Of course dad I said, I know Santa doesn’t come till I’m in bed anyway, I love you”

I walked back up the garden back to the house smiling. We then all had to turn and wave goodbye to “Santa” and then went back to the party. At that point there was commotion at the front door as my dad blundered back in with six cans of lager, (he still got the quantity wrong) “What a nightmare, everywhere was shut, did I miss anything?” “Santa has been!” my mum shouted, “You missed him, like YOU DO EVERY SINGLE YEAR!”

Marvellous.

Scott Bennett

Looking Back…Looking Forward

Apparently this issue of The Beestonian is a ‘festive bumper special’ which makes it sound rather splendidly like the ‘Beano’ and ‘Dandy’ comic summer specials I used to read (and re-read) as a child, now quite some time ago – so long in fact that the Dandy doesn’t even exist anymore. It turns out the older you get, the more things change, sometimes for the better admittedly, sometimes not so much.

I was talking with some friends in The Crown the other day (other excellent Beeston pubs are available) about just that; how certain phrases that used to be commonplace are now archaic anachronisms (obviously we didn’t use that phrase in the pub; we’d had beer).

Who remembers the term ‘Sunday drivers’? A phrase from a time where the roads weren’t as clogged on a Sunday as they are now a couple could jump into their Ford Zephyr and drive at a top speed of about 21mph along any A-road that took their fancy, possibly whilst eating a cheese and onion cob. Or ‘Half day closing’, which seems like an utterly prehistoric concept now in the face of 24 hour shopping (although as Tesco is now closing at midnight maybe they’re slowly bringing the concept back).

But 2016 has certainly been a year for change. We’ve lost a huge number of massive cultural icons, our collective political sense (pretty much globally) and who now remembers ‘public toilets near the Square’ eh? Beeston changes. Beestonians change – our own former editor Matt and his lovely wife Ellie have just had a beautiful baby boy so huge congratulations to them, that certainly is a life-changing experience. It’s genuinely surprising to me that no matter how many times people said to Sal and I “Cherish every moment, they grow up so fast” and we nodded and thought ‘Yea, right’ that come Boxing Day our wonderful Scarlett will be three years old. Three! And Sal will have been living with her cancer for over eighteen months and we’ll have been married for over three months.

Back before I was a responsible married man with a daughter I used to navigate the year not by days and weeks but by Robin Hood events and weirdly this time of year has always been the busiest… from 1991 to a decade ago it was the Christmas season at The Sheriff’s Lodge medieval banqueting centre on Canal Street in Nottingham (now sadly demolished).

In its heyday I’d do a run of over thirty evening banquets (plus matinees), starting in the middle of November. These days although the Lodge has gone Nottingham Castle still hosts the Robin Hood Pageant, the Robin Hood Beer Festival, the MySight Nottingham charity Firewalk (which I still take part in) and more – but with the redevelopment of the Castle and grounds now confirmed to start in early 2018 all of those will have to find a new home after next year too.

So this last week (as I write) being so busy was a bit poignant – I ended up abseiling down the side of the QMC with NUH’s Chief Exec to launch an appeal for the Children’s Hospital (that’ll teach me not to read emails properly and then just say ‘yes, happy to help’ on the phone before I actually knew what they wanted), I announced the £14m HLF funding success for the Castle to the national press, helped turn on the city’s Christmas lights and was (very movingly) serenaded by a fabulous group of WW2 veterans raucously singing the old Richard Greene ‘Robin Hood’ TV theme to me after I guided them on a tour.

Seriously, having thirty Paras, Commandos, Army, Navy and RAF veterans doing that was quite amazing and a real honour – and I’m sure it’ll never happen again.

I live a very strange life sometimes, but I’m very grateful to everyone in it. As with Beeston, there’s bits I miss, bits I’d change and bits I want to stay the same forever. But hey, “Ch-ch-ch-changes” as David Bowie once sang. Remember him?

Happy 2017, Beestonian readers. You rock.

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood