It’s Coming Home

Been up to much since last issue? I’d imagine you have, unless you’ve been stuck at home poorly. As I write it’s the evening of July 19th, inaccurately dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ by some elements of the press – but oddly enough there’s an element of truth in that libertarian soubriquet for me, as today was the final day of my and my daughter’s sixteen day period of self-isolation – we’ve had Covid.

I thought I’d done pretty well to avoid it and was *extremely* happy when I had both of my vaccinations but just over a couple of weeks ago I received an email from my daughter’s school saying they believed she (and her class) had been in contact with someone who had tested positive. Ten days couldn’t be that bad, I figured – we’d done longer in earlier lockdowns. Maybe we were getting blasé about it, even.

But a few days into our new quarantine Scarlett complained of a nasty head and stomach ache; just to be sure I gave her a Lateral Flow Test and there it was, a positive. I did one for myself and was relieved to find it negative but booked us both in for a PCR test the next morning at the University Walk-in site. It was a doddle, thankfully – and Scarlett’s symptoms, such as they were, had already vanished by the time we’d been ‘done’ and told to expect the results in two days.

That afternoon though I began to feel pretty rough and by the next morning I didn’t need the result that arrived on my phone, less than 24 hours after taking the PCR test.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that blokes are generally *dreadful* when poorly (unless I’m just judging you all by my feeble standards, in which case I apologise unreservedly), but it really was bad. I’ve had proper influenza once before and that was horrendous, and this was right up there with it – literally going from sweating like a polar bear in a sauna (No idea, not seen it, it just sounded like a descriptive turn-of-phrase) to proper teeth-chattering cold, with goosebumps and nothing in between.

Scarlett, now full of energy and with not a symptom in the world was wonderful, covering and then uncovering me as my latest temperature episode kicked in and generally fussing me wonderfully. Of course the worst bit for her was us both having to start eleven days self-isolation again on top of the time we’d already done; this time I could almost hear the heavy ‘clang’ of the prison door as it swung shut.

It. Was. Horrendous.

The temperature changes, the acute muscle-pain, headaches, the cough and shallow breathing, the vomiting (thankfully very short-lived) – I got all the symptoms except for the diarrhea (and I’m glad I didn’t, that combined with coughing…eeuuwww!)

Normally I’m fine at being ill. Just give me a bed, Radio 4 and a bit of sympathy and I’m good (especially with a diet of Tunnock’s caramel wafers and pineapple juice) but add in a bored seven-year old who is absolutely fine who’s asking “Daddy, do you want to see what I can do/sing/draw/dance/create in Minecraft?” every five minutes and the next few days became a grumpy purgatory for us both in which I tried to sleep and Scarlett didn’t…

And yet, after what seemed like an eternity (but was about five days) I felt able to move again, wracked by guilt at having dismissed her so often but glad to be alive; I daren’t think how poorly I’d have been had I not had both vaccinations…

So I guess we’ll see how well ‘Freedom Day’ goes for us here in Beeston but please don’t be fooled into thinking the ‘mild ‘flu like symptoms’ you may suffer if you catch it are actually ‘mild’ in themselves. I still can’t smell or taste anything, but that was the least of my worries.

So no trite joke at the end this time, just a heartfelt ‘look after yourselves’. Please.

TP

Lighter Fluid and Lava Rock

It’s thirty degrees in the shade, I’m sweating so much even my man boobs have started to cry, weeping endless tears into my Sports Direct vest. The inside of my underwear is now frankly like a war zone, it’s just chaos down there, everything is just smashed together, I have to keep lunging just to bring some peace to the region.

In this oppressive heat what can you do? Stay inside drinking ice cold drinks and wait for the rain to come? No, that’s a stupid idea, what you need to do is have a barbecue.

So, you spend three hours, on the hottest day of the year, stood behind an actual fire. Its absolute madness isn’t it? It’s the food you’re meant to be cooking, not yourself. It makes no sense, it’s like having a Cornetto in a snowstorm.

The only time you enjoy a barbecue is when you are a guest at one. If you’re on that grill it’s a miserable afternoon. Everyone else is sat there on the decking, sipping beer and having a great time. Meanwhile you’re stood at the end of the garden, totally engulfed in smoke, eyes streaming like you’ve just been tear gassed.

Occasionally one of the guests will come and check on you to see how you are. You think they might be concerned for your welfare, but all they are interested in is when those sausages will be ready. You are just the staff to these people now. If this was the Titanic, they are in the ballroom and you are downstairs in front of a boiler, shovelling coal into the furnace.

The reality of a barbecue is never as good as the fantasy. In Australia they are so casual and relaxed about it. A barbecue for them just happens organically, because they have the weather. In Britain, all ours are done in a panic. As soon as the temperature creeps above twenty five degrees, we lose our minds. You can hear the rallying cry being carried on the breeze, “go get me some charcoal briquettes Susan, today is the day to set fire to some meat!”

But if you’re not in that supermarket in the next twenty minutes your barbecue dreams are crushed quicker than the garlic in your marinade. You had big ideas involving kebabs on skewers, Peri Peri chargrilled chicken, fresh shrimps and organic lamb steaks. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Is there anything more depressing in life, than the sight of an empty meat isle in a supermarket? It’s like the end of the world’s worst game show.

Now you’re facing the prospect of having to feed a family of four on a six pack of sausages and some king prawns that a so passed their best before date they have started to grow beards.

There is so much prep to do a barbecue properly, some people get really into it. “I’ve been rubbing this meat all morning with infused chilli oil” –  “Cheers Kev, nice one, I thought you were cooking it not giving it a massage!”

But no matter what happens, there is only one rule. You cannot, under any circumstances, switch on that oven. That is like an athlete taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s cheating, and it would bring shame on your family. If the cavemen only had fire and they still managed, well so can you.

It’s that hunter gatherer instinct that makes having a barbecue so exciting. It connects us to our primal ancestors. The only difference is we didn’t have to hunt anything. Many of us didn’t even gather. We’re stood there in shorts and flip flops cooking meat we’ve had delivered from Asda, we haven’t had to go out at daybreak and spear a wildebeest.

It does tap into something in the male psyche though. Ask a man why he loves to barbecue and he even starts to talk like a Neanderthal. His eyes widen and he goes all monosyllabic. Ranting at you with his top off, whilst rubbing a honey and mustard glaze on his nipples, saying things like, “MEAT” “FIRE” “BEER” “FIRE!”

Men and women do tend to act differently at a barbecue. The women tend to congregate together, they are interested in each other, the garden is alive with excitable chatter.

The men are huddled together around the barbecue itself, with cans of lager, like tramps gathering around a burning barrel. Conversation is stilted and awkward, with many of the men hypnotised by that powerful combination of meat and flames. Occasionally someone will break the silence:

“I think it’s hot enough now Steve, if I were you, I’d pop another bag of coals on there.”

Traditionally it’s the man who likes to be in control of the barbecue. There is nothing more manly than standing there in your own garden, lager in hand, just casually poisoning the rest of the family.

The misconception that women can’t use one is ridiculous. In fact, they are often better at in than the men and the food they produce is actually edible.

The hygiene always worries me. You can never get that grill clean enough. The first ten minutes of any barbecue is spent burning off the remains of the last one.

It always amazes me, some restaurants have been closed down because of their poor food hygiene practices, yet on a summers day, I’ll gladly tuck into an undercooked burger, served by some Dad I hardly know, who’s stood there next to the bins, with his hand down his shorts.

Barbeque models are like cars, some people don’t really care as long as its practical, but others get really passionate about it. You can see the men eyeing up each other’s cooking stations, they can’t hide their jealousy. “Look at him with his triple burner, who does he think he is!” “Was that hotplate an optional extra?” “How many steaks to the gas bottle does it do pal?”

I’ve been to barbecues where the guy behind it has so much kit I’m surprised he didn’t have to employ roadies. It was like Iron Maiden on tour. Hundreds of utensils dangling from everywhere, tables for the raw meat, tables for the cooked meat, separate grills to cater for the vegetarians along with oils and rubs of every description. This man was like a conductor in his own meat-based orchestra. He even had a meat thermometer, presumably so he could check if his pork chops were a bit under the weather.

The designers of the barbecues have tapped into this too. Even the names of them are very masculine. They are called things like “Beefmaster” “Matador” they may as well just go all out and release a model called “The meat Bastard 3000”.

The most impressive display of barbecuing I have ever witnessed was on a holiday in Sidmouth in Devon. We were sat on the beach and a man in a wetsuit walked into the sea holding a fishing rod. Five minutes and he had reeled in about three fish. He then went back onto the beach, arranged some pebbles into a pit, brought out an old grill from his bag and proceeded to cook the fish in front of us. I was so in awe I was almost aroused. He was like an aquatic Ray Mears. They only way he could’ve been more manly was if he had emerged from that ocean with those fish between his teeth like a giant grizzly bear.

Sausages are always an issue for me. They are a logistical nightmare on the bars of that grill. I’ve never made it through a full cook off with all my sausages accounted for. They just seem to have a death wish those guys. And there is no trauma like seeing a sausage give up and fall through the bars into the abyss below. This must be how a child feels when the top of their ice cream falls off, or they let go of a new helium balloon at the fair. There is nothing you can do to rescue that fallen comrade. It had so much potential, it was ninety five percent pork, but now it’s just one hundred percent ash. It looks like something found in the ruins of Pompei after the volcano erupted.

You can try and recover it, but it’s over. Because let’s be honest, there is nothing bleaker in life than having to rinse your sausage under an outside tap in front of your family.

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk

Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk

Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week

Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy

Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud

Twitter – @standupinashed

Featured Artist – Oliver Lovley

Featured Artist – Oliver Lovley

If you were a frequenter of the Malt Cross BC (Before Covid) then you will undoubtedly come across posters advertising Oliver’s life drawing classes or indeed the man  himself immersed in a bit of live painting as the artist in residence. I can distinctly remember a slender grey jacketed man sketching at one of the pedestal tables, to a lively background of cheerfully chattering people enjoying the architecture and supping their fine ales.

It was great to have the opportunity to catch up with Oliver again in the newly refurbished Greenhood Coffee House this July and talk to him about his recent work, which appears to have gained momentum since live exhibitions have become a thing again. Although we met briefly when Oliver joined the ABC Art Trail back in 2019, recent events have curtailed networking in general so it’s taken time for our paths to cross again despite both of us living in Beeston. He shows me his sketch book of observational figure drawings as we chat over an excellent coffee, and explains the process as capturing just enough information to ‘describe the people’ – the act of studying subjects as his connection to the outside world.

Oliver was born in Grantham but his parents moved to Nottingham when he was a baby. They based themselves in Newark and were living in Keyworth by the mid-80s where Oliver grew up and went to school. Although his degree at Loughborough University was Illustration, his course prepared him well for a career as a fine artist with an almost military regime of daily drawing. Having ‘tried unsuccessfully to be an illustrator’ down in London, following the success of a short animation film described as ‘hauntingly beautiful by Brief Encounters Film Festival judges in 2002, a disillusioned Oliver returned to Nottingham. Although there were signs that he should continue to hone his craft, as the portrait of his father he submitted for the prestigious National Gallery BP Portrait Award that same year made it through to the final exhibition.

Back in Nottingham, Oliver spent his time painting the landscapes around Keyworth and Belvoir Castle. Many of his earlier paintings are small watercolours depicting the natural forms of trees, fields and hedges in muted shades. They are delicately beautiful in their luminosity. Building up a collection of paintings led Oliver to look for commercial opportunities and came across the well-established Arts and Craft Fairs run by Alan Woolley in Beeston and West Bridgford. Growing interest in his work gave Oliver all the encouragement he needed to continue painting and selling at local events, securing commissions as his popularity expanded.

Another great event for him was the rather magical Craft in the City. A festive fair created by Anna French, Oliver felt his work was appreciated and talks about the encouragement he received from Anna and the supportive creative network in Nottingham that he felt lucky to be part of. Rather than competing with each others for the spotlight, there exists always a sense of mutual respect for the talents of other creatives which empowers the whole movement.

Approaching the welcoming team at Malt Cross at the end of 2015 led to a progression from artist in residence to him being invited to exhibit a selection of his work in their gallery space the following summer. Although this was not Oliver’s first exhibition, he felt that he had learned a lot since returning to his old school and exhibiting work in 2011 which was a strange if positive experience and he sold some of his paintings, which was incredibly rewarding.

As a follower of Oliver on social media, I have been noticing his newer work and the much more figurative nature of his subjects. He refers back to what he was taught in his illustration degree about the ‘visual language’ of creating an image – ‘the marks you make are your signature.’ His detailed sketches inform his paintings and he has gathered plenty of material to build up convincing forms. He applies a thick slice of paint with the palette knife first to give the figures substance, then adds in the finer detail with a fine brush, fading them into the background as objects that are further away do in real life. He describes his art as ‘explaining what’s there and talking about the emotions involved.’ He observes the scene and uses his ‘visual language’ to build in the stories. And he builds these beautifully, in textured layers.

Oliver talks through the process of how Football Crowds 2 came into being, an hour or two on Trent Bridge, intently studying the mannerisms and translating them into a serious of meaningful marks on the pages of his sketchbook. Catching glimpses of poses enabled Oliver to recreate the tension in the everyday scene, of football fans impatiently waiting for entrance to a pivotal game – instantly recognised by a football fan as the Nottingham versus Derby match. Despite not being a football fan himself, he totally captured the essence of the passion supporters feel for their team and their club. I particularly like the spectral shape of Nottingham Forest Football ground in the top left of the painting. It hangs in the air, a historical landmark, its heritage etched on the city’s skyline. The slightly contorted figures discomforted and restless and sombre tones belie the nervy anticipation.

You might also be surprised to learn that as well as being a rather accomplished painter, Oliver is also the frontman of the band Dog Explosion  – his sidekick being a small but rather formidable looking stuffed dog. Dog Explosion is one of the sound affects on the synthesiser he uses to make music to accompany his generally explosive lyrics. A contrast to the way his paintings slowly manifest before your eyes, he describes his songs as more of an ‘announcement!’ An onomatopoeic assault of words tumbling forth, often an expression of ‘life and its many frustrations’ there is definitely the same resonance of discord in his art.

Described by Left Lion’s Bassey Easton as ‘the kinda sound Sleaford Mods would make if they were middle class executives living in 1984 and singing about ulcers caused by their stressful jobs in the City.” It’s definitely worth a listen!

Oliver teaches classes at Artworks and will be setting up a selection 0f his paintings alongside knitwear designer Oksana Holbrook on Burham Avenue in Attenborough for the Art Trail this year. As well as ABC Art Fair at Attenborough Village Hall on October 10th you will find a selection of his works at Cupola Gallery in Sheffield and at Lakeside Arts in the coming year.

Dog Explosion will be performing with Obi Rudo at The Chameleon in August and will be starring at OXJAM again later in the year.

www.oliverlovley.com

www.dogexplosion.co.uk

DU

Like a Boss!

An email pings into The Beestonian inbox: “Did you know we have the National Governing Body for a Paralympic Sport right here in Beeston?” Well, no we didn’t. Beeston consistently  punches above its weight – one of the reasons we set up this mag a decade ago – but considering that the Paralympics is imminent and one of its most fascinating sports is based here, we have to find out more. I jump on my bike and pedal round to one of the buildings near the Padge Road sorting office.

Boccia England (BE) have been based here for 3 years after moving from just over the Nottingham border in the Lenton Science Park with Cerebral Palsy Sport. “It’s ideal in many ways” Cally Keetley, BE’s fundraiser tells me “Being so central to everywhere in England”. Their office could be that of any modern office, apart from the floor, which is marked out with a Boccia court, and the set of leather balls on the table we talk at. What, however, is Boccia?

Considering it is perhaps the most inclusive sport in the world, it has probably not appeared on many of our reader’s radars. Pronounced ‘Bot-cha’ (the name is the Latin for ‘boss’) it’s one of only two sports at the Paralympics that doesn’t have an Olympics counterpart (the other being goalball). It resembles boules or petanque, with players trying to get their balls as close to a jack as they can. What makes it a wonderful sport for the Paralympics is its sheer accessibility: it can be played with hands, feet, or even for those with severe disabilities, a ramp to direct the ball. There are resources that allow the visually impaired to play, and, provided they stay seated, the able bodied can join in. It’s difficult to imagine a more inclusive sport.

Making it’s paralympic debut in 1984, it currently has 54,000 regular players spread over 60 clubs in the UK alone and is fast growing worldwide. And no wonder. A glance at Boccia games on YouTube  is not dissimilar to how people get drawn into seemingly simple looking sports and realise the fiendishly wonderful tactics required. Remember when the UK went curling crazy at a previous Winter Olympics, and we all became experts at broom technique and stone angling? Similarly, Boccia is a gripping sport to watch. “You haven’t seen sport until you’ve seen boccia” wrote Times sports editor Simon Barnes in 2012. He’s not wrong.

But it’s more than that for those who take part. “It’s a wonderful way for people to socialise, to have a challenge to work at, and to grow confidence” Cally tells me. “It changes people’s lives”.

It also saves them: “I had a real horrid time after my accident…Boccia pulled me round. It gave me friendship, it gave me skills…it literally saved my life” says one player in a BE video. Its amongst numerous testimonies saying similar: this is more than a sport.

But on a purely competitive level, things are gearing up ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics. Cally’s colleague, BE’s Team Administrator Dan Headley, is preparing to fly out to Japan when I visit in his role as an international boccia referee. “Boccia will be streamed online throughout the Games” he explains “And Team GB is confident of medals”.

His hot tip? “David Smith. It’s amazing he’s not better known”. Absolutely. David Smith, MBE, should be as well known as Mo Farah or Becky Adlington. His Paralympic medal haul – 2 gold, a silver and a bronze – when added to his multiple World and European titles makes him the world’s most successful Boccia player ever, an inspiration to those, like him, with Cerebral Palsy – and anyone who loves a world class athlete. He also pulls some mean doughnuts in his wheelchair.

They are doing great things down on Padge Road, and that work will hopefully pay off in medals at Tokyo – as well as giving many thousands of disabled individuals a sport that adds so much to life.

If you’d like to find out more, check out BE’s website: https://www.bocciaengland.org.uk/ where you’ll discover a huge amount of info and resources- including how you can help raise money for them.

MT

Grassroots football club feed over 100 people during half-term

A football club in Chilwell provided free meals during the half-term break.

Phoenix Inham FC helped 140 individuals as they joined a number of restaurants and cafes across the country in feeding disadvantaged people.

The club’s efforts have been recognised on Twitter by Marcus Rashford who has been a leading campaigner in trying to end child hunger in Britain.

The England international footballer successfully forced a government U-turn to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer.

But the scheme was not extended during half-term – a move which prompted widespread criticism.

Richard Ward is the chairman of Phoenix Inham.

He said: “I think it’s disgusting.

“There’s a lot of parents who have lost their jobs and suddenly you’ll go from having a permanent wage to having nothing whilst trying to afford a mortgage and everyday household bills.

“People need free school meals.”

Richard was born in Chilwell so knows the importance of providing food and support to the local community.

He added: “We spoke to a lady whose partner was furloughed back at the beginning of lockdown and sadly on Monday they received a phone call saying they’ve gone into liquidation.

“They’ve got a family with two children who they now can’t afford to feed.”

Latest government data shows that the percentage of students eligible for FSM’s has increased across all schools from 15.4% in 2019 to 17.3% in 2020.

That percentage is only going to increase with the number of people losing their jobs during the pandemic.

The club have been providing free food during the half-term break

32-year-old Kylie Goodband has been volunteering at the club after recently losing her job as a carer.

She said: “If I was in need then at least I know that I’ve got people to come to when I need it.”

“I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands at the moment so I like to help out as much as I can.”

The Beestonian have asked Broxtowe MP, Darren Henry, to comment after being one of over 300 MPs to have voted against extending the FSM scheme.

Mr Henry has yet to respond.

IS

Unsocial distancing

Corona blah-blah virus continues to strike, quickly destroying 2020 like the alcoholic drink with twice the strength, and all of the hangover.

In fact, if 2020 was a drink it wouldn’t actually be the fortified wine of the Mad Dog variety, it would, in fact, be warm cheap tequila reminiscent of supermarket hand sanitizer. I was horrified to learn the American company have actually brought out a special limited edition Gold flavour to celebrate its year and namesake, I don’t think sales are going well…

Well, I can assure you this tale does actually have a happy ending, (it’s 2020 I take what I can ) as I indeed went to a festival this year, continuing my 16-year reign of at least once a year retreating to a tent after sampling an array of music. This one wasn’t even on my original plan for this year but as most know by now, even the best-laid plans…

The future of festivals and large scale events is still undecided, for me the feeling of chatting to strangers and sat in a field with a drink in hand, live music and sun on my face, is still my happy place; my mental health has been hit hard by the continual negativity and hardships this year has inflicted. People talk about the new normal, I quite liked the old one, and I struggle to get to grips with zoom meetings, face-mask rules, new etiquette regarding hugging, elbows? And pay by app? Pay at the bar? Don’t stand at the bar, masks on for the loo, one-way system, no way system, no cash? Only cash? Track and trace forms, hand sanitiser, but not no-touch dispensers, the possibilities have been endless, I long for the old way this new world is hard and confusing.

While I was endlessly scrolling Social Media I saw a socially distanced and legal Responsible reboot festival to be held on 8th August, hosted by Barking Mad festivals and held at the Vic Inn bikers club. A limited number of 60 tickets were sold at £10 and camping an extra £10 each, I would have probably have given them a kidney to actually get a chance to go, £20 quid seemed very cheap, we brought the tickets online and waited hoping it wasn’t cancelled or postponed.

On the day we rocked up nice and early, I pitched up the tent on the grassy bit of the car park at the back as instructed and found the guy on the door, quite ingeniously they decided to give away a safe pack with every ticket, no close contact hand stamps or wristbands, no they decided to stamp the name of the festival on face-masks which had to be worn when going into the pub, which was marked out with one-way directions and Perspex behind the bar, so far so good, also was a handy bottle of hand sanitiser with the festival name on a sticker attached to the front, earplugs and a few sweets and freebie badges, these packs had been vac sealed as well, very thoughtful and practical!

“I am all for a good time but not when so much is at risk.”

The music was to be on the outdoor stage, people had tables to sit at, with limiting tickets and strictly no walk-ins, the event was to be all in line with all the latest advice. Starting early afternoon The Jellyfish Are Calling hit the stage and immediately I got shivers, they could have been the worst band in the world but I was happy, I had waited all year for this.

The line up was a mix of punk with Noose, rock and roll with The Blue Carpet Band and a sprinkling of ska with Kid Klumsy. It was all going so well until high energy rap metal and rock and roll band Dog Rotten, a mixture of alcohol, lowered inhibitions and good music led to a surge at the front of the band and a mosh pit was formed. Myself and a friend looked on in horror – it was all way too much. Drinks were being thrown and even the local photographer and reviewer dived in!

Don’t in any way get me wrong, this time last year we probably would have been straight in too, but it was all too intense and worrying. My friend headed to find the promoter – no sign. Leaving no option but to go to the pub landlord who immediately got the p/a Mr BadAxe to announce about social distancing and the one-way system which was being pretty much ignored at this point, the band finished their set and immediately the tension went away, the crowd of moshers too drunk to care, headed off to call it a night, leaving the rest of us to relax and enjoy the evening safe in the knowledge we had done all we can to not get the place shut down. I am all for a good time but not when so much is at risk.

Verdict- I loved the music however it is too early, I could immediately see why festivals and big events haven’t got the go-ahead, after a few drinks all the health and safety went out the window, till next year it is!!

LD

They’re not ageing, they’re transitioning!

As this issue is about community, I want to tell you about two of my favourite communities, both of whom have a spiritual affinity with one another.

The first is a group called the “Men’s Shedders Association.” I recently did a charity fundraising gig for them, my dream is to be the ambassador, the comedy circuits very own Angelina Jolie. I might even adopt one of these stray men and bring them back home to live with me. In a house full of women it would be nice to finally have a wingman for when my wife and I have an argument.

There is a serious reason that this charity was set up. Men’s mental health is a big concern. The statistics on male suicide make for horrific reading. It remains the most common form of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK. Years of being told to “Man up” and the stigma surrounding mental health has made it hard for men to talk about their problems.

Thankfully things are changing and the “Shedders Association” is one initiative set up to help. Men of all ages, young and old can now gather together in sheds all across the country, it’s a bit like an open prison, except that the only vices they have are the ones holding the wood.

It seems like men find it easier to talk when we are these sort of environments. Sawdust are our smelling salts and a Black and Decker Workmate is just another one of the lads. If you have a BBQ you can see how hard men find it to converse. Women will be sat on the patio furniture with a glass of Pimms, the air is alive with their excitable chatter. The men will usually be stood around the flames with a can of lager in hand, just staring in silence. Occasionally one of the older ones will pluck up the courage to speak: “It looks like you need another bag of lava rock on there Keith.”

I have a shed and it’s changed my life. It’s the only room in the house the children haven’t conquered. I like my kids but I love my shed. It’s my place, my own private temple. It’s not hedonism its shedonism! It’s how men bond too. My mates never ask me about my kids, but they will always ask me about that shed. “How is she doing mate?” “Great!” “I’ve got some pictures on my phone” “Oh, she’s beautiful!” “I’m treating her this weekend” “Are you?” “Yeah, a bit of Cuprinol.”

My wife Jemma got me that shed as a surprise when I became a professional comedian. It was somewhere I could concentrate, a private place away from the chaos of family life. At first, I thought it was a lovely gesture, now I’ve realised it’s just a way for her to get me out of the house.

Some of the men in the shedders association are retired. Their wives send them in there, to keep them occupied and stop them from getting lonely. They spend hours making coffee tables, catapults, and tiny models of cathedrals out of matchsticks, whilst their own homes just fall apart. “John I don’t need another bloody spice rack, when are you going to decorate that back bedroom!”

Another community I am fascinated with are the monks. To the onlooker they seem to have the right idea, taking themselves off the grid, seeking something more spiritual and meaningful in a world of panic and fear.

I’ve met a monk. I know this sounds like the start of a joke, “a comedian and a monk walk down a hill”, but it’s true. I was out for a walk on my own one day, in a country park in Gloucestershire. In the grounds, there was this Monastery. As I walked past the entrance, this monk came out of the gate and fell into step with me. He was in white robes, but he’d stuck on a fleece, bobble hat, and walking boots, an undercover monk, a friar with a wire. Some people find god after a moment of despair, this guy looked like he’d found him halfway through plastering a fireplace. It looked like he was on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition and had taken the wrong bearing, for nearly four decades! He said, “are you walking my way?” I thought, my God, he’s trying to recruit me! He got the calling when he was 25, he’d been there 35 years. He’d left his whole family behind to serve god. I told him I’d just turned 40. He said that is the age we start to look for fulfilment within ourselves, we stop chasing and start reflecting. This could be the moment for you, he said. “Now I’m not saying I’d want to abandon my family, I love my wife and children more than anything else in the world, they are everything to me…however…. it’d be nice to be brother Scott just for a weekend.”

I think that’s what these monasteries are full of, tired dads who said they were going to put the bin out one day and just kept going. They didn’t stop until their heads hit the monastery door. The monks find them there in the morning, just laid out on the steps: “We’ve got some more brother Michael and this one is weeping!” “School holidays Brother John always a busy time!” “Five this week alone” They just prize the Ikea bags out of their hands and take them through to the vestry. I think this is a secret fantasy for most men. As they get older you can see their inner monk slowing starting to come out. They aren’t ageing, they’re transitioning! They get the bald head, the potbelly, start spending all day in their dressing gowns, mumbling to themselves, they take a vow of celibacy, often not their choice. They wake up one day and say to their wives, “Susan, I’m going to put my name down for an allotment!”

But if the price of tranquillity is to give up everything you love, I don’t want it. I couldn’t handle the guilt, it would be unbearable. Maybe they aren’t holy these guys, maybe they’re just really selfish. We can’t all abandon our responsibilities just to save ourselves. It can’t be that good in there either. If it was, then why are they all drinking booze?! Not only that, but they are also making it themselves, it’s like Breaking Bad in there, I bought some of their Trappist Ale, its 9%, that’s stronger than special brew!

When you see them doing those chants in their robes, they aren’t praying, they’re hungover, what are they trying to forget! In this world of pressure and chaos, a garden shed is more than just an outbuilding, it’s a place of sanctuary. All you need is the Pope to pop by and bless it then and you’ve got your own Monastery. You can be your own monk by not even leaving your own home!

Speaking of which, I’ll see you all later, I’m off to rub down some plywood.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

Call me captain planet

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve just come back in from taking out the recycling, something that I always do in the dark, mainly because I don’t want the neighbours to see how much alcohol I drink. There is only so many times you can have a Christmas party before someone suggests you have a problem, especially when it’s May.

The environment is becoming a huge political hot potato, albeit one which was heated in a solar-powered oven made from mud. We are constantly being bombarded with messages of how little time we’ve got left and how we are on the cusp of Armageddon.

The straws

Don’t worry though everyone, it’s all going to be okay because we’ve banned the plastic straws.

These cardboard ones aren’t the answer though. Of all the materials that are suitable for being submerged underwater, cardboard would be way down that list. I’d like to say that these new straws sucked, but they don’t even do that. Ten seconds in a diet coke and it just gives up, it’s like trying to smoke a roll-up in the shower.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just have to put up with it, or I suppose we could drink directly from the glass, you know, like grown up’s do.

We need to have bigger changes than this, otherwise, we’ll be sat there on top of a skyscraper in fifty years’ time, tidal waves lapping at our feet, watching cattle float by like driftwood, sipping that same milkshake thinking, “Well I just don’t understand why we changed the straws?”

Extinction Rebellion

We have recently seen the rise of the protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The group were formed after founder members met at a Psychedelic Drugs retreat. That’s quite impressive. Most people who spend most of the day off their face can’t even organise a trip to the all-night garage, never mind a political movement.

Recently an anti-terror chief said that they should be treated as a terrorist organisation. Really? I’d like to see them try and radicalise some unsuspecting arts student:

“Oh yes, we started to notice his behaviour change. He would often wander around the house switching off lights and turning down the thermostat. He’d spend all day in his room, watching Greta Thunberg Speeches and just silently recycling. Then, two weeks later he totally flipped and tried to hijack that oil tanker with a gluten-free breadstick.”

Shamed into action

Like most things with the environment I think we need to be shamed into doing something, it’s the only way. That’s why a teenager like Greta is having such an impact. We feel embarrassed when our own kids make us look like morons, never mind someone else’s.

When I have a dental appointment, the day before I suddenly start caring about my teeth. I brush till my gums bleed, floss, gargle mouthwash; all so I don’t get told off by my dentist. Cleaning the house is the same. Some days I arrange for people to come and visit me, just so I have no choice but to get off my arse and do the hoovering. This is what we need to do for the environment.

“Right I’m going now, but I’ll be back on Friday to look at your environment, don’t let me down.”

We’d have it sorted in record time.

Our children

We are worried for the next generation. They are pumped full of guilt and fear, and so they should be, it’s partly their fault. Having a kid is terrible for the environment. For the first few years, all they do is consume food, energy, and resources. The amount of arts and crafts they churn out is an environmental disaster that could rival any oil spill.

Every day my three-year-old comes home with more things she’s made at playgroup. It’s a nightmare. I can’t throw it away because she’ll know it’s gone and I can’t recycle it because it’s just a congealed mess of glue, lollipop sticks, paper and glitter. My fridge door is straining at the hinges with the weight of this poorly executed emotional landfill. They are using up more resources than the US at the height of the industrial revolution.

“Look, Daddy, I’ve made you another picture of a sheep in dried pasta.”

It’s no wonder free school meals are in crisis. Stop sticking the stuff on paper and cook it!

I swear the things they make are getting bigger. It’s a conspiracy to stop you from throwing it all away. They started as A4 cards, then a painted plate. The week after it was a wooden spatula, by the end of term they’ll be sending them out the door with a sequin-covered surfboard.

My eldest daughter Olivia, is a vegetarian, at nine years old. She’s doing it both for ethical and environmental reasons. These dietary requirements are something my parents never had to deal with. At her birthday party this year it was a nightmare. We had two vegetarians, a vegan, someone who was wheat intolerant and a celiac. I don’t know where we’re having her party next year, probably Holland and Barret. It’ll just be sixteen bored kids, sitting there playing pass the parsley for three hours.

Disposable society

We live in a disposable society where we just endlessly consume and things cost more to repair than replace and that’s fundamentally wrong.

Our Tumble dryer broke recently, so I got in touch with the company:

“Don’t worry Mr Bennett for £15.99, a month, we can repair your tumble dryer and that will also cover you for all future problems.”

My life insurance is £8.99 a month. I told my wife Jemma, “Can you believe it darling, to repair this tumble dryer it’s going to be twice the price of my life insurance.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, but the thing is, we couldn’t live without that tumble dryer.”

I wanted to repair it myself, I’m fairly practical, but it was impossible. The manufacturers don’t want you to. I couldn’t even get into the thing!

There are many screws that the designers could have used, ones that fit, say a conventional screwdriver. But no, my tumble dryer has a screw with a head on it that can only be turned by the toenail of a Komodo dragon! Not a flat-head, not a crosshead, this one is like a weird triangle. Who built this thing? The Illuminati?

Before we start trying to tackle bigger issues facing our planet, we need to have a change in our behaviour as a society not just as individuals. It needs to be a huge global effort in collective thinking; rather than being led by these huge companies who consistently look to put their profits ahead of the planet.

SB

Beeston FC closer than ever to being able to build new clubhouse

Congratulations to Beeston FC! The bees have secured almost £500,000 from the Premier League and Football Association towards a new clubhouse, but a further £50,000 is still needed.

Beeston FC have been trying to raise money to build a clubhouse since we first starting covering them at the beginning of last year, when they acquired a 99-year lease for a plot of land on Trent Vale road.

Since then, the club were unsuccessful in a bid to receive £10,000 from the Aviva Community Fund, but that hasn’t deterred them and after being successfully awarded this fund from the Premier League and FA, they are now closer than ever to getting there.

The club plan to raise the remaining money in a variety of different ways, including erecting plaques on a wall with the names of those who have donated towards the site’s construction.

“The supporter’s wall will be a mixture of individuals and businesses,” said club chair, Charlie Walker. “so far we have raised around £100 from this.

“We’re also collecting some memories that people have of playing at the site from over the years, as there have been lots of people playing football, hockey, cricket and tennis, so we’re hoping to have some photographs of these memories in the clubhouse.”

The clock is ticking for Beeston FC, who need to raise the remaining 50K within the next six months, otherwise, the money they have been awarded could be withdrawn.

Charlie tells me that the club are making good progress towards making the total and are hoping that the support from a combination of businesses, banks, local authorities and the community, will see them reach that £50,000 total.

“We received £3800 from the Co-op, as part of their local community scheme and £2000 pounds from the Bank of England. We’re also speaking to Broxtowe Borough Council and Nottinghamshire County Council to try and apply for money from them and we’re approaching local businesses to see if they can support us. We’ll also be running some events in 2020, so look out for those.”

2020 promises to be a big year for Beeston Football Club and Charlie is conscious of how rare this opportunity is for them and the wider community of Beeston.

“The clubhouse will mean that we can increase the size of the club so that more children, boys and girls will be able to play football in the years ahead. We’re also planning to start a second men’s team, an adult women’s team and a couple of disability teams, so, there’s going be a lot more opportunities to play football.

“We’re determined to get it over the line as we’ve come so far and we will never get this offer again.”

If you are interested in supporting the clubs efforts by having your own plaque, email trentvalesports@mail.com or telephone Beeston FC committee member, Sarah Green on 07976 299229.

Life is a cabaret, old friend

For many, the words ‘British Legion’ means a place that old soldiers can go to for a bit of company and a cheap pint. While that part may be true, the Legion in Beeston also means being entertained at a reasonable price. As four years ago, David Clifford, the former road manager of Nottingham’s Paper Lace and Bittersweet, together with his partner Anita opened the club for cabaret evenings. You can forget the end of the pier and novelty acts that made their way onto the stage in Peter Kay’s comedy series Phoenix Nights, David attempts and succeeds in attracting quality acts that people want to see for a very reasonable on the door price of £5, through his many contacts in the music industry.

David, with much help, charity and goodwill from people and companieshas transformed the inside of the nondescript building into a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out. Full Steam Ahead is a sponsor for instance. Some of the improvements have included LED lights for energy conservation, improved soundproofing to stop the neighbours complaining and stage lighting that originally came from Plessey.

The original use of the building hasn’t been lost, as there’s still an area dedicated to veterans of the Korean conflict and the bar is named Troopers, after the Paras. Although most members of the armed forces now tend to go to Chetwynd Barracks for their companionship.The Cabaret Club’s main audience are people in their 30s and 40s. There’s no age restriction either, so families are made most welcome.

“a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out.”

So what sort of entertainment is on offer? Tuesday evenings are set aside for line dancing, Wednesday’s are bingo nights, Beeston Camera Club meets there on a Thursday, while the cabaret nights are the first Friday in the month. There’s also music or comedy on a Saturday too. The venue can also be hired for private parties like weddings. And David has just opened a smaller room that can be used for meetings. Car parking isn’t a problem, as there’s enough space for 60 cars. The club currently has around 150 members and has a loyal following. David and Anita are always thinking of ways to improve the club, as they would hate to see it close.

For that first-hand experience, David invited me and my wife Gail along to see a show. The next cabaret night featured a Cliff Richard and Cher tribute bands. So I thought that would be a good one to choose. We arrived to a packed house who were enjoying the songs of Cliff and his backing band the Shadooz. Will Chandler does a fair impersonation of Harry Webb and tended to keep to a lot of his early back catalogue songs from the 1960s, so we were spared his latter tunes like ‘The Millennium Prayer’. Kelly Marie as Cher came on next, dressed in a similar costume that she appeared in the ‘Turn Back Time’ video. And no, it wasn’t ‘that’ Kelly Marie, who had a hit in 1980 with “Feels Like I’m In Love’.

At the break, a cheque presentation was made to Breast Cancer Care of £620. This was raised by the club, as one of its members Jayne Walker was diagnosed with the disease four years ago but is now free after going through 16 months of therapy. I had a quick chat with Jayne, who comes from Hucknall and she really wants to get the word out about the charity and its work and was genuinely pleased that the club had raised so much through a charity evening held there earlier this year.

There’s a real family atmosphere to the club as members have their birthdays celebrated. While we were there Cliff led the singing of Happy Birthday to one member.

With a change of costume and Cliff was on again for some more songs to entertain the happy audience. I wondered whether Cher would make another appearance, and she did. Well, Kelly did, but as herself. And was something of a rock goddess. She did an amazing version of Guns & Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, which went down a storm with the audience.

So if you fancy having somewhere new to go, then why not give the Legion on Hallcroft a go. You never know, you might decide to become a member.

If you want to know more about the club and what it can offer, then give David a call on 07917 773003.

CF