Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Library of Oblivion #1

Your last chance to see the books that no human eye will ever encounter again; that no charity shop, jumble sale, or car boot sale will ever again deem worth the effort of getting out of the cardboard box they rode into town on.
Any book featured in The Library of Oblivion can be yours free of charge. Simply drop me a line at matthewconiam@aol.com explaining which book you are interested in, and why you want to give it its last chance. Don't forget to include a postal address, ideally not in Australia or something.

1. Football Daft, by Michael Parkinson

I picked up Football Daft in the 10p bin of a local charity shop. Not even the fact that the world cup was in full swing was enough to deem it worthy of placement inside the shop. In a wire basket on the pavement is last chance city for paperbacks.
I hate football, but I was strangely moved by the cover, which shows the Yorkshire-born chat show host wearing a wet weather coat and a small plastic novelty hat, waving a rattle and clutching a toilet roll.
When all is said and done, I warm to Parky; he has a few annoying traits, but it's hard not to be basically well-disposed to someone who began his interviewing career chatting to the likes of Bette Davis and Orson Welles, and ended it having to pretend to crack up at Sanjeev Bhaskar, OBE.
The book itself is a series of lightly comic articles originally published in the Sunday Times; some are wry meditations on actual football personalities and topics, others are Benchleyesque flights of fancy. The book is charmingly dedicated "To anyone who is football daft", and is a semi-follow-up to an earlier book called Cricket Mad. But though it speaks primarily to the confirmed fan, it also conveys useful information to the novice, especially one with a taste for a natty simile or two: "Goalkeepers, like things that go bump in the night, defy analysis"; "wingmen, like people who thatch roofs and make clogs, are a dying breed"; "Great inside forwards, like blissful marriages, are made in heaven", and so on.


Here is a sample paragraph:

"I don't know if you've ever considered the remarkable fact that bandy legs are an asset to most sportsmen. That they help people who ride horses is a thought too obvious to need explanation. But it is not generally known that they greatly assist cricketers also. I once played in a cricket team with a man who possessed the most splendid pair of hooped legs I have yet seen."

The phrase "I have yet seen" introduces an element of optimistic speculation to the sentence, as if he hopes that he will see an even more splendid pair of hooped legs in the future. Since the book was published in 1968, it is entirely possible that he has done so in the years following.
I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some things are simply not possible in an ordered universe, and Sally Geeson turning sixty is one of them


Sally Geeson is always Sally.
She is Sally, for instance, in Cry of the Banshee, a period dress horror film with Vincent Price, animated titles by Terry Gilliam, and a dog whose growling is obviously dubbed by a man.
She's Sally in What's Good For The Goose, in which she has an affair with Norman Wisdom and takes him to a nightclub where the waiters wear ties over bare chests.

She is Sally in Carry On Abroad, in which she pulls Bernard Bresslaw, playing a monk, and wears a bikini with 'This' and 'That' written on it.



Most of all she is Sally in Bless This House, the ITV sitcom in which she plays Sid James's daughter Sally. She later married the programme's producer, William G. 'Fifteen to One' Stewart. Her brother Mike was played by Robin Stewart. According to Robin Askwith's autobiography, he was perpetually late for rehearsals, and once attempted to excuse himself by claiming that his car had hit and killed a camel on the way to the studio.
I have a friend who knew an actress who took a small role in one episode. She said that Sid was delightful, but Diana Coupland, who plays his wife Jean, was a bit snooty.
The family's next-door neighbours are married couple Betty, played by Carry On stalwart Patsy Rowlands, and Trevor, played by Anthony Jackson (Mr Mumford in the first series of Rentaghost).

Sally remembered Sid as behaving very much like a father in real life. Askwith (who auditioned for the role of Mike, plays it in the film and appears in the series as one of Mike's friends) paints an evocative picture of working at Thames at this glorious, magical time. Imagine: Askwith and Sid swagger into the Thames studio bar, to meet Richard O'Sullivan, already there. "Awlright Richard!" says Sid. "You must be earning a bloody fortune, mate! You getting them in then?"

I love sitcom spin-off movies, and Bless This House (1973) is probably the best sitcom spin-off movie ever made. In the series Sally is your average squeaky teen with the average squeaky teen's interests. The film turns her into an ahead-of-her-time green extremist and proto-eco-Fascist climate change fanatic. There's a wonderful moment where she's in the garden in a bikini in what could well be November, reading a book with nothing on the cover except the fantastic title MANKIND IS DOOMED. She starts sniffing when their neighbour starts a garden fire and attempts to put it out with a hose, which Sid then tries to turn off in a slapstick sequence that requires the viewer to accept that he is both mentally and physically incompetent, has forgotten or never knew how to turn off a hose, and is incapable of pointing it in a different direction or getting it out from between two fence posts by lifting it up and out rather than pulling at it.
Later, she and some junior activists, chanting "No more non-disposable containers!" dump a ton of empty drinks cans outside the factory that makes them. The cans have all been specially made for the film and bear the logo of the fictitious drink they supposedly contain. It is called 'Fizzo'.
In a slapstick wallpapering sequence she steps in the paste with her big white boots on and starts screaming hysterically when Sid gets wallpaper on her head.

Anyway, if you are capable of believing it, the record claims that Sally turned sixty on the 23rd of June. She is apparently now a schoolteacher.


Vote for Sally!

Sally with a load of weird-looking old dolls and toys

The Geeson girls: Imagine growing up in the same street as them. You'd never get any homework done.