January 2015

Posted by on Jan 1, 2015

There’s been poison in the system, and I’m regretful of that. Some troll has been using information from this site for her own ends, so the site will be closed, at least until matters can be righted.

Those who wish to read the blog should check back in a week or two. I am so sorry. 

Jan 20 2015.

E-pistle 1062 Salad cream, big legs, and Krays again. Jan/15/15

Longest Day: We enjoy a small bonus this year. On June 30th, we get an extra second, one-sixtieth of a minute, to do with what we will. The year 2015 will be longer than its fellows because the Earth is slowing its rotation. To keep everything in sync, clock-watchers at the International Earth Rotation Service announced they’ll be adding a ‘leap second’ to the last day of June.

Essentially, clocks will pause for a ‘One Mississippi’ moment to let the world and its computer clocks, which are digitally in step with atomic clocks, catch up with atomic time. It could make the internet go a bit pear-shaped. Techie News explains that computers and servers get their tickers in a twist if they are shown the same second twice in a row. When this happened in 2012, sites like LinkedIn and Reddit went down.

Google plans to avoid the crash by using a ‘leap smear.’ Their tactic is to keep adding a millisecond to its system clocks, tricking operating systems with the insignificant measurements. US government timekeepers have their doubts about the addition, saying it could disrupt navigation and communication online, or even cause a worldwide meltdown. But that’s just their second opinion… (pun.)

Jennie came home the other day with a couple of bottles of salad cream, that Heinz confection that makes lettuce palatable, and I got to wondering about other long-forgotten foods. Where did Rhum Baba, Pate Maison and Duck a l’Orange go? Those 1960s classics were all sidelined by nouveaux arrivistes, it seems. Just as salad cream was snobbily pushed aside by balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, so too went the Great British Dinner served at places like Berni Inns: prawn cocktail, steak (garni) and chips, a bottle of Blue Nun and a sticky Black Forest gateau. I got to pondering the dishes once considered exotic: Chicken Kiev, Boeuf Stroganoff, Wiener Schnitzel and Moussaka, all of which have all joined the dinosaurs in the shadows of our memories. Today, Mulligatawny can only be found in Indian restaurants, and Shepherd’s Pie, well, the waiter would laugh at you in anywhere but a Gentleman’s Club. And oxtail soup? Whatever happened to make that extinct? Excuse me while I go off for a quiet weep and mop my eyes with a bit of kale or something.

Ken Potter has words of comfort for us as we age.. “Older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for. It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature’s way of making older people do more exercise.” Ken also shares this: Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips was asked by Bob Costas why he takes his wife on all his road trips. Phillips responded: “Because she’s too ugly to kiss good-bye.”

My long-ago bike racing mentor, Graham Lawrence just received the All Clear from his cancer doc – congrats, Graham, happy for you and long may you ride on!
I thought of Graham when a name rang a bell with me. Researching something else, I came across that the governor of Capetown who welcomed HMS Bounty captain William Bligh was a de Graaf, and I recalled a 1960 day of watching Dutch cyclist Aad de Graaf race British champion Lloyd Binch on the Fallowfield, Manchester velodrome. Graham confirmed my memory, and that led me to another tale buried deep in the mental library…

Aad de Graaf Reg Harris Loyd Binch

After the day’s racing at Fallowfield was over, the competitors were gathered in the clubhouse for adult beverages, and Binch, who was a very polite, Nice Man, approached five-times world champion Reg Harris, a ferocious fellow not noted for either his sense of humour or for excessive politesse. “I always admired you, Mr Harris,” said Binch “In your day, you truly were the best in the world.” Harris, who had been retired from competition for five or six years, snarled that he still was the bloody best and he could whip some young pup like Binch right bloody now and he had £20 to prove it….

Because Harris was deathly afraid that his efforts as an athlete meant he would contract crippling arthritis later in life, he kept a racing bike at the track and used it for exercise. It was the work of a few minutes to see the two now-antagonists in cycling kit and out on the banking. Best of three was the bet, and Harris won the first race from behind, by a half-wheel. He won the second easily, going away, from the front, hitting poor Binchy with his famous ‘lullaby’ technique of leading out strongly, then jumping again unexpectedly to leave his opponent suddenly facing a wall of wind… As a young teen, I was awestricken in the dusk.

Footnote: Harris later un-retired at age 54, and won the national title, just to impress his girlfriend.

To admiring comments on Mervyn Edgecombe’s reportage about the criminal Kray Twins, of London, Swerv responded:”There’s so many more stories I’ve got about my 12 months in close proximity to the Krays and their henchmen. I regularly visited Reggie at the Albany (prison), sat with Ronnie alongside the Yorkshire Ripper at Broadmoor (asylum for the criminally insane) and was always getting phone calls at night to meet some of their gang members who had just been released from nick and needed someone to write their life story. Oh yeah…yawn. The most terrifying was Tony Lambriano, who had got out after 18 years for murder and who insisted on taking me round all his old haunts up and down the Mile End Road, showing where he had committed different murders and how he did them.” That’s a bit like Liz Smith – Mrs Ian Smith that is, not the other actress one, introducing you to the members of the Women’s Institute in Hale, Cheshire that she heads. That group isn’t all ‘Jam and Jerusalem,’ they’re more like more like ‘Stitch and Bitch,’ but Liz rules with a fist of Iron.

Jennie’s cousin Martin Dunne, whose interesting street address is The Royal Circle, Edinburgh (but he’s never met Prince Andrew) also has a fine Kray story for us: “In 1968 I received a summons to appear at the Old Bailey to give technical evidence about the connection of calls to overseas numbers which may have been made by them (not call recordings or “wire taps” as you may call them).
“My dad was horrified that I was getting involved in such matters but I assured him that no guns were involved and I was just explaining what the tickets made out by telephone operators meant. I signed my statement as a Telecomms Superintendent at an International Exchange but it took so long for the trial to get under way that by the time I was called I had been promoted and moved elsewhere. Foolishly, I asked a policeman at the court if it was OK to answer yes when asked if I was the bod doing that job and was told to say “I was at the time of my statement.” I didn’t think this would go unnoticed and sure enough the whole court held its breath as the Rumpole-shaped prosecution counsel asked “And what are you now?”

“When, with a red face, I answered “A Senior Telecomms Superintendent…” the whole court erupted in laughter and Rumpole suggested to the judge that it was appropriate for the court to congratulate me on my promotion. He did so, as the three Krays pissed themselves laughing at me. It may have been one of my most embarrassing moments, but I hope it acted as a little light relief in those grim proceedings. I was told later that the event was even mentioned in the London evening papers!”

But wait, there’s more: Swerv wasn’t the only Brit reporter involved with the Krays’ coverage… here’s a fine insider tale from the Georgia Fuzzy Peach himself, Frederick von Furstenwehner:

“The day Kray The Elder was let out of prison (Daily Mail editor) David English and his lieutenants were convinced he would make a bee-line to the Blind Beggar to get sloshed with friends and family. After all, what better place for Charlie to celebrate than at the scene of a notorious Kray murder? Accordingly, a mighty battalion of 14 reporters was assembled. News editor John Womersley showed us a floor plan of the pub and marked on it the exact positions each one of us was to occupy unobtrusively. We were then to “get alongside” the folks in our immediate vicinity. On no account were we to stray, nor show any recognition of our colleagues dotted around the place.

“I hope you can see where this is going, St Paul (and readers) (Oh yar – Ed.)

“So the Dogs Of News were unleashed in ones and twos. There was Frank Thompson, Thomson Prentice, Peter Cliff… (Forgive me if my alzheimers has claimed the other names at this moment). I was assigned Ann Kent as my girlfriend and told to go easy on the booze. Enter the Blind Beggar and – “Way-hay! Over here!” The gang’s all here and it’s scotch-and-limes galore for me and tons of liquid fun all round. Few local patrons there at all on that January night, in fact, the Daily Mail WERE the customers.

“Every half hour one of us would lurch outside the the phone box and report no sign of Mr Kray. The News Desk spymasters were quite disheartened, finally deciding to disperse us, sending some to this nearby pub, others to others. But it was too late to break up the party: all 14 of us did all the pubs they wanted checked. And did we ever. It was the most wonderful all-expenses-paid Daily Mail pub crawl. What a night.
By the way, I just Snoped ‘Merv Edgecombe’ and discovered… he doesn’t exist.”

Sorry, no matches were found containing mervyn edgecombe.

Born-again atheist/realist Jack Grimshaw shared his sorrow over the Paris massacre with this : “I gotta take issue with iconic, revered and notorious French novelist Michel Houellebecq, featured on the front page of Charlie Hebdo last week – the week of the obscene, deluded, religio-crackpot assassinations at the satirical magazine’s office. In the course of a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Telegraph, before the attack, he insisted that “no novel … has changed the course of history.” Au contraire, mon ami. In the fiction section of what I laughingly refer to as my home library, right between John Ball’s “The Van” and James Lee Burke’s “In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead” is … The Bible.”

Speaking of religion, David Wright, digger par excellence, reveals what the saint did not know despite his very close association with the Vatican: that Bennet Bolton, our late Enquirer colleague, covered the Second Vatican Council and two papacies for The Associated Press. Ben “arrived in Rome at age 29 and soon found himself immersed in the transformative meetings that became known as Vatican II, which took place over three years and helped modernize the Catholic Church. The young reporter later covered the death of the man who presided over the start of those talks, Pope John XXIII and the election of Pope Paul VI, who closed the sessions,” says his AP obituary.

His daughter Catherine Bolton recalled being taken by her parents to register for first grade when a nun came running toward them. “The smoke is white! The smoke is white!” she recalled the nun saying, indicating the election of Paul. “And my dad dashed off to cover it.” (He was probably disappointed to find it wasn’t the saint being elected pope – Ed.)

V. Big Thank You to all those who double-clicked the Amazon link and ‘found helpful’ the reviewer Coolfire’s flattery of ‘Crusader.’ We have just over 20 positives which should keep that review at the top of the list, so potential readers first get an informed opinion from a real (read: ‘Vine’) reviewer. The book went to #1 of its Hist Fict genre and again as #1 in Hist Mystery on Tuesday, btw. Obrigado! Late note: thanx to a wee keelie and a Waggledagg, too, for actually reviewing the book (without telling how bad it is.)

Close to fame: FOS (Friend of Saint) retired Univ Oregon professor Dan Kimble’s nephew J Kimble Simmons, 60, won a Golden Globe last weekend as Best Supporting Actor in the movie ‘Whiplash. Simmons’ character Fletcher is a manipulative, abusive, calculating, foul-mouthed music instructor who slaps his views into co-star Miles Teller’s face. Past roles for the actor include playing a neo-Nazi (prison drama ‘Oz’); an editor (‘Spider-Man’); a blind lawyer (‘Growing Up Fisher’) and a shrink (‘Law and Order’) Now, thrilled Uncle Dan and Aunt Reeva are hoping for an Oscar nomination for their talented nephew. Do you get special slippers to wear on the red carpet?
Got airbag? Be warned, it can tattle on you. Revel Barker sent the tale of the Brit who claimed to have been doing 30mph when he crashed – but the airbag data told a different story. It recorded 60 mph, hard braking, all too late. It was not the picture the untruthful punter had painted… insurance claim denied.

Interesting to watch the poker game the oil sheiks are playing as oil sinks to $46, a six-year low and a tumble of 50% since 2013. OPEC leaders won’t cut production, in an attempt to make US shale oil production unprofitable, but US economists say oil will need to go below $40 a barrel for six months or more before that starts to bite. Meanwhile, Russia suffers, Brazil trembles, and OPEC member Venezuela, whose budget requires oil at no less than $117.50, has already had to go to Qatar and China to borrow tens of billions of dollars. Cuba, too, unexpectedly feels the draught, because Venezuela subsidises it. In Nigeria and Libya, reduced revenues mean a less-effective response to extremists like ISIS – bad news. Better: cracks are appearing in Arab nations’ resolve. Shia Iran says rival Sunni Saudi and Kuwait will be hurt more than it will by maintaining current production levels, and the Emiratis are echoing the Iranians’ defiance.
It’s taken 40 years but maybe we soon won’t be held to ransom by Middle Eastern medievalists.

Spare a prayer if you do that that sort of thing, or burn a joss stick or just send good thoughts to Irishwoman Mary Kline, who’s not only been battling cancer for about a decade but has had to help her teen daughter Aine through the same. She says: “Despite two recent treatments, this damn, fecking melanoma isn’t showing signs of abatement and, after a slow start, seems to be in a bit of a rush to get to the finish line now…. I will be starting a killer treatment in a few weeks. No exaggeration there – saw a quote from an oncologist who said that, “when we give patients IL-2, we take them to the edge of death, then yank them back” – tres reassuring, I’m sure.” The city of Santa Clara can’t manage without her, so we know she’ll be back in fine fettle.

Dawna Kaufmann viewed the EarthRoamer offroad vehicle featured in last week’s epustule – John Mulrooney spotted it, used for only $175,000 – and sent this link to the company. http://earthroamer.com/pre-owned/ They’re planning a new model that STARTS at $750,000. Hmm, Earthroamer or Bugatti Veyron?

If you ever wondered what was behind his 40-year hedge, photogger Jeffrey Joffe now reveals the Ugly Truth…he doesn’t seem all that pleased, maybe he was surprised.

Last word to Dave Steadman, who tells of the youth invited to dinner at his gf’s house. She’s so thrilled, she promises she’ll finally yield to his wicked ways. Being Canadian, like Dave, he approached the local pharmacist. “I’ve never had sex before,” he confessed. “What do I do?” The pharmacist kindly spends an age explaining about condoms, the youth boastfully buys a dozen and goes to dinner. He arrives a bit late to find the family at the table, sits down promptly and begins, head-down, to say grace. He drones on for an hour, head buried in the table cloth.
Finally, the girl whispers: “I never knew you were so religious!” The youth responds, muttering: “I never knew your dad was the pharmacist!”

E-pistle 1061, Krays, Randy and rockets Posted Jan 8 ’15

People of Earth: A great joy of this e-pistle (for saintly me, anyway) is getting insider material from the people who WERE insiders, and a diverse and talented lot they are indeed. Last week, John Garton sent on an account of the terrifying Kray twins. This week, our dairy correspondent down there in Devon, my old mate Mervyn Edgecombe, relates the absorbing tale of the way he engineered a wedding for one of London’s most-feared gangsters. It’s cut-throat stuff you can’t find just anywhere. Here’s Swervs:

“Interesting to read the insights into Reggie and Ronnie Kray in your last Epistle (incidentally, it speaks volumes of the broad diversity of your acclaimed organ…read that how you wish). I don’t think its exaggerating too much to say (Freddo will, no doubt check it on Snopes) that I probably had the last significant journo contact with them back in the mid-80s when I set up a three part exclusive for the Sun, whereby Ronnie (he was gay, remember…) would marry a 28-yr-old willing acolyte found by me and some of his friends from down the Roman Road in the East End.

“The story triggered off a media frenzy around Ronnie, who was confined to Broadmoor which, technically, was not a prison but a secure hospital and, thereby, open for visits. Once the Sun broke the story of his engagement the world and its auntie was trying to get to him — but I’d got him squared away (for £20K…ahem) and made sure he would not allow anyone else (other journos) in to see him.

“Anyone else, that is, apart from Brian Hitchen (then editor of the Sunday’s deadly rival, The Star) whom I’d comprehensively scooped because for years he’d been quietly visiting Ronnie to take him lox and cream cheese bagels and bask in their fellow ‘hard men together’ relationship but who had never considered how he could exploit the former East End gangster. I came up with the outlandish idea of the marriage because I’d been tipped off that Ronnie was desperately short of cash because of the largesse he had dispensed over the years in Broadmoor’s canteen and tuck shop.

“I’ll not bore you with a Malcolm Nicholl (long winded) version of the story but, in essence, I had to keep Ronnie from letting his ‘friend,’ the now incensed and embarrassed Brian Hitchen, run a spoiler in the Star whilst I negotiated for two months to get Home Office permission for Ronnie to be married by the chaplain within Broadmoor. By babysitting Ronnie every time he had a visit from Brian – it made for some very interesting three way conversations around the Broadmoor visiting table!! — I somehow kept the scoop intact.

“Come the day of the wedding –I’ve still got the pix somewhere – I literally had to punch my way with the bride to be through the posses of snappers outside Broadmoor’s gates. Inside, Ronnie and some of his broad shouldered, camel coated ex-henchmen and a string of old time coppers were waiting for us. Ronnie was wired out of his head on near coma-inducing drugs because he was so overwrought but we got through the ceremony OK and then left him whilst we took off to an (incongruous) olde worlde, Home Counties hotel for a piss up and celebration with Ronnie’s only brother on the outside, Charlie and his wife.

“The whole day was such a bizarre and surreal episode I just could not believe what had happened as I filed off the top of my head from a phone box near the mental hospital – for ever since first reading about the Twins as a 13-yr-old paperboy I’d been in terrified awe of ever encountering them but by the time of the wedding they were both sending me Christmas cards and I was on Reggie’s Cat A restricted list of approved visitors at the high security Albany prison on the Isle of Wight. It all finally came to an end when Ronnie accused me of ripping him off over the Sun money but that’s another story for another day…”

Gratitude: Thanks to the six people, sadly less than three percent of the epistle’s readership, who bothered to click the ‘helpful’ button on the Amazon link for my new book ‘Crusader.’ Six people…. Everyone else who reads this blog blew it off. If you’re wriggling with shame, here’s a second chance: click this link to get there,


then scroll down Coolfire’s review – it’s the first one – and click the ‘Yes’ button to ‘Was this review helpful?’ No purchase needed, no written review requested, just two simple clicks to keep the review at the head of matters and give my earnest efforts at literature a slim chance of going Hollywood. Obrigado!

The pampered Korean Air family member who went into a JFK tarmac tantrum over being served nuts in a packet instead of on a plate could face 15 years in prison for her outburst. Cho Hyun-ah not only broke aviation safety laws, but she also interfered with the inquiry into the incident, say authorities. The possible penalty comes for her forcing the plane back to the gate so she could dismiss the senior steward. Her younger sister also faces problems for vowing ‘revenge’ on the inquiry. Sometimes, it’s simply pleasurable to see the arrogant fallen.

Jim Leggett heard news of journalist Bennett Bolton’s passing and recalled: “Ben, working a Randy Travis feature in nearby Marshville, NC decades back…was holed up at a dive motel – not much to choose from out that way. – I met him, he followed my car to backwoods Travi’s (Traywick) home planning to chat with Travis senior whom I’d met doing a celebrity childhood spread on Randy not long before. Pointing out the house, I waved Ben adieu and sped off home.An hour or so later Ben called in a panic ” That old bastard chased me with a shotgun!” gasped Ben, hurrying to check out and find a safer hotel in Matthews, where I live. Meeting later that night at Giorgio’s Italian restaurant, Ben said was convinced he’d been followed by two good ole’ boys…A few glasses of wine later, he was back to normal. Formerly AP Bureau Chief in Rome, he and Giorgio spent a grand evening sharing anecdotes, Ben in fluent Italian.”

The last epistle asked about readers’ lifetime regrets, and is encouraged that nobody seems to have any.(Wait, says Editor, they didn’t respond to the clicks, either, maybe nobody’s actually out there?) Just former East Coaster Nurse Vicious surfaced in San Martin, California, to complain: “Only have one regret and that is agreeing to be exiled to California. Didn’t know it would exceed 35 years of being surrounded by morons and reached my moron tolerance limit four years ago. Please God, send me back to where I can speak my native tongue and laws mean something. Ok, done whining.” Purely in the interests of accuracy, the saint asked what tongue Miz Ayers spoke, and she responded with an epithet and ‘Tongue in cheek!”

Stephen Eckersley, brother of the late and lamented Viscount Vincent, was visiting the space centre in Florida, and posted a view of the Saturn V exhausts that got me recalling my two visits to launches there. They were truly memorable for the sheer power of the liftoff stage. Three miles away, at the press viewing area – only the astronauts got closer than that – my ribcage vibrated with the noise. The Sat’s F-1 engines burned off 15,000 gallons a minute of a kerosene-liquid oxygen mix, pouring it out of the 11ft wide exhausts at almost 6,000 deg F. The five giant engines hurled the 360ft rocket to 41 miles above earth in less than three minutes before the huge first stage fell away, now just an emptied fuel tank. Each time, I walked away from the launch with my ears ringing and body vibrating from the thunder of it all – from three miles’ distance.

Out there, floating in mid-Mediterranean, the Giant of Gozo, Revel Barker tells the tale of the man whose lawyer called. .The lawyer says to the wealthy art collector tycoon: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.” The tycoon replies: “I’ve had an awful day, let’s hear the good news first”.
The lawyer says: “Your wife invested $5,000 in two pictures today that she figures are worth a minimum of $2 million.” The tycoon replies enthusiastically: “Well done, very good news indeed! You’ve just made my day; now what’s the bad news?” The lawyer answers: “The pictures are of you screwing your secretary”.

That ingrate Jeffrey Joffe was offered $7.5 million by a poor widow in Africa and treated what is obviously a genuine and heartfelt gesture by passing it to me, and saying this: “The folks in Sierra Leone are waiting for your response with bated breath. These opportunities don’t come by every decade. I understand this offer is guaranteed by Chief Goombo Jimbo Mortdekai Magilookaoomo Bagzar CEO of Fourth National Bank of Sierra Leone, Swindle Branch.”

Stand by to drool… John Mulrooney, visiting family in Santa Cruz, Calif, came across the vehicle every wannabe explorer might consider, and then dream about. It’s a used 2007 Earth Roamer, which has never been off-road, although the near-bulletproof vehicle is designed for that, and much more.
First, here’s a pic:

It may look like some cheap camper, but it certainly is not. This thing goes anywhere, in luxury. Full specs follow, but it’s enough to know that the first owners only ever used it to drive up and down the interstate to Alaska. That’s 46k miles in, er, eight years, never off-roaded, and this luxury land yacht is equipped.
See the full details here: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/scz/rvd/4812348939.html and know that they are offering it at a bargain price: $180,000 (used.)

Just breaking: To the fanatic barbarians who murdered the Charlie Hebdo staff, the saint sadly offers this New Yorker cartoon:

Peace to the Charlie Weekly staff and families. pb

E-pistle 1060 Regrets, Reggie and Ronnie. Sent early 1/4/15

New Year being the traditional time of assessments, resolutions and both forward planning and backward glances, the saint was musing about decisions made (or not) that he regretted. Yes, I should have kept that 1947 Alvis convertible, no I should never have bought those Audis. But retired USAF intel officer Skip Folden took away my beatified breath with his regret: he turned down the offer of a free Soviet fighter jet.

Skip, who also regrets allowing his ex-wife to persuade him to ditch his mouthwatering Jaguar XK 150 (red/wires/knockoff hubs) See one below, with a MIG and an Alvis TA14 (sob) All would now bring a fortune.
Skip explains: “Because I had helped some from republics of the pre-fall USSR, when it fell in 1991 I was offered as a gift a MIG. (jet fighter) I turned it down. Main reason: I could never afford the fuel, let alone the maintenance. I thought about that recently. I expect they would have had no problem guaranteeing fuel for life, even in US, and would have done so willingly. With some luck, I could have gotten it here, probably via Siberia, Bering, Alaska, down the coast. Yes, a lot of hopping. Could have sold it; never even thought about that option. Then could have bought back my small N7900W (loved the zero. zero Whiskey call sign), which had been like a second home to me, but which I could never afford to buy back otherwise. Yes, I add that to the decisions not thought through. I’ve had some doozies.”

The saint opens the floor to your stories of decisions you have later regretted, but no marital tales, please in the interests of bloodshed averted. Just respond to this email.

And, self-promo warning, here’s a note from Nurse Vicious herself, Mrs Michael Ayers writes: “I swear that I have learned more history, religion, jokes, clichés and whatnots from reading the Epistles than from years of having it force fed to me in Catholic school. Are you sure you aren’t a closet monk or something?”
(No, he’s not a monk, but he does have a dirty habit or two – Ed.)

Speaking of self-promo, the saint asks you for a couple of clicks. If you’d kindly go to the Amazon link (click number one) which follows:


you’ll find yourself at the purchase site for my new book, ‘Crusader.’ No, you don’t have to buy it. Just scroll down to the first review by ‘Coolfire’ and (click number two) click the ‘helpful review’ button. This, if enough people perform the clickety thing, will keep that positive review at the head of matters so it is the first one that potential readers will see. Thank you for helping, and there is no need to let me know if you did it, I’ll be back whining and whingeing if the number of ‘likes’ doesn’t increase.

That onetime wee keelie *** Jim Leggett recalls his 1981 shoot with exotic animal trainers Joy and Ron Holiday, who owned Jupiter, a white Bengal tiger. The couple hired a handsome young trainer called Chuck Lizza who became their lover, but the whole affair ended badly. Lizza was killed by the tiger, a few weeks later in 1998, grieving Joy went into the big cat’s cage and met the exact fate. Some speculate it was a planned death by tiger. Jim, who reportedly wears yoga pants under his kilt, offers this pic of Jupiter snacking:


Saint Pee also offers something: news of a new law in New York (which takes effect in early February) which forbids taking selfies with tigers. This safety-first approach follows a spate of selfies-with-tigers by young men who want to impress us with their Putin-esque machismo. Just saying. My pal Dan ‘Grizzly Adams’ Haggerty was an animal trainer and he told me before I went to have facetime with Babe, a tiger owned by retired actress Dee Arlen that I shouldn’t get too trusting. “All captive tigers go crazy after they reach age five,” he said confidently. He was right on the money. Babe was about 13 years old, wild-eyed and showing serious interest in my blood group. As the newsdesk had insisted, I asked Dee if she could get him to sit on the bed with her, as he had eight or nine years before for real photographer Eddie Sanderson. “He won’t do that for you,” she sniffed. “But he liked that nice Mr Sanderson.” The cat wasn’t crazy then, either… I never told Fast Eddie but I did point out to the deranged Globe newsdesk hopefuls who never seemed to have ever been at the sharp end that some assignments are not always possible….

*** Scottish urchin.

John Garton, former resident of the East End sarf of the river (think Deptford) offers an insight from an anonymous ‘Gentle Author’ to London’s notorious criminal Kray twins Reggie and Ronnie … Excerpt here: “(Ronnie Kray) said, ‘Alright, you can go now.’ I stood up again and, as I turned to leave, I was wondering what was going on, when he said, ‘Get hold of him.’ Two geezers grabbed hold of me and then I saw it. I thought they were pokers but there were steels that are used to sharpen knives, Ronnie had them on the gas and they were white-hot. They had wooden handles and the first one Ronnie picked up he dropped because it was so hot, so he went and got an oven glove. Then he picked one up and came over to me, to frighten me, I imagined. He singed my black curly hair. I pissed myself. I was terrified. Next he started setting fire to my suit that I only had made two weeks before.

“Then he went back and got another hot poker, and dabbed it on my cheeks and held it across my eyebrows and burnt my eyebrows off. I’m half-blind in this eye because of it. Then he went back and got another poker and, as he came back, he said, ‘Now I’m going to burn your eyes out.’ and he really meant it. As he came towards me, Limehouse Willy called out from the crowd, ‘No Ron, don’t do that!’ (A nice fellow he was.) Ronnie switched, he turned and walked away.They let me go and I hurried out, and the cab driver was still waiting outside. When he saw the state of me, he wanted to take me to Scotland Yard but I said, ‘No mate, don’t do that, just take me home.’ “

The author of the piece (full text here: So Long Lenny Hamilton, Jewel Thief) said: “We were all alone in the empty barroom and, when Lenny told the part about the poker, he fixed me eye to eye and, extending a single finger, pushed his fingertip into my face. I was speechless. It was extraordinary to hear a first hand account of the reality of characters that have become mythical. I think it is easier to accept the East End’s history of violence as mere fiction, even when you know the truth. Ironically, Lenny’s volatile experiences fused his emotional story into a powerful narrative with an effective literary structure.

“Lenny had no patience with those who seek to romanticise the Krays as working class heroes,“They were scum. The lowest of the low. You never robbed or hurt your own people, that was the old East End code. The Krays controlled people through fear. They hurt so many people. I’ve been in a saloon bar when they were there and people would arrive, order a drink, then go out to the toilet and walk straight out the back door to escape.”

Of Mice and Jen: Mrs Bannister the First, aka Jennie, grumbled that the defroster in her Acura didn’t do a good job and it was cold having to drive about with the window open to get all the fog off the screen so would I kindly Do Something About It, and quite promptly, eh? In due course, I dropped the car off for a service and casually mentioned matters to Dave the Wrench. He called me, laughing. “There is a whole lot of fibre around the fan,” he said. “She has a mouse nest in there.” Jennie’s furious, and wants cab fares from the missing rodent. Next: how to rid a car of the smell of cheese.

Passages: the week saw the passing of Enquirer reporter Bennett Bolton at age 82, at home in Washington DC; and on the opposite coast, of Seahawks Rugby Club stalwart H Lloyd Jones. Ben was a quiet, scholarly man. In contrast, Lloyd owned a PhD but was full of assumed bluster and histrionics that were usually totally ignored by his wife Julia and found highly amusing by his clubmates. Condolences to both families.

E-pistle 1059 Roses, St Joseph and Geronimo the beaver 1/1/15

Welcome to 2015, or quarter past eight in civilian terms. This year marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the physically-large charter of liberties on which much of our western system of justice is founded. Its stormy birth as a blueprint for peace between King John and his rebellious barons – each side, however, failed to uphold their agreements – caused it to be reissued, reshaped and renewed by successive monarchs for 600 or more years, but the charter still forms the foundation of the freedom of the citizen against the whims of a tyrant. The saint mentions this vellum icon of justice because he is working on a book about the unrest that shaped it, and about a little-known battle that directly led to the humbling of England’s King John.

On this lofty note, please welcome the new year. May your resolutions not be revolutions and may you and your family enjoy good health, contentment, affection and prosperity. Bless you (spoken in beatific mode.)

A slightly late Christmas question comes from my friend of many decades, who ponders St Joseph. who was, we are told, Christ’s mother’s somewhat disinterested husband. Amateur historian Roland Kleewein, my long-ago housemate and philosophical mentor, has roused himself from studies of medieval art and the battlefields of the two world wars – he lives in Holland, btw – to ponder the actitvities of the carpenter saint … “I am still successfully daydreaming when not in the trenches of WWI or II. With the books of art in my hands I am always happy, some inputs come during visits of musea, mainly of the Golden Age. Holland is full of them, but other countries are completely neglected.

“Yes, on Christmas days we speak about saints, generally, not only about Paul. Being very much involved with middle ages painting, I always wonder about Saint Joseph. He is painted as a very old man, about our age, and Maria is a lovely girl, not even 20 years old. How did he become a Saint ? The chap was not able to protect his wife, he only could find a barn to have her toil, he always sits sleeping apart, dreaming. Not doing anything. The veneration of Joseph started about (CE) 850, in 1870 he became the patron of the catholic church and a saint. They say, he had no sex with his wife, but Jesus has sisters and brothers, how come ?
In the 17th century paintings he becomes a more juvenile aspect, a vigorous man is born, but still no sex. He now is a symbol of the family. Manipulated by different popes he is today even a patron of the workers.”

If you consider the language slightly less than US-slick, consider that Roland speaks German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, English and several dialects like Walloon, plus enough Danish, Swedish and Russian to discourse impressively. He is not always sure which tongue he is using at the moment and mostly dreams in Italian. He is, however, an intellect and I should have listened to him in 1966 when he said I should buy pieces painted by someone called Paul Klee. (Now worth millions – Ed.)
Roland knows that of which he speaks, if it’s about medieval (and other) art.

Thoughtful piece here, too, from J. Grimshaw, spinster of the parish, firearms aficionado and one who knows that things with triggers should only be in the hands of the sane and appropriately trained. Jack writes: “Stories about the abysmally underachieving Los Angeles Unified School District (90-plus languages spoken!) are legion … high-schoolers barely able to read, write or do little beyond basic math (yet being graduated), massive shortages (books, classroom supplies, qualified and motivated teachers), equipment (textbooks, headsets and projectors, pens and paper), classroom space.

Heartwarming to know that the U.S. Department of Defense has been doing all it can to help in its own little way. In a massive, national transfer of surplus military goodies to federal, state and local agencies, more than $160 million in equipment was donated this past year to California.

Turns out, however, some of the recipients were a little less than enthused. In September, LAUSD sent back three – you are reading this correctly – rocket launchers. The school district also received high-powered rifles and a ‘mine-resistant, ambush-protected’ vehicle designed to withstand rocket-propelled grenades and Improvised Explosive Devices. (Hey, can’t be too careful around those ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ stoners, man. A coupla tokes and they’re running amok.)

A donation of the $689,000 vehicle was rejected by the city of Davis (population 68,000 with 65% white, liberal politics, myriad bike paths and University of California Davis).*** Residents said it would make people more fearful of the police. (Jeez, you think?) Another recipient of grenade launchers was Santa Maria in bucolic Santa Barbara wine country. (Sure would have kept that pesky Cesar Chavez in his place, back in the day.)

The above data and a ton more on the subject were released with little fanfare by the Pentagon after being inundated with demands from newspaper journalists around the country. Vive (what’s left of) le Press!”

(*** UC Davis of course was the recent site of the deliberate pepper-spraying of unarmed, seated students by a strutting, Hitlerite police lieutenant – Ed.)

Out of the Mouths of Babes… proud grandpa Malcolm Nicholl has this from Christmas Most Recent: “Some people think I tend to be a bit long-winded (ask Merv). But now even a three-year-old has called me out. My granddaughter Kennedy wanted me to read a picture book to her. Not many words, of course, but, of course, I couldn’t resist expounding a little bit. Until she emphatically declared: “You talk too much!” ‘ Said Mal: ‘Ouch.’ Then he quickly added: “I was surrounded by kids but nothing a couple of bottles of Cabernet can’t cure.” He spoke too soon. Playing basketball with a nine year old, Mal fell, cut his knee and sprained his wrist. Now he has to drink wrong-handed.

Ending the year, or beginning the new one, here’s an old and familiar pair of friends. The first is Ken Potter, the second is his joke:
“A couple are lying in bed on the morning of their 10th wedding anniversary when the wife says, ‘Darling, as this is such a special occasion I think that it is time I made a confession…… before we married I was a hooker for eight years..’ The husband ponders for a moment and then looks into his wife’s eyes and says, ‘my love, you have been a perfect wife for 10 years and I cannot hold your past against you.. Maybe you could show me a few tricks of your old trade to spice up our sex life a bit..?’ She said, ‘Darling I don’t think you understood me correctly, my name was Brian and I played rugby for Wales ……..’

Didn’t Get The Memo: John Bradley showed up for the Nanaimo Hornets’ annual Boxing Day match against the women’s team suitably embrocated, braced, booted and kitted in his YoosToBees rugby shirt and shorts. Unfortunately he was the only one so attired. (kneeling, yellow, shaved head.) Everyone else was in fancy dress. Here’s the evidence. What you don’t see is that John, who’s passed the 60 mark, played so admirably hard he was still walking like a duck four days later.

Garden Elf: Here’s pics of a happy Patti Paris, who flew south with the Oregon Ducks football team for the Rose Parade in Pasadena this week. Patti’s a master gardener and owner of a garden and design biz, and volunteered a week or more of her time (along with 4000 of her closest friends) to build floats for a church group for the New Year parade. Says Miz P: “It is so much fun… I made the cornucopia, signs for the big float, cut flowers and the roses came in yesterday… Thousands of them… Beautiful !!!” Note that each rose is indiviidually wrapped and positioned… tons of work.

Hot off the press of the Idaho Falls Post-Register comes the tale of a beaver test pilot and his parachuting pals… The story’s from the 1940s, when Idaho had an over-population of beavers in some areas that was causing depredations. Rather than destroy the toothy critters, state wildlife officials opted to transplant them into backcountry areas to do important service in watershed conservation and improve habitats for game, fish and waterfowl. But the game wardens faced a problem. The accepted method of relocating the furry rodents was to capture them, truck them to a trailhead, then pack them by mule train to their new homes. But, a senior warden wrote:”Older individuals often became dangerously belligerent…rough trips are hard on them… pack animals become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers..”

The Fish and Game boffins opted instead to airlift the beavers and to drop them into their new territories by parachute. They designed a box that broke apart when it hit the ground and they sent for Geronimo, a big male beaver. He was crated and underwent a series of test drops designed to determine the best launch height. Geronimo was dropped from about 600 feet “again and again,” recaptured each time and re-crated for another test drop. Each time he scrambled out of the wrecked box, someone scooped him up and reloaded him. “Poor fellow,” wrote the chief test pilot. “Geronimo finally became resigned and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again.”

The testing paid off, 76 beavers were successfully airlifted into new territories and within a year all had thriving colonies. Geronimo was rewarded by being sent on the first proper air delivery with a mini-harem of three young females. They landed successfully and established their own lodge and colony, and no doubt for years afterwards grandfather Geronimo regaled the clan with tales of his life as a flying, parachuting rodent.

best blessings for 2015