Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 24th October 2016

FEW comics have brought as much sunshine into our lives as Eric and Ernie.

Every Christmas there’s a revival of the Morecambe and Wise special on one channel or another. Oh no, we moan, not Eric and Ernie again. But the fact is, we loved them then and we love them still. Nobody since has done it better.

I have not seen it in the flesh, so to speak, but that new sculpture, an 8ft bronze, which has gone up in Blackpool, looks the real deal.

Unlike so many statues to the great and good, which bear only a passing resemblance, Graham Ibbeson’s £75,000 work, a tribute to the double act who performed in the seaside town more than 1,000 times, looks very accurate.

Eric’s son, Gary, said the sculpture, at the Winter Gardens, was “a stunning likeness to my father and Ernie”.

Morecambe and Wise remain the proof that you can make a whole nation laugh without recourse to bad language. They must be the only celebrities to have shared a bed without upsetting Mary Whitehouse and I reckon that thousands of fans who met Eric will have their own special stories to recount.

Mine? It was in the early 1970’s when I was reporting on Carlisle United’s football match against Luton Town, where Eric Morecambe was a director.

The Carlisle chairman, Mr. E. G.Sheffield, had travelled down on the day of the game and his train was late arriving, so I was asked to keep an eye open for him and make sure he found his way to the Luton boardroom.

Mr. Sheffield duly turned up and a steward pointed us in the direction of the directors’ hospitality room. Third door on the left, just knock and someone will take care of him, I was told.

So I duly knocked and who should appear at the door but Eric Morecambe. I suspect the chairman was not an avid television fan. I don’t know if he even recognised his famous host. However, he explained politely to Eric: “I left Carlisle at a very early hour this morning.”

Morecambe surveyed him for a moment, wiggled his specs in that familiar manner, and responded: “I don’t blame you sir, I don’t blame you!”

Even away from the cameras and off stage, the great entertainer had me laughing out loud, even if Mr. Sheffield remained somewhat perplexed.

As for the match, suffice to say it was one of those days when Mr. Sheffield’s favourite team played all the right passes, but not necessarily in the right order.

STOCK UP, LIKE MOTHER SAID

MY mother always reckoned to have at least a month’s food supply in the larder — no fridges in those days — in case of emergencies.

Folk who’d lived through the war were provident like that. Optimistic that better times were to come, but careful to stock up should the worst happen.

Angela Merkel reckons we should all have a fortnight’s fodder in the house just in case. If she’s worried then we had all better get down to the supermarket pronto and fill our trolleys with necessities.

According to my computer’s news page this week, World War III has already begun. So far just a proxy war, but it only takes one accidental slip, one shaky hand that meant to press the green button that lies next to red, and we’ll all be taking to Millican Dalton’s cave to hide from the holocaust.

Even if Putin turns out to be one of the world’s finest altruists, and Trump or Hillary, whoever gets elected, becomes the most capable leader the western world has seen in decades, there’s still Brexit to worry about.

The country went into meltdown last week over news that Tesco, following a row with Unilever over post-Brexit price hikes, would not stock brands such as Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s and PG Tips on-line. The situation has now been resolved, but not before I headed off to the shops to buy a couple of jars of Marmite, several cans of baked beans and tea bags to last the rest of the 21st Century.

The supermarket was busier than usual for a Thursday. Marmite sales have never been so good. My old mum’s food policy was back in fashion.

Just one problem. I’d completely forgotten: I hate Marmite.

FROM BAD TO WORSE

THE total population of the United States of America on Sunday morning at 11-52 — that’s when I looked it up on the Internet — was 324,801,705, equal to 4.38 per cent of the world’s population.

You have to wonder how a nation that big, with such a vast population, has come down to this, a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Trump is a serial lecher known as “the Octopus” due to his wandering hands. His definition of a gentleman is to suck a couple of pre-groping mints. As for any policies, well, he’ll suck that and see, too.

But while Trump figures in most of our nightmares, he retains a following across the pond and, the more lurid the allegations, the more the rednecks love his off-the-wall, anti-political establishment, make America great again, belligerence. Where there’s a vacuum, people like Trump step forward and fill it.

And the problem is that nobody quite trusts Hillary. The same Hillary who robustly supported her husband by digging up the past of women who were victims of his sexual advances. The same Hillary who kept her e-mails on a private file and just happened to delete 33,000 of them, thus preventing any freedom of information check on their possibly embarrassing contents.

Clinton v. Trump. It’s a vote for the bad or the even worse. How has America allowed itself to get into this situation? A situation which we, thousands of miles away, might laugh at. We won’t be laughing soon because what America does affects us all.

Thinks: It might be a good idea to get used to the taste of Marmite after all.

FEUDING REFS

AFTER finding myself sitting next to ex-Premier League referee Jeff Winter in the press box at Carlisle on Saturday, I thought I’d better read the extracts from another former top ref’s new book in which Winter plays a part.

The behaviour of players is often criticised, but you would think the referees would know better. Apparently not. Their behind the scenes squabbling at a weekend retreat in the Lake District made the warring of UKIP’s MEP’s seem a gentle disagreement by contrast.

Howard Webb, writing in his book, The Man in the Middle, said simmering tensions between rival cliques of referees “could occasionally turn nasty”. During a team-building weekend in an isolated Lake District cottage, what had been intended as an informal beer ‘n’ barbecue night almost descended into Fight Night at the NEC, following a ruckus between two of the arbiters.

No love lost. The acrimony took Webb by surprise as they squared up, trading insults. Well-paid Premier League referees “acting like badly behaved schoolboys”.

They used to say the best refs were the ones you didn’t notice, but some of these refs have big egos. Howard Webb says there was a north-south divide — Jeff Winter’s lot against the Red Wine Club led by Graham Poll.

Clearly the Lake District is not always the best place when it comes to sorting out a few old scores. Peaceful, calming, away from all the pressures? Not likely. If Webb is correct it sent his colleagues stir crazy. Perhaps not the best place for team bonding after all.

MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT DYLAN

TRAINSPOTTING author Irvine Welsh has a way with words, you’ve got to give him that.

He could not conceal his contempt after Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. “I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” he proclaimed.

I was a massive Dylan fan myself back in the day. I can still recite every word of the lyrics from his Freewheelin’ album. As a teenager I wanted to be like the Dylan on the cover of the record; cool, rebellious, with a beautiful girl hanging on my arm as I kicked the dust down an empty street. Didn’t happen, of course.

I can’t decide about this Nobel award. It’s bringing Dylan into the establishment centre. Would the truculent 1960s Bob have ever accepted such a prize? I doubt it. Not the man who wrote the bitter Masters of War.

Part of me is pleased, but another part of me wishes he’d tell the judges where to put their award. The world is in a turmoil created by the new generation of warmonger politicians and religious fantatics. Right now we need a new truculent, angry Dylan, and a new Masters of War.