Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 11th September 2017

STARTING with a salutary tale this week, one you should consider before having that extra glass last thing at night, or one for the road at the pub or late night party.

I once got myself arrested and banged up in the cells for drink-driving, so I know how sheepish Wayne Rooney felt last week when he was nabbed by police for a similar allegation, and in the company of a young lady, not his wife, to boot.

Let me stress right away, my arrest was staged for an article I was asked to write by the police, showing just what an awful experience it is: the shock when the breath test shows positive, the journey alone with your thoughts in the back of the van, being hauled in to the check-in desk, having your pockets emptied, your tie, shoelaces and belt removed, then marched off humiliated and put in the cells to sober up.

It was all so realistic I almost forget I was a reporter researching the feature and not a real drink-driver. But that was the idea, of course. To make it seem real. To do it all by the book as you would if you were a real drink-driver who’d just been apprehended.

A letter in my newspaper the other day was from a “middle-class, law-abiding, male taxpayer who has never put a foot wrong”. Not until getting himself arrested for drink-driving that is. But then he was shoved in the back of a police van and treated like a criminal, locked in a cell, “powerless and worthless”. The writer said that since his arrest he had been crying and feeling depressed. And now he faces the loss of his driving licence and possibly his job.

I’ve no sympathy with his self-pitying whinging. Drink-drivers are a menace. Some of them kill other innocent road users. If you are thinking of that extra pint or glass of wine, let me remind you how traumatic getting caught will be. My arrest was for the pictures and the story. But I wasn’t half glad to get out of the cop shop once they decided I’d had enough.

Whether you are a highly-paid footballer or just a bloke writing for the newspaper, there’s a simple message. Don’t.

BRUCIE’S BALL

AS celebrity tales go, I’ll admit mine was no Brucie bonus. But it’s the best I can do.

Since the passing of Sir Bruce Forsyth, the papers have carried a plethora of “I met Brucie” stories and tributes to one of our best known entertainers.

But it’s from the era of television golf bores that my recollection of the briefest meeting with Bruce comes. Remember when pro-celebrity golf was on the screen every week? At the time viewers loved it. But, looking back, it’s a mystery what we all found so amusing about a bunch of comics and retired sportsmen hacking golf balls round famous courses while exchanging tedious golfing wit and wisdom.

Once in a while they actually played a hole as it was intended to be played. Sir Terry Wogan — just Tel in those days — sank one of the longest putts seen on TV and lived off the story ever after.

I saw a live pro-celebrity golf day at Fulford, near York, a curtain raiser to a proper European Tour tournament. There was Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Parkinson, Our ‘Enery Cooper, a number of eminently forgettable soap actors and, of course, Brucie.

Somewhere out in the country I was enjoying a peaceful sandwich, well away from the crowds and their laughter at all the well-worn golfing jokes, when suddenly an unguided missile landed a couple of yards away — smack in the middle of a large bush.

A few minutes later Bruce Forsyth and caddy arrived on the scene, searching for a shot that must have been 100 yards off its intended trajectory. I pointed out the bush and the ball. The caddy plunged into the undergrowth to identify it while Bruce looked dolefully at me and commented: “You could have kicked it out on to the fairway. It would have been worth a fiver tip.”

The ball was declared unplayable. I got the impression that many of Forsyth’s shots that day met a similar fate. It was placed in a more suitable spot, only for the great man to hack it 50 yards forward — into another bush.

Bruce was actually a fair golfer. Living next to a golf course he got plenty of practice. But this was obviously not one of his better days. Still, I could always boast, when in the company of fellow golf bores, “I found Brucie’s ball, you know.”

NOSE BLEED TIME

THE very fact that the Daily Mail hated it was a guarantee of success.

After watching the first episode of League of Gentlemen on BBC Two, the Mail’s TV critic wrote that the characters were “relentlessly grotesque,” the plots “incomprehensible,” the script feeble and “the whole thing completely pointless”. He added: “Above all it is deeply unfunny.”

The Mail’s devastating critique was printed on 27th September, 2002. The rest, as they say, is history. Several series later fans of the program were doing their Edward and Tubbs local shop imitations, and the grotesques invented by Messrs. Dyson, Gatiss, Pemberton and Shearsmith were part of a national comedy sub-culture. League of Gentlemen is to return in two television specials. Whether it can ever be as inventively bizarre as the original series from the twisted world of Royston Vasey is the big question.

It’s rumoured that the writers derived their characters from holidays they spent in areas like the Peak District and Lakes when they were students. Out there, in the darkness of real life, there were real local shops, real dismal tourist attractions, dodgy butchers like Hilary Briss, incompetent vets like Mr. Chinnery, sweary vicars and disturbing oddballs like Harvey the toad collector and his nudist wife Val.

I once stayed in a guesthouse run by a Harvey and Val. “We don’t like our guests going out to public houses,” was his welcoming gambit. “Oh, and we like to lock up at 10pm.” During the night we heard creaking floorboards. “Harvey” was sitting on the stairs, presumably ready to spring into action at any sign of hanky panky. As we left, fleeing for our very lives, his other half came up to the car window and whispered just one word — “sorry”.

I’ve visited a local shop, met socially aspiring Mrs. Levinsons and interviewed folk who could have stepped right out of Royston Vasey, and all round here. I often wonder how many characters the League of Gentlemen drew from camping trips to the Lake District in their younger days. Oh, and I once had a nose bleed.

ANNE’S THE ROYAL GRAFTER

PRINCESS Anne once came to open a new office where I worked. We were told to pretend we were working hard as she passed through the room en-route to glad handing the great and good. She stopped alongside me. “And what do you do?” she inquired. “Stuff about Carlisle United,” I replied. “Ah, they are doing quite well, I believe,” said Anne. A well-briefed royal or an unexpected Blues fan?

I like the Princess Royal. She has inherited a certain stroppiness from her father. But she’s easily the hardest working member of the royal family. This year alone she’s done 114 days of engagements, more than Charles, William and Kate, and often undertakes 500 events and visits annually. At 67 she tops the list of busy royals for the third year running.

And not a word about Diana on the 20th anniversary of her untimely death. While other royals open up their emotions to the nation, Princess Anne is of the old school. She just gets on with the job, not always high profile, but out there supporting communities and charities.

I’m probably about to offend a large percentage of my readership when I say I’ve had more than my fill of Princess Di television specials and weighty newspaper supplements. They will do it all again in five years’ time and by then who knows if the Queen will still be on the throne or whether we’ll be debating should King Charles have his Queen Camilla.

The whole country will start blubbing again with that peculiar mixture of sorrow for someone most of us never met, and anger for the dispossessed of the world Diana seems to represent even now, 20 years after her death. The florists won’t be complaining, mind.

DIG THESE FINES

COUNCILS are to be given power to charge rents of up to £2,500 an hour to utility companies which cause delays with roadworks that cost the economy an estimated £4 billion each year in delays to workers and deliveries.

We’ve all seen those holes in the road, dug and re-dug time after time because of lack of co-ordination. But will the Department for Transport’s plan, in itself laudable, really scare the worst offending utilities? They’ll just add fines on the bills to consumers, won’t they? That’s what usually happens.