The Beeston Express: An appreciation.

With the spread of ‘nu-media’ and illiteracy, the once proud newspaper industry is in turmoil, circulations dropping faster than a decapitated hypotensive, its rare to find an ‘old-media’ thriving. An examination of the status quo print media reveals The Express is owned by an idiot of a pornographer, The Mail a  quasi-fascistic hate-sheet,  The Independant so wet its actually printed on polythene now lest you dampen your fingers,  the tabloids sinking deep into celeb-obsessiveness and tits, and the broadsheets desperately trying to nu-media themselves as on-line presences as they haemorrage physical readerships…its tough times for papers. But not for one. And yes, dear readers, its Beeston-based.

No, its not the Evening Post, despite it inching closer to Beeston after its move from Foreman Street (RIP) to Castle Boulevard. No. While it pains me to say it, its an ok paper, and I say that despite its association with the aforementioned Mail (its under the umbrella of the same media group, and thus subject to the same editorial hatred of that newspaper I will not name again as my screen is already flecked in enough spittle). Its just about readable, informative, and provocative enough to excuse the depressing letters page that allows a platform for the rabidly idiotic opinions of its readership -stand up BJ Mann, if using only two limbs is not  beyond your usual knuckle-dragging  capabilities.

Its also featured yours truly over the years, in 1991, dressed in rather fetching drag for reasons I’d rather not go into; in 1992, as I look earenstly from the page and explain, via a journalist who had clearly written her story before meeting me, discussing what it was like to be a first-time voter in that years General Election, and saying, though Im sure I didn’t, crushing the political landscape with my opinion that  ‘a vote not cast is a vote in itself’. At the time, I knew this could not have intentionally been uttered as  at such an idealistic age I was massively polarised: I was so anti-tory and pro-labour I had to be talked out of getting a tattoo of Kinnock etched across my chest, his scalp meeting where my few young and thus sparse ginger chest hairs would have sprouted from his inked head, providing a realistic and 3D image.

From that to now I have been a sporadic addition to the letters page, often under my own name, mostly under pseudonyms (Bobby Grumbles, Vic Doss,  Chappy Banquet), and enjoyed the willingness of the Post to print.  However, this is not local enough, not Beeston enough for me. The NEP is for the whole of Notts. The north of the county dominate the crime pages, a rich seam of pubs, fights, fights in pubs, car crashes, stolen cars, car crashes into pubs, stolen car crashes into pubs, fights caused by cars crashing into pubs, and endless permutations. Oh, and heroin. Lots of heroin. Then there is the poetry column, which Im not being cruel about, so wont implore you to read it, and read it out load, and keep all the urine in your bladder.

The more  supposedly dedicatedly local rags, the Recorder or the Topper, have so lost interest its incredible. Now they are little more than newspapers that somehow got bit by a parasitic  advertising mite that infected and came to take over its host with such rapaciousness that its original purpose is sucked from it entirely, a husk, useless. I would compare this to marriage, except as someone on  the cusp of engagement, will refuse to do. I digress. Its insides have , been hollowed out, yet the exterior still holds: headlines (yet cribbed from the cheaper news agencies), sports pages (written by over enthusiastic enthusiasts of said sports, who comprise 90% of said sports audience). They are spent shells with infected arses, manifested in the sexy phone line ads, where for £2 a minute you can listen to a disinterested wobbly wifey tell you what shes doing with what ever soft fruit shes pretending to be holding; or all out prossie-lines, unless i’m being cynical to believe that the main reasons the muscle-tensed men about town pick out masseurs to treat their afflictions  on a criterion whereby a made up name and a relative newness in town are key factors. Shitty, useless papers. I’m not talking about them, oh no.

Tomorrow, break from your daily routine. Substitute your morning cuppa with a mug of freshly brewed mushroom tea. Spread your toast with a thick layer of that Peyote jam you’ve been saving. Enjoy your Frosties encrusted with sparkles of Angel Dust.  Wash it all down with a couple of pints of steaming absinthe. Lazily open your morning paper. It still wont come as immensely weird, as psychadelically bizarre as our local sheet…the Beeston Express. Dont get me wrong, its not just pages of fractals and prog-rock album covers, though that is a concept Im soon to pitch to some magazine publishers in London next week. Let me attempt to explain. It first appeared as a nervous free-sheet six years ago, a few black and white pages resembling a parish newsletter, and reading as such.

Yet over the years it has galvanised and grown, its confidence a factor in it getting a regular column from Nick Palmer MP, our Man in the House and as regular readers will know, a Lovely Bloke. It also features a seemingly cowardly Attenborough-based, psedonym-donned columnist called the Free Ranger; an A-Z of Acupuncture, evidently a huge concern in Beeston. It was at the time of the original draft of this article, up to ‘V’, and my original notes I predicted that ‘X’ would be ‘X marks the spot’, but no, the latest edition jumped straight to ‘Y’. The reason? ‘The only X I could think of was Xenophobia.’ Make your own punchmark punchline. ‘Z’ will hopefully be ‘ZZZZZZZZZ’, or how sticking needles into your flesh can induce a state of sleep, but not in the way our cousins in Mansfield prefer.

The News sections are always informative, authorative and thorough; yet oddly detached of agenda. It would be unfair to expect anything but this, as it proudly displays its editorial policy proudly in each edition, zealously stating  its independance. This dismissal of the conceit that has kept our proudly partisan national print media fizzing along for years is replaced by a resolutely idiosyncratic take on reportage, and its utterly charming in its antiquity. A report on garden furniture going missing begins ‘As summer finally establishes itself, it has been reported that people are finding that items left on driveways and front gardens are going missing’. Stylistically, its anarchic, anachronistic and is so thoroughly lovely. Its old school, unsensational journalism, and I am a little bit in love with it. It has the feel of overheard gossip from a mildly erudite neighbour, free of sensationalism and agenda.

I’m a long-time fan of satirical cartoonist, from the pithy simplicity of Matt, the psychotic madness of Steve Bell or the terrifying grotesques of Gerald Scarfe, so it is with pride I can now move on to ‘The Beekeeper’. An anonymous (well, its not, but it miht as well be cos Im buggered if I can read his signature), its an evergreen, two framed masterpiece of minimalism that maps the crazy adventures of the ‘Beekeeper’, our seemingly nose-ringed, Roger de Coursey look-alike who louchly lounges on a stone bench in the town centre pretending that we do have an aparistic history, and his various exploits. As he is an inanimate stone protaganist, these should be greatly limited. Nope. Over the years the amorous Beeman has courted and won over ‘Hope’. the statue in Broadgate Park, fought dragons, conjured up dragons, triggered a debate about racism and been visited by Captain Kirk and Mr Spock, although they were renamed ‘Sock’ and ‘Willliam’, and they said…no, I can’t do it justice. Things settled down in the last edition where Beeman got annoyed with the rain so went into Cafe Nero for a coffee. Phew.

Every edition is liberally yet inconsistently sprinkled with the odd, the issue I examined as I planned this article (i lost my notebook for a fortnight, ok?) featuring a set of perfect examples as it implored you to join a barbershop harmonic singing group; a ultra-prosaic crossword where one of the clues invites you to name an anti depressant also known as Fluoxetine (6), an unwitty witty wittecism from Bernard Shaw, an apropos of nothing quote from an ancient church bulletin, and a piece on a five year old Beestonian’smeeting with Carl Froch: “He wasn’t as big as I thought boxer would be. He was just like me”, which sparked a bidding war between Don King and Tony Warren for rights of the ‘Midget Mauler’.

I must confess a rather shameful moment, however. When setting up this website, I contacted the Beeston Express in what can only be described as a ‘tired and emotional’ state declaring I was en route to becoming the Benign Dictator of Beesonia, and would like to have have them in board as my voicepiece to the masses, a Pravda for my new Republic…sensibly, they never replied.

But no hard feelings. I still stand by my opinion that in these homogenous times in print media, for a relief from the cynacity and predictability of the daily papers, the 25p you spend on the fortnightly Beeston Express is money very well spent. Its a flickering candle of greatness in our over-illumiated mass media. Even if they haven’t yet got round to giving me a job.

When Weird Comes to Town. An occasional series.


There are those moments that dont really fit in the memory. Yes, you are sure they happened, but somehow, when you go back and linger on them, you’re sure they can’t be quite true. The anomalies are too apparent, the memory just too skewed and odd to have been true. But thats why they settle in the memory, the very weirdness of them. They get aired as lively, often alcohol fuelled anecdotes in social situations, neatly trimmed and polished to give a good narrative flow, and put back again. I was recently chatting to a friend, who also grew up in the lovely town of St. Apleford, and she gave me a cracker, which I’ll tell you about soon, but first, heres one from the depths of my own memory banks I must commit to type before my advancing years render it a symptom of dementia rather than a true recollection.

Its 1987, and possibly a half-term, as I’m not at school. Could have been that treat that peppered my Comprehensive days, the Teacher’s Strike. But that detail is irrelevant, I’m off school and the phone rings. It’s my friend Lee, and he has just witnessed something bizarre and must tell. He’s just seen the telly people. And they’re doing something up the woods. We have to get there immediately.

One of the amusing things about growing up under Broxtowe Borough Council was the belief, which I held for several years, that the dustmen were also the same people who made telly, as they’d come around weekly with BBC across the back of their donkey jackets. I never really gave it much thought how these two noble professions were combined, it seemed perfectly rational, given the initials. At the time such juxtapositions were commonplace, in town a wallpaper shop also sold a huge range of sweets, and our milkman was also our coupon man, so such things seemed normal.

Other than that, telly didn’t come to Stapleford. Anneka Rice once flew over en-route to Wollaton Park during Treasure Hunt once, the one mention of the town caused immense chatter and pride in the playground for weeks. Someone nearby once went on Bullseye, and won a boat that rusted on their driveway, unused, for years, but I didn’t know them by name. Still felt touched by stardust as I delivered their paper. Telly didn’t come to town. Until that morning…

What could be funnier than Randy Crawford singing Cockney Classic ‘Knees up Mother Brown’? Seemingly nothing, back in the day. Thus the ever-grinning Gary Wilmott carved out a career as an old fashioned variety comedian, singing and japing,-and with the twist, and it really was a twist back then-that he was brown, rather than the normal orangey complexion that entertainers wore over their gin-reddened cheeks. I mention this detail for a reason, of which more later.

In 1987, he hosted a popular, ITV primetime comedy sketch show called ‘Cue Gary’, with two other comedians, one with a beard, and one without, as she was a woman. In those days ITV actually had viewers, and a primetime show on a saturday would have an audience composed of a sizable chunk of the populace. His appearance, on Hemlock Hill in Stapleford, was thus akin to Brad Pitt deciding to use Beeston Square to shoot a few reels of his latest blockbuster. I can’t overstate it enough, this was GLAMOUR. I just checked Cue Gary on IMDB, and the article is an empty shell. Oh, Ozymandis…


We scurried up the hill, at the time the grassy stage where we played out our Vietnam war fantasies and practised our SAS techniques cribbed in equal parts from Combat and Survival magazine and Scouting For Boys*. There, atop the steep slopes of the hill, and beneath the the black decayed mushroom** of the Hemlock Stone, was a tv production team in jeans and casual tops, some extras in various articles of fancy dress, a grand piano, and in dapper top and tails, Gary Wilmott. I felt as blessed as those Irish housewives Daniel O’Donnell drops round on for a cup of tea. Clutching my notepad-cum-autograph book in hand, we climbed the slope.

The scene they were trying to film, despite the continued interruptions of a burgeoning band of kids (this was, remember, well before instant messaging and text messaging, word back then spread by bicycle and Hi-Tech Silver Shadow) was concerning the fact that Gary had mistakedly bred a doberman with a mole and voila-the DoberMole sprang forth. These were present on on set, fist-sized balls of fluff with joke-shop dracula fangs. Wilmot was singing their wonderfulness on the grand piano, its location on the hill to provide a dramatic, sweeping vista. As he sang, a chorus would emerge from the bracken, the aforementioned extras in fancy-dress. The song, and I am being so bold to try and remember the lyrics here cos I very muchj doubt I’ll be contradicted, went thus:

Doberrrrr, dobermole

You are my life (my life) my heart (my heart) my soul

Oh my joy it never ends

With my fangy no legged friend

You’re my dober (its his dober) you’re my dober (oh my dober)


Should anyone wish to hear the actual tune, Im recording and will upload it to iTunes soon. Or ring me, and I’ll blast it down the earpiece for you.

Such a simple thing to film should have taken a few little takes, and everything packed up and ready for the editing suite well before dusk. But never underestimate the effect Staplefordians, especially the kids, can have on things. First, we were just basically annoying; pushing each other into shot forcing retakes, bugging Gary for autographs and a rendition of Knees up Mother Brown, the usual. Then, a more sinister element appeared, and things got a bit nasty.

Eighties Stabbo was, despite being thoroughly white, a hotbed of mild to extreme racism, the ‘Shop Lot’ the most visible face. These were a terrifying bunch of young, gluebag-sniffing thugs who hung round the Montrose Court precinct of shops and menaced all who dared pass their way. Shane Meadows perceptivly portrayed these in the film ‘This Is England’ , even using Stapleford and Bramcote as locations. They were thugs, spurred on by bostik and far right politics, hating everything. They evolved onto the Trent End at NFFC, and the local pubs, before drinking themselves to death or, worrying, refining their politics into activists for the BNP and C18. They somehow got wind of the fact that a non-white was occupying a local hill, and were not having it. What next? Lenny Henry using Bramcote Park to walk his dog? They armed themselves with eggs, and climbed the hill.

We saw them, at first skulking, then as they grew more bold, pushing towards the front of the gathered crowd. Then the shouting began. ‘Fuck off, wog’ was the milder end of their proclamations, and Gary was visibly rattled, but it wasn’t until the eggs started to rain down on the piano that the situation became serious. A few of the adults in the crowd tried to remonstrate, but these weren’t the skinny haunched skunk-whacked ratboys we are used to today, these were angry, fired up wiry nazis, and weren’t going to be revert to politeness through the request of their elders. They got more vocal, and people talked about the police being called, but something, and this is where the true weirdness of the day reaches its peak, happened.

An extra who we had previously not really noticed, despite his comedy scot garb -kilt, stockings, ridiculously sized tam o’ shanter- stepped forward. A tall slight man, with commandingly pointy features and the air of authority, he consulted with the crew, then strode up to the knot of nazis without a touch of fear. It was then that we realised that this was no extra. It was, and I promise you I am neither on the wrong end of a crack-pipe right now, Leslie Crowther. Who, at the time, was an ITV god, hosting the Price is Right and popping up anywhere that light-entertainment occured. Leslie Crowther, who was there to give a few lines but the delay in filming has thus so far kept him on the periphary. Leslie Crowther. Leslie Crowther was walking towards the Shop-Lot with purpose in his gait.

They also realised who it was at the same time I did, and their vitriolic beying ceased, replaced with bafflement. He picked out the ringleader, who I shall call Paul, cos it was his name, and said something none of us could pick out, but was delivered with real force, for the nazi went white***. There was a tense moment, where Crowther didnt relinquish his stare one iota, and then a swift nod over Paul’s shoulder and they melted away, spasmodically shouting pathetically defiant racist remarks as they did so. A cheer drowned these out, and after a swift confirmation from one of my friends ‘You Leslie Crowther?’, ever the professional, he replied in character: ‘Aye, laddie, aye, and Im also Willy McSporran’, we rushed over for autographs.

The rest of the day passed in the way location filming does, repetitivally, dully, and the as the sun diminished, so did the spectators. The novelty wore away, and I eventually sloped off well before witnessing the logistics of getting a grand piano down from the hill, and I can only vaguely remember watching the broadcast many months later, only a fleeting scene in an half hour programme. Wilmot went on to be a bit of a hit in West End musical theatre, Paul drank himself to death in the centre of Barcelona with numerous arrest warrants outstanding for his upstanding work in the field of football hooligism, and Crowther sadly suffered a near-fatal car crash in 1992 before heart failure killed him in 1996. To this day though, he still has a starring role in one of my weirder memories: when Leslie Crowther Fought The Nazis- and won.


*The evergreen amusingly-titled holy book of those who have ever been acolytes of Baden Powell: and a holy book it is, as after The Bible, The Koran and Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, is the most published book in history.

**Cheers DH Lawrence, who also described it as ‘standing out pathetically on the side of the field’; though bless him, that was in Sons and Lovers, and he gave it a much more flattering role in The Rainbow, as a ‘mystical place’. I agree, as you will hear about in my still-in- production article ‘Beestonia, Mushrooms, and my former penchant for Tie-Dye’.

***this is to obvious an annotation to make.

Politics:Part Deux.

I’ve been a bit slack in updating this place recently, though I have several bulging notepads of scrawly hieroglyphics written on trains, buses and within coffee-shops / pubs to type up. The reason why my devastating expose on Boots and their part in the creation of a Zombie Army, and my heartfelt  appreciation of getting lost in the Ryland’s weird circular street system must for now remain solely inked and not digitised has been a nagging realisation that these are interesting times, especially in the political sense, but more pertinently, highly dangerous ones. Its a serious time, and thus, I couldn’t help letting my mind drift from its usual split between glib arrogance and fluffy whimsy. Its time to get serious. Sort of serious.  Lets not go too far, I haven’t the face to do grave.

Last Thursday, on a swelteringly hot Thursday evening, when most right-thinking people are basking in beer gardens or exploiting Wetherspoon’s Curry Night,  I find myself sitting with 200+ other Beestonians, in the assembly hall of Roundhill School.We are gathered with a mixture of motives, but a common  interest: for tonight, while most MPs are hiding behind impassable moats or behind the securely bolted doors of second houses, our incumbant representative, Dr Nick Palmer, is putting himself up, in his own words, for a ‘Probable lynching’.

But Nick is, thankfully, not one to swig vintage Krug from a satin slipper, floating on a duck island in the depths of some moat, least not  courtesy of the taxpayer. His chief crime is buying two lots of anti-viral software. By mistake. So far so clean, but whats this? An indignant sounding audience member stands up, and j’accuse. Nick is majority shareholder in a property company, this intrepid Beestonian Bob Woodward has discovered, could this be the ‘humble flat’ he claims in  Westminster? Is he claiming for a property he already owns?  Has Honest Nick being fooling  us all along? 400 ears perk up. And Nick explains that the company in question was  set up by his gran, and consists of, err, one house, in the deepest depths of the South West. Douglas Hogg, Anthony Steen, your scummy crowns are safe.

Thus follows two and a bit hours of debate about what can be done, with Nick proposing several major changes to the whole system, ranging from supporting PR  to sticking all the MPs in purpose-built accomodation in County Hall, opposite Westminster. Bang in some cameras, a diary room and a hot-tub and really subvert Orwell, I very nearly add to the debate, but Im in a serious mood, so my tongue is bit.

Its an interesting thing, the public debate. I somehow, possibly through watching too many episodes of  The Simpsons, always expect them to end in either a brawl or an angry mob taking up arms and fiery torches…yet instead they are pleasant, civilised affairs, a cross section of opinion coming together to knock out some sort of concensus. True democracy, if you can be arsed to participate. If not…don’t come complaining.

So anyhow, tomorrow you get the chance to have a shout in who gets to run you, locally and in  Europe. Nottingham is a key battleground, the County Council looking very much like it may tip radically away from its already precarious incumbant’s position. Thus appearances in the district from national MPs of all hues are commonplace. You could almost trip over a Cabinet or Shadow Minister on our streets this week. I myself, as you will of course remember, loyal reader, am conducting an experiment in asking local politicians five questions regarding Beeston. Due  to some inabilty to understand how many days are in a month (heatstroke, innit) I forgot the deadline for returned questionnaires actually falls after election day. Oops. Mind you, there might be a General Election any time soon, so perhaps I’m more prescient than I give myself credit for…I’ll publish the results soon, not just the replies but the non-replies. Of all the main parties, its nice to see the Tories showing their usual commitment to the more local side  of things by sending me sod all. Cheers, chaps.

Get yourself out tomorrow. Im not going to tell you who to vote for. But Beeston has thrived without the Right. With their determination to stop the tram, their initial rejection of the Attenborough flood wall, and, well, the fact they are just plain crap, think before you cast that vote. The same goes for UKIP. Nigel Farage is the human embodiment of the Daily Mail. You can tell he sits at his breakfast table every morning, and only own-brand cornflakes (muesli being a bit wild) pass his taut lips, as  he vocally reads the Fred Basset strip to his wife with unbridles  joy, before a day avoiding anything a bit foreign…garlic, Italian suits, un-vanilla sexual practises… And if your vote is destined for those fine upstanding gentlemen of the BNP, rape a kitten instead. Its not quite as evil, but it will save you blooding your knuckles on the walk to the polling station.

Normal service will be resumed on friday…..