Monday, 27 January 2014

No Such Thing As A Free Meal?

The name of Titus Clarysse is not much known outside his native city of Ghent, but he popped up on my radar some time ago when I learned of his wonderful ability to enjoy eating in the finest restaurants without ever paying his bill.

I'm not condoning theft - I received a tax bill recently and I know what it feels like - but the world needs eccentrics. Mr Clarysse was not a man of means, but despite his habit, he was not unpopular. The Belgians are a bit like we British - they appreciate eccentrity, and see it as something desirable in a personality.

Sadly I learn today that this local character was been found in his home, stabbed to death.

The investigating police are not ruling out a connection between this sad event and his behaviour - he had many convictions, for at least 100 incidents.

Tim Joiris, head of the Ghent region restaurant and hotel federation, struggled to believe anyone could have gone so far.

“Curse him? Maybe. But kill him? That makes no sense,” he said.

“It was trouble for everyone. And what's worse, for long nobody knew how really to deal with it, in the end, we knew his face, but you know, on a busy terrace in summer, full of people, he knew how to blend in. He did it all, the grand restaurants, the terraces. He really tried them all.”

Mr Clarysse was a “tafelschuimer” — someone who takes everything, even the crumbs, off the table.
“He was asking for it all — the whole menu,” Mr Joiris said with a laugh. “He would sit and wait after the meal — another beer, a brandy. We are not talking about an aggressive guy. He was just happy-go-lucky about it.”

Mr Joiris said that tales of people being forced to do the dishes if they could not afford to pay were “a myth”.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Murdered - By A Stale Pork Pie!

Today is Benny Hill's birthday. Rest in Peace Benny.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Roger Lloyd-Pack - Thanks For The Laughs!

Roger Lloyd-Pack was a serious actor. He was also the father of Emily Lloyd, the actress.

He passed away two days ago.

He knew that despite all the work he did, he would be remembered forever as 'Trigger', that wonderful character in 'Only Fools And Horses'.

It is often the supporting actors that make the principals shine, but Trigger was much more than that. He could steal a scene with just one line.

He was a true Londoner.

Rest in Peace Roger.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What Are They Thinking Of?

I know we are not supposed to laugh at such things, but nothing can bring tears to my eyes faster than a comb-over.

This 'hairstyle' is particularly popular in Belgium, I am pleased to say, and I have seen some real beauties here in Brussels. But today I saw the greatest.

Even sadder than a comb-over is a comb-forward. We have been in Strasbourg this week, and as I am sometimes inclined to do, I left the panzer in the garage, and let the train take the strain.

Opposite me on the train was a chap, I would guess around 30ish, with possibly the saddest comb-forward I have ever seen. I have to say - and I speak as somebody whose family trait is exceptionally thick hair - this was the thickest, and densest hair I have ever seen. Sadly, it all came from the nape of his neck. It came forward from the neck to his forehead, where he had attempted to create a kiss curl.You really had to see this to appreciate it.

I was looking forward to the 5 hour trip, having acquired a collection of late-Victorian detective short stories (a passion of mine) which included a couple of works by Arthur Morrison that I had never read. You probably have to be me to really appreciate this genre, but trust me, Sherlock Holmes was just one of the many wonderful characters of that ilk.

But I just could not settle into my book. I could not stop staring - for most of the trip - at this incredible sight. This man made Donald Trump look like Mungo Jerry. It was just unbelievable. I just sat there willing him to look out of the window so I could see this in profile. If he combed it backwards, it would have been below his shoulders.

A politician of my vague acquaintance - he does not like me much, so I have no qualms about telling you this  - has just accepted defeat and given up trying to pretend that he still has more than 10 hairs on his head, albeit that each of them is 2 feet long and wrapped around his head 'Mr Whippy' style, and has now 'come out' as being bald (as if nobody had guessed!) This is a great shame.

More comb-overs please chaps, I need a good laugh!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Chance Meeting With Mr Landsbergis.

One of the great joys of my work is that I am privileged to meet some really great people.

Tonight, after a long day in the office, Nikki Sinclaire MEP and  I had a drink and a chat, and then took a walk together on the edge of the Orangerie - a beautiful park near to the parliament. Nikki had to return to the office, but I continued my walk, deciding to make my own way to my hotel on foot- a mere 2 miles away - rather than catching the tram.

I know Strasbourg quite well, after working here each month for almost 10 years now. But - and this will come as no surprise to those who know me well - I got lost. I can actually take a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom in my own home. I got it wrong in Petite France, the medieval quarter of the city, and ended up approaching my hotel from the wrong direction. No problem, it cost me only 15 minutes. 

But to my delight, as I was just a few minutes away, I met one of my great heroes. Vytautas Landsbergis is a Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament.

 On March 11th,1990, as de facto Head of State, he became the first leader to declare independence from the Soviet Union. It was a dangerous, and heroic, act that could have cost him his life!

When I arrived in Brussels in 2004, I was honoured to meet him and shake his hand for the first time.

Mr Landsbergis is also a highly prominent composer and classical pianist. I love music, that is no secret, and I am proud to say that I helped, in a small way, to found the European Parliament's Informal Classical Music Intergroup. To all of us, Mr Landsbergis is a diamond. 

And so, strolling through Strasbourg, on a mild winter night, I shared a minute or two with him, talking about music and politics, and the forthcoming elections. He will retire this year, at the age of 81. His role in bringing an end to the Evil Empire makes him a great political figure. He is a great  musician. And a lovely man who I am very privileged to be acquainted with.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Freddie Fingers Lee - Setting His Head On Fire!

Freddie 'Fingers' Lee has died.

He was one helluva an act. You have to admire a man who can play the piano and sing while his head is on fire!

His act was largely modeled on that of Jerry Lee Lewis, but he brought in other musical influences as well. His stage act also owed something to Screaming Lord Sutch.

Freddie was a mainstay of Jack Goode's revival of 'Oh Boy', where he performed alongside Marty Wilde, Shakin Stevens, Matchbox, and other stars of the late 70s-early 80s Rock n Roll revival. 'Ol One Eye', as he called himself, will be much missed among my peer group.

I always his version of Lights Out, with a great intro, and yes, he does set his head on fire. Enjoy!

Rest In Peace, Freddie.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

I Hate It When This Happens.....

I have always regarded Fran├žois  Hollande as a bit of a knobhead. Having said that, I think that I understand his politics better than he understands that fact that this is the 21st century. Nuff said, I guess.

So basically, we are highly unlikely to ever work together, and  I suspect that we would both be the happier for it.

He has now done what every French leader seems to do, and has been caught with his pants down.

I make no moral comment. But I would say - she is a bit of a babe!

So, well done Fran├žois, you probably don't need me to tell you this, but Keep It Up, Mate!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bye Bye My Love.....

I inherited my love of Rock 'n' Roll from my parents. The big names Chez Cartwright when I was growing up were Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson, Elvis, and above all, the Everly Brothers. In the 60's, I remember that on a Friday after work, Dad would always bring a couple of 45s home. Pop music was exciting in those days.

My final moments with my father were spent listening to the Everly Brothers. When a person is fading, the last sense to be lost is the hearing. Although he could not really communicate with us, he would smile and tap his feet to music up until the final days. Dad introduced me to so much great music, and Bye Bye Love by the Everlys was, ironically, the last song we were ever to listen to together.

And today, we learn that at the age of 74, Phil Everly has passed away. I saw the Brothers live a couple of times in the 80's. There were differences between them, but they were still a great act.

Rock 'n' Roll has lost one of it's greatest names this week. And I wish I could have shaken his hand and thanked him for the pleasure that his music gave my father throughout his life, and especially during in his final days.

Friday, 3 January 2014


The government has apologised after an RAF recruitment billboard put up in Londonderry angered some relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday.

Kate Nash, whose brother was one of 14 people killed by the Army in 1972, said the poster put up opposite her home in the Brandywell, was "deeply hurtful".

I am not aware of any RAF involvement in Bloody Sunday, nor am I aware of any past fricton between the RAF per se and the citizens of Northern Ireland. In fact, I was never treated unreasonably by anybody, be they Catholic or Protestant (with the one notable exception of a Catholic priest who told me "we are sending a lot of you home in boxes, aren't we?") Well, there are ignorant assholes in any community, I suppose.

I have my own thoughts on Bloody Sunday, but I also have sympathy for the families of all those who died in the troubles. It was an awful time, and thank God it is over. It is a terrible shame that some try to keep the hatred alive by digging up the past and making complaints in this way.

Anyway, what the hell has it got to do with the RAF Reserves? The poster should not have been taken down.