God, I'm livid. A film of crimson rage floats before my eyes, which are bulging with a horribly threatening, veiny, bloodshot... Oh all right, if you must know, I've been clamped yet again. It has happened once too often. This time I'll get my own back.
The setting is Waterloo station in the unfashionable, indeed repellent, end of south London. It should be a compliment to this noisome terminus that I visited it at all last Sunday, but then I had no choice. I had to collect Mrs Weasel off the 17.21 from somewhere in the Home Counties, where she had spent the weekend on some fashionable art course and would now be weighed down with canvases.
Here's the station, and here's the spot outside where they usually let you park for 20 minutes while picking up passengers. But today it's gone, vanished under a pile of building works, scaffolding and signs apologising for turning the place into a constructionist Nagasaki. Consequently, there is nowhere to park. As far as the eye can see, there are Horrible Warnings about clamps. Any patch of road not striated with double-yellow lines (in a specially bright and bossy shade) features triple-yellow lines. It wouldn't surprise me if packs of slavering dogs started patrolling up and down, like at Checkpoint Charlie in the old days.
So I parked on a double yellow and took up a position so that I could see the car and the arrivals at Platform 10 simultaneously.
Then a friend appeared and engaged me in conversation: job, kids, George Graham, Demi Moore, usual stuff. I tried to join in, but it's not easy when your head is swivelling from side to side like a Dalek at a zebra crossing. Eventually his nerve broke. "Why are you doing that?" he asked. "Are you being Marlon Brando?" I stopped my nervous swivelling and told him: no parking, car in peril, consort on platform, bloody Waterloo station, how do they...
"I think", he interjected, "there's somebody kneeling beside your wheel."
Aaargh! There was. Incredibly, in the nanosecond that I'd taken my eye off the car, a bald lout had whipped a clamp round the front wheel and was pasting a nasty sticker on the windscreen. It was the most bare-faced, vindictive, behind-your-back, quick-while-he's-not-looking act I'd ever witnessed. I yelled. I ranted. I skipped up and down. I indicated the weeping, motherless weaslets. I invoked the saints in Heaven. I demanded to know where in hell they expected people to park, and do you enjoy being nasty to people, and couldn't they relax their absurd rules when it was a matter of life and death, as it so obviously was in my case...
Seemingly hours later, as I handed over wads of cash at the ticket office, I became vindictive. "Thanks," said the chap neutrally. "Don't mention it," I said loudly. "It's always such a pleasure visiting your delightful station." The queue behind me shuffled, unaccustomed to satire at Waterloo. "Rules are rules, you know," said the guichet chap. "Yeah," I riposted, "as they used to say at Treblinka." That's the awful thing about being in a temper; you become a walking compendium of clichs.
H H H
By now you will have read all about Hackney's night of 1,000 stars, when grubby and windswept Mare Street played host to some of the most heavenly bodies in the showbusiness firmament. I couldn't get to the opening; I'm a mere civilian and the first-night audience was composed almost entirely of actors, directors, critics and other camp followers. Chief among them was Demi Moore, who occupied a discreet place right at the front of the circle, although, of course, few people recognised her with all her clothes on. Robert Redford failed to show, though the audience did get Mark Fisher, Labour's charismatic former arts spokesman, and Simon Callow (albeit not together). But I caught the play a couple of nights ago. Frankly, after all the attention and hype and review space it received, it didn't hold that many surprises (and I knew the ending already). But there was one thing I noticed that nobody else seemed to mention.
It was Hamlet, played by Ralph Fiennes. As he stood there, shaking with impotent rage, or anguished desire, or guilty paranoia, an un-expected image came to mind.
The voice, the stance, the shake of the head were precisely those of Rigsby, the landlord, as played by Leonard Rossiter in the television comedy Rising Damp.
"Oh that this too, too sullied flesh would melt," he groaned.
"Miss Jones!," I found myself adding, in silent homage.
H H H
I'm heartened to learn of the international success of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. Apparently, this ten- strong ensemble has been recently mobbed by screaming uke-freaks in the streets of Tokyo. All the more iniquitous, then, that they have failed to find recognition at home, despite their readiness to play such uke-hostile tunes as Jimi Hendrix's ``Purple Haze'' and Schubert's Trout Quintet on their tiny instruments. ("We're regarded as the anarcho-syndicalists of the ukelele world," says George Hinchcliffe, their leader, modestly.)
I think I can see a big marketing opportunity for them. In a recent newspaper report, it was claimed that John Major himself used to be an accomplished performer on the midget guitar before he went into politics. This was news to me, but seems entirely suitable. The uke suits the PM to a T. It chimes so well with the garden gnomes, the subscription to Reader's Digest, the suggestion that his inamorata should join the Young Conservatives. One can visualise the young Johnny "Fingers" Major, dreaming of rock 'n' roll stardom and practising in front of a mirror with a table-tennis bat. While other, brasher youths played air guitar at Eric Clapton concerts, he would perform the tricky "Layla" riff on an invisible air-uke, hands held like paws at throat level...
It need not remain a fantasy. Mr Major must join up with the Ukelele Orchestra forthwith. If Bill Clinton can establish a (now rather threadbare) reputation for late-night-smouldery style by playing vulgar saxophone tunes, shouldn't Mr Major follow the new Japan-led trend and start loosing off blistering ukulele solos at every opportunity? Man and instrument in perfect harmony. Plinka-plinka plonk.
Who can resist the prophecies of Nostradamus? Actually, most of us. We happily consign them to the outer reaches of our consciousness, where they sit alongside other mysteries, such as What happened to Atlantis? Who shot JFK? and What is the point of Danny Baker?
But this does not stop successive generations of cod-academics making a living out of interpreting the medieval soothsayer's baffling verses. (Whatever else they may be, these people are no fools. Nostradamus's prophecies have been in print longer than any book except the Bible.)
Chief among them is Valerie Hewitt, who has just surfaced in that well-known bulletin board of the arcane, the Sunday Telegraph's letters page, to declare that the reason that the prophecies don't appear to make sense is that they are anagrams. "Using the same letters, except for an occasional substitution made according to rule, a startling new version emerges," she maintains.
This is the famous verse supposed to foretell the Great Fire of London:
Le sang de juste Londres fera faute,
Bruslez par-foudres de vingt trois les six,
La dame antique cherra de place haute,
De mesme secte plusieurs seront occis.
Translated literally, this says, according to Hewitt, "The blood of the legitimate one will be faulted by London, you burn by unexpected events of twenty three six, the ancient lady will fall from her high place, of the same sect many more will be in the west."
Clear as mud, you will agree. Subject the original gibberish to Mrs Hewitt's anagram method, however, and the truth emerges. In French:
Aprs la peste fuit, le feu rase Londres,
Brul vite par les fours, l'an soixante six,
L'huche a pain cuit la cathdrale de Saint Paul,
Les erreurs du Messie semes.
Or, in English:
"After the plague flees, fire razes London, swiftly burned through ovens, the year sixty-six, the bread bin cooks St Paul's Cathedral, the errors of the Messiah scattered."
Pretty impressive, eh? But it occurs to me that, by the very nature of anagrams, there may be more than one solution. His verse might just as easily say:
Les Barings sera tous foutus.
Le mec Leeson a un chapeau d'idiot.
Lamont, les griffes du chat, devient amer.
La pluie sera sec.
Faithfully imitating Nostradamus's appalling grammar (and switching the letters p and d to something more useful under an arcane rule familiar to Scrabble players), this verse tells us "Barings will be screwed up. That bloke Leeson has an idiotic hat. Lamont, (with) the claws of the cat, becomes bitter. The rain will be dry." The latter I take to be a poetic reference to the dearth of bonuses in the new, improved City. But the whole thing, I'm sure you will agree, has a much more modern and plausible feel to it. Nostradamus, eh? Boy, did he know what was what. The WeaselReuse content