Bunhill: The murky tale of Sooty and his extra-mural activities

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The Independent Online
I can exclusively reveal that scandal has broken out in the oh-so-respectable streets of Fulham, west London. Seven weeks ago, a new pub was opened by Hugh "Sooty" Corbett. It is called the Fulham Tup and it has a large mural outside of a tup tupping. Now if you don't know what a tup tupping is, I suggest you go back to agricultural college. Suffice it to say that a tup is a ram and that the result is often lots of frisky little lambs.

Mr Corbett received first a letter then a phone call from the local council telling him that his picture contravened all sorts of planning regulations and was in any case ... unacceptable. He is philosophical but determined to enjoy himself a bit more at the expense of the bureaucrats.

"I'll let them get a bit cross and then take it down," he says. "I'd like to get their blood pressure up a bit."

The reason I was talking to Mr Corbett was to find out whether he was going to make any beans out of the sale of his namesake "Sooty" Corbett, the well-known glove puppet. Sadly no, he said. He explained that one of his chums is David Bruce, founder of the Firkin chain of pubs. Mr Bruce started calling him Sooty for obvious reasons, and he rather took to the idea. All his pubs now have Sooty and Sweep in them - but there is no link between the two families.

In fact this Sooty is probably worth quite a lot more than the puppet version. He is on his third pub chain now: he started with the Slugs and Lettuces, then moved on to Harvey Floorbanger's, and has now started his Tups. The second one has just opened in Marylebone High Street.

We agreed that pub names have become pretty naff. Slug and Lettuce was fine when it started, but now every would-be landlord seems stuck in the same groove - Rat and Parrot, Toothbrush and Condom, that sort of thing.

Where did the tups come from, I asked? "I like sheep and have two tups in my paddock," he explained, and started telling me about the harness a ram wears before it tups. This Sooty beats the other one on educational value, too, I reckon.

But is he more valuable than his namesake, I persisted? "Size for size I'm not worth anything like as much," he replied cunningly.

TALKING OF David Bruce, I wonder if he knows that a shirt maker almost shares a motto with the Firkin chain he used to own. The Firkin motto, as I recall, is usque ad mortem bibendum, which means "Drink yourself to death" and seems perfectly logical for a pub company.

But my former colleague Mike Duggan has written to say that he recently bought a striped shirt made by a company called Taylor & Butler. It has a label bearing a coat of arms and this motto: usque ad morte bibendum. Note the missing "m". I may be wrong (I was once), but I distinctly remember that ad takes the accusative. In other words, the Firkin version is right, this shirt is wrong.

There is the little question of why a shirt maker should use such a motto, but Mike points out something else that intrigues. The date on the crest, MCMLVIII, appears to predate Mr Bruce's creation by a couple of decades. A mystery. Can anyone solve it?

Sick joke

Nature apparently abhors a vacuum. Well I don't care much about vacuums, but I can tell you that Bunhill abhors a blank airsickness bag. As the possessor of several hundred of same, I get very disturbed when I learn that an airline is sending passengers aloft without even the comfort of decoration on their bags.

So you can imagine how anguished I was when chatting to the amiable Stelios Haji-Ioannou, about whom you can read on page 8. He confessed that his airline, easyJet, uses blank bags. Tsk, I said, tsk, tsk, tsk, and managed to convince him that he had erred gravely.

But what should he put on his sickbags, he asked? I pointed out that some airlines promote them as film developing envelopes, others advertise airsickness tablets on them. TWA used to have a Gin Rummy score card. I also said that Bunhill's readers would think up an excellent idea that will make his bags stand out from the crowd.

OK, he said, I will give a free ticket to anyone who comes up with a real cracker. So there we have it: the Great Bunhill/easyJet What to Put on a Sickbag Competition. Enter now, and you could soon be winging your way to Nice (or even Luton).

By the way, last week's Bunhill competition had an excellent response. Many thanks to all who responded. Hold on to your zimmer frames till next Sunday to learn the result.

Money for nothing

Following up on last week's Bunhill, here are some more things to spend all your excess money on, courtesy of Benetton's Colors magazine: dinner for your dog, including a cracker shaped like a human ($5.95 - pounds 3.97 - per mutt, in Florida); toilet paper that lets you know whether your urine is too acid or too alkaline ($4.30 a roll, in Japan); a diamond-studded collar for your dog ($11,510 from Harrods); and locusts (pounds 800 a kilogram, in Scottish hotels apparently).

A story that won't run and run

A few weeks ago I reported that Paul Sykes, millionaire businessman and prospective Tory candidate for Barnsley Central, had given Studley Royal cricket team pounds 20,000 in the hope that it would give him a place in its third team.

The question has now been turned on its head. Does Mr Sykes really want to be a member of this side, which is based near picturesque Fountains Abbey and competes in the sixth division of the Nidderdale League?

Or rather it doesn't compete. It has lost all four games it has played so far and last week was all out for five runs. This is a record in minor league cricket that you have to go back to 1855 to beat. That was when Hereford was bowled out for four runs.

It must have been quite a sight. Raskelf B, the opponents, bowled five batsmen out for ducks in the first six deliveries. One of the Raskelf bowlers took a remarkable eight wickets for three runs, and its batsmen took less than five minutes to score the six runs they needed to win.

Will Mr Sykes give up on Studley Royal? I doubt if he is such a quitter - he is standing as a Tory in Barnsley Central, after all.

He sure can pick 'em: Tory candidate Paul Sykes (left) and the Studley Royal score

Photograph: GUZELIAN