Hamlet is not Quite as Funny…

Image result for withnail and I open source images

I take as my text today the script of Withnail and I: yes, all of it – for as I have so consistently pointed out the entire film is basically a collection of quotes linked by a somewhat haphazard plot.


But my subject this morning is not the film per se, but the Facebook group.  It is my contention that The Withnail and I Appreciation Society is one of the healthiest groups on social media.  Why?  Because it allows people to hurl the most terrible insults at each other with impunity.  When someone calls me a terrible c**t, I chuckle; when a man declares that he means to have me even if it must be burglary, I laugh uproariously and when people ‘feel unusual’ I’m not a bit spooked.   Because the film licences this rudeness, which is not about the person you’re talking to but about your shared enjoyment of the film.  And this is very healthy I think.

This is what happens: people post pictures, memes and links to news stories on which to hang their references to the film.  And because the film has a thousand and one quotable bits, it just keeps on going.  As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.  I’ve only just begun to grow last year.  The joint I am about to roll can utilise up to twelve skins.  It is called the Camberwell Carrot.  This will tend to make you very high.  Bollocks, I’ll swallow it and run a mile.  That wouldn’t wash with Geoff.  Imagine getting into a fight with the f***er.

It’s not all insults: you can offer sherry, fulminate about cats or eulogise root vegetables.  You can talk about garlic, rosemary and salt or good quality rubber boots; you can tell Miss Blennerhasset to call the police or demand the finest wines known to humanity.  You can even go on holiday by mistake.

The film ends with a soliloquy from hamlet, another play that’s full of quotable bits.  Though Hamlet isn’t quite as funny…

Marwood out.

What Utter Twaddle!

I’ve been writing utter twaddle all day because sometimes that is the only way to go. The hope is that you write yourself into some sort of coherence if you just keep going; sometimes it works, and it sort of worked today though I’m not terribly happy with most of what I did. Still it’s better than the other day when I was forced to resort to writing obscenities for several paragraphs like George VI trying to overcome a stammer (come to think of it, the principle is probably the same: The King’s Writing, anyone?)

But basically the only way to get through these days is not to let yourself care. Don’t care about quality, don’t care about inspiration, don’t care about structure, don’t even care if you’re making any sense or conforming to any of the rules of grammar throughout the known galaxy – just write. To paraphrase a character in Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, Write, write, effing write! Write, write, effing write! If you’re interested the relevant clip’s at about 13.40. And here’s Richard E Grant commenting on my work:

Indeed, Richard, I have written twaddle today. But it’s my twaddle.

Kirk out

Withnail and I and Me Myself Personally

I expect I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here as you’re all terribly literate bods but I’m sure you’ve noticed, just as I have, that there’s an increasing tendency for people to say I when it should be me.  ‘Something happened along the way to my friend and I,’ they say; and I want to scream, ‘No it didn’t!  Something happened along the way to my friend and me!!!’  This is what’s known as hyper-correction; the mistaken belief that a correct construction is wrong because it sounds like an incorrect one.  Like, for example, saying ‘slither’ instead of ‘sliver’ in the mistaken impression that the word has suffered from some sort of Cockney takeover from which it must be rescued forthwith.

It’s very straightforward really.  ‘I’ is the subject of the sentence, the person doing whatever it is – but if something happens to them, the ‘I’ becomes ‘me.’  Hence it’s ‘I, Claudius’ because Claudius is speaking about himself as the subject of the action, the doer (and yes, I know a lot of things happen to him but that is not the point of the title; the title makes him the subject of the book, not its object.)  Conversely, it’s a #metoo movement, not an #Itoo movement precisely because it’s about things that have happened to me that were not of my doing.  Withnail and I have come on holiday by mistake; but on this mistaken holiday a number of things happened to Withnail and Me.

But you don’t even have to delve into grammar to get this.  There’s a very simple test: just go back to the original sentence and take away my friend.  You wouldn’t say ‘a funny thing happened to I,’ would you?  Because you’d sound like a Rastafarian and only a Rastafarian should do that.  So why do so many people make this mistake?  I think it’s because something takes over when you hear yourself say ‘my friend and…’ and supplies the word ‘I’ as sounding correct; just as in the brain of some people an ‘s’ always implies an apostrophe.

Here endeth the lesson…

Kirk out

I Went to the Library Because I Wanted to Read Deliberately…

I have never read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, though of course I have heard of it – and now that I come to it I’m ashamed I took so long.  We Brits are scandalously behind when it comes to reading American literature: of course we read Henry James and have a stab at Hemingway and Pound (aren’t Pound and Eliot more British in spirit anyway?) but as for me, I am terribly behind on my US classics, only coming to Walt Whitman late and never having touched Faulkner.

All is not lost! for I am only sixty and it is probable that many years remain in which I can rectify these omissions.  In that spirit, I went to the library and happened upon Walden which, though I have only read fifty or so pages, has already blown my mind.

First, I never knew that there were so many quotations in it – for just as every line in Withnail and I is quotable, so every page of Thoreau has something in it that you didn’t know came from thence.  On the first page I read a line familiar to me from Dead Poets’ Society:

‘I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately.’ *

That idea of living  deliberately, thoughtfully, not just being swept along by the mainstream, is very appealing – though it does of course mean living a very stripped-down life.  Still it’s good to question which of the things you regard as necessary to life actually are.  Is a car necessary?  Is a job necessary?  And if so why?  You may come to the conclusion in the end that you do in fact need all these things; but at least you’ll have thought about it: and as we all know, the unexamined life is not worth living.  (That’s Socrates, not Thoreau, but still.)

A few pages later I came upon this:

‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the  music which he hears…’

Everyone knows that line, as well as this one:

‘most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’

I had no idea that Thoreau was the source of these; and now I do, I want to read more.  I’ll keep you updated as I go…

Kirk out

*I guess Thoreau didn’t go on holiday by mistake?

Monty, You Terrible C***

It’s dreadful the language you get on Facebook these days.  People calling each other the worst names while insisting on having a drink and smoking the largest joints you’ve ever seen, getting nearly gored by bulls and almost b****red in dank cottage bedrooms.  And yet this is what keeps me sane, for it all happens on one group.  The Withnail and I Appreciation Society.

I blogged about this a week or two back when I first joined.  Back then I merely found it a source of idle amusement; but it has rapidly grown into one of the major sources of sanity in my life.  When I begin to ask myself why I still bother with Facebook; when my heart splinters with despair at the political wrangling; when the simplest of local discussions seems to degenerate into fury – then I turn to the W&I group and find a balm for my soul.  There’s something very sustaining about the freedom to insult people: when I was younger most of my friends called each other terrible names and it was all understood to be in jest, a kind of shorthand, a way of saying we liked each other.  This is quite male, I think, but some women like it too: it’s comforting and reassuring.  It’s like knowing you can’t cross a line; that you are accepted and included, without judgement.

The W&I group is entirely in the spirit of the film; it’s a happy-go-lucky, serendipitous bunch of people who take their amusement where they find it, demand to have some booze, scour cafes for the finest wines known to humanity and find hares for their pot in the humps of local types.  Of course, none of this will mean anything to you if you haven’t seen the film.  So what are you waiting for?

Kirk out

Is It Safe To Go Back To The Pub?

Our Christmas lights are up – and whether it’s because putting ours up has made me notice other people’s, I don’t know – but it looks as if everyone else put theirs up on the same day.  We don’t observe the traditional rules about putting up decorations, which I think is to do them on Christmas Eve, but we do generally take them down by Twelfth Night.  I have a packed programme of seasonal engagements coming up; family meals, guests for Christmas dinner, carols by candlelight, shared lunch at the Quakers, plus a Solstice celebration – and tonight, a meeting of the Artbeat planning group which will end up at the Cradock.  It’s the first time I’ve been to our local pub since that ill-fated night when Mark and I went and were propositioned by a man who reminded us of a much slimmer Richard Griffiths in ‘Withnail and I’


but I think it may be safe to go back to the pub.  Anyway, here’s our tree:

which I think you’ll agree is very pretty.  Apart from the tree we have some lights up at the window and of course cards on every available surface.  I’ve sent out poems with this year’s cards; copies of one I wrote specially called ‘The Square Sparrow’ (being an antidote to the usual round robin which bores the pants of everyone:)


It begins:

Quite suddenly the year began

at midnight on the first of Jan

boxes filling in a panic

house resembling the Titanic

– we were moving in a week

and stuff was playing hide-and-seek.

Kirk out

What Day is it Again?

I’m all out of kilter.  I was up at five with Daniel who was going ‘Ow!  Ow!  Ow!’ at regular intervals because his neck was hurting.  I was quite chuffed because I managed to do some relaxation and visualisation with him as well as getting him to ‘breathe out the pain’ – he has always steadfastly refused to do yoga before.  He was able to relax for about an hour and I hoped he would go back to sleep but he was still awake when it was time for him to take his pain-killers, and after that I thought I might as well declare daytime and have a cup of tea.  With the result that I fell asleep over the Archers omnibus at around ten-thirty.

Our days are a hectic round of carefully timed feeding and giving of medicine: Daniel has to eat before taking antibiotics and also before having ibuprofen, so these have to be co-ordinated.  We therefore have to ask him what he would like to eat at least half an hour before the allotted time, so that it can go down a bit: strictly speaking he is supposed to eat two hours before taking the antibiotics, but when you consider that he needs four doses per day and that at some point he needs to sleep, it becomes impossible.  This is not to mention the number of times I’ve been up and down stairs fetching water, fruit, more water, ice, hot water bottles, ice, fruit and water: I fully expect to have lost half a stone by the time he gets better.

So once he went off to sleep fully medicated and pain-killed I consoled myself by watching ‘Withnail and I’.  Some films – most films, no matter how good they might be – can only be watched a certain number of times before you get tired of them: W & I, on the other hand, gets better the more you watch it.  It’s the sort of film you have to get into; though the acting is excellent (Richard E Grant and Paul McGann as out of work actors and Richard Griffiths, hilarious as an effete homosexual uncle) it’s not immediately a film that grabs you.  The plot is loose and not much happens, but it has a charm and the kind of humour that gets funnier with time.


Lines like ‘we’ve come on holiday by mistake’ have become legendary, as has the huge joint known as the Camberwell Carrot.  So if you haven’t seen it, do so immediately.

Oh, and check out this lovely photo of Mark and me, exhausted after caring for our son:

Kirk out




So Farewell Then..

… Richard Griffiths, he who as a youth used to weep in butchers’ shops; he who as a grown-up was uncle to Harry Potter and father to Dudley Dursley; he whose anecdotes were wont to set the table at a roar – alas, poor Richard, I knew him not at all, but somehow I felt I knew him all the same: you can smell the actors’ yarns he would spin, late into the night over a bottle of claret, surrounded by friends and fellow-actors.  Sadness is instantiated in the breasts of Richard E Grant and Daniel Radcliffe, and other tributes will surely flood in as the days pass.


He was born at a very early age, to parents who were both deaf, and he learnt sign-language in order to communicate with them.  He left school at 15 and worked as a porter but later went back to drama school and joined the RSC: he became a celebrated stage actor and appeared in many plays including Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, but he will perhaps be remembered best for his role in Withnail and I where he played an outrageously camp Uncle Monty.


I also enjoyed his role in the entertaining but preposterous crime’n’cookery series, Pie in the Sky.


He was apparently considered for Dr Who at one point: his weight must have been a problem for him in some roles, but it clearly didn’t stop him being successful.

RIP Richard, we will miss you.

Bong!  In other news, I got up rather drastically early this morning and went to all-night prayer at the church: I was going to go last night but was too tired, so just made it down there for the last hour or so.  A much better way to start the day than tossing and turning in bed.  And then home to surprise Mark with a pot of coffee and to this dialogue:

Mark:  When is happy hour, usually?

Me:  Around five to six pm – when people don’t usually go to the pub.

Mark:  Oh, right.  Well, why don’t they have a sad hour to counterbalance it?

Me:  Mark, every other hour apart from happy hour, is ‘sad hour’.   If you drank alcohol you would be only too aware of that fact.

We then went on to discuss our pet peeves in modern language: nouns as verbs – eg ‘to process’ – and the reverse, verbs as nouns.  My worst one of these is ‘spend’.  So don’t ever let me catch you saying ‘the total spend is…’ or you will be deleted from my followers forthwith.

And speaking of followers, did you know?  If you sign up to follow this blog I will always take a look at your blog or website – and I may reblog it if it’s good.

So follow me!

follow me, the wise man said

but he walked behind.

Kirk out

Last of the Last of the Last of the Last of

Yes, it’s finally over.  Sunday saw the Last Ever Episode of that once great and imaginative series that gradually boiled down – like a soup, but unlike a soup, not thereby improving in flavour – to a bath running down a hillside and a Monstrous Regiment of Women.  I refer of course to Last of the Summer Wine.  I remember when it started the language was inventive and original – a delight to listen to.  But over time the visual gags took over until – as I believe I commented before – it seemed to be about a bath running forever down a hillside.  The Last Ever Episode did not have this feature but did have Russ Abbot (presumably without Spit the dog) and ‘some Chinese bloke who’s really famous’.  Apparently Norman Wisdom was once in it.  My dad used to like Norman Wisdom.

I’m rambling because I don’t have any Thoughts this morning.  I have perused the BBC Writersroom and found that I don’t have to send 6 episodes of the sitcom, only one – a great relief.  Sent the first draft of Reader’s Digest article back to them with additions.

Long chat with Dave Fegent last night during which I unintentionally misled him about the name of our house.  For some reason I was convinced it was called ‘Lyndhurst’ – which was also the name of the house he grew up in – whereas in fact it’s called ‘Parkville’.  I think we used to live in a house called ‘Lyndhurst’.  In Madrid I lived in a house called ‘Edificado in 1888’, which in Spanish is pronounced ‘Mil-ocho-cientas-ochenta-y-ocho’, a bit more of a mouthful than eighteen-eighty-eight.  Still it put the house on the map.  I also told the Sainsbury’s people the house was called Lyndhurst because for some reason the website insisted on me putting a ‘house nickname’ and I couldn’t think what it was.  I should have remembered it’s Parkville because that’s a combination of two prisons.

‘LOL’ as they say on Facebook.

I have started an unstoppable ‘Withnail and I status day’ on that site.  Some gems have come up.

Yesterday we bought Daniel some clothes but sadly failed to buy any shoes.  He will be having a clothing allowance soon.  Afterwards he bought me a big bar of chocolate ‘for buying me clothes and for being a great Mum’.


That’s enough inconsequential rambling.

Kirk out

When I am old I shall wear mauve…

this morning’s conversation in bed (picture, if you will, the two of us sitting up in bed drinking tea and coffee, conversing animatedly on whatever subjects float across the akasha of our mind)

Ah! Did you spot the Sanskrit word there?  “Akasha” means “space” and “chid-akasha” means “mind-space”.  But I digress.

The subject of today’s bed-tea-and-coffee-conversation was the word “mauve” and how nobody ever uses it any more (my mate Tony in Chester reckoned that only middle-aged ladies in Harrogate tea-shops ever used it.  I think he’d been reading too much Alan Bennett) and then Mark dredged up from the recesses of his memory the fact that “mauve” used to be a euphemism for “gay” (which in turn used to be a synonym for “happy” but let’s not go there.)  Then I dredged up (though with somewhat less effort) from my memory the line from “Withnail and I”:

–  He’s so mauve, we don’t know what he’s planning.

Check it out.  Great film.

Incidentally, “Withnail” is pronounced “With-nerll” with a schwa on the second vowel.  Which pretty much brings us back to where we were yesterday.

Watched the tennis.  Andy Murray through.

Today I am going to meet my new friend Claire and discover what kind of personality I have.


PS I am reading John Peel’s autobiog, “Margrave of the Marshes” and in between bouts of affection and sadness that he’s dead, trying to analyse his highly individual writing style.