By Ian Skidmore
Here I am growing yet another crop of words on this strip of limitless space called a blog.
Did it on paper, man and boy, for nigh on fifty years.
I have been the sole proprietor of so many columns I am known in the trade as the Parthenon Kid. Got my name over the door in the end, but when I started it was the High Noon of the Flamboyant Pseudonym. In the trade magazines I was at the same time Bookworm, Hod Carrier and Pro Bono Publico. In the Hairdressers, Wigmakers and Parfumiers Gazette I was A Chiel Amang Ye, which any parfumier worth his ambergris knew was a subtle allusion to the chiel in the poem by Burns who gathered notes.
In those days a reader had to keep his wits about him. The Manchester City News changed me into a Greek lady called Thea Page (Theatre Page to the wide awake). I was Townsman in the Yorkshire Evening News; in the Yorkshire Evening Post, which was renowned for its perversity, I was Countryman; I was even Streetwalker - I still think I could sue - in the Sunday Pictorial.
I have never written downright rude columns about anyone. Not even the bank managers I have been tortured by, though I have been tempted over the years. I feel too sorry for them. The one thing you can rely on with banks is that they treat their staffs even worse than they do the customers. I am so sorry for them that I feed them money. Feeding a habit I have had for years, called marriage
When the trade figures go up, you know my Head Ferret has been to the dress shops. Which is very puzzling because she insists everything in her wardrobe is several years old. Of course she does go to every dress shop twice. Once to buy and once to take it back, because she no longer likes it.
I do not use a great deal of money for booze anymore, alas. Just an evening G and T in memory of the British Empire and an occasional mouthwash of the cheaper Champagne. In Britain, indeed, I am a near teetotaller. I used to be a teetotaller world wide till I went to the Loire on a chara and managed to fall off the wagon at a wine tasting. Now I am nominally teetotal only in areas covered by the National Health Service because I don't want to be disqualified from going into hospital on the grounds that I am not healthy. You have to be pretty healthy to survive hospitals these days.
I fear I occasionally declare our dining room French territory and keep a tricolour in the drawer under my shirts for lightning nationality changes.
Alas, the days have gone when I cashed so many cheques in my Anglesey local, the bank manager thought I was being blackmailed by the landlord. I am, in consequence, occasionally prey to a hangover. On such occasions I do not put in my teeth because I cannot bear the deafening click and I am trying to teach the dog to mew, because the bark forces the roots of my hair through the scalp and I am shattered by the sound of hair crashing onto the carpet.
There was a time when hangovers were delivered every morning with the papers. Those were the days when I was so keen on retirement as an art form, I worried that by the time I retired I would be too old to enjoy it. So I retired when I was thirty and had fifteen glorious years in a mist of perpetual revelry. Called it free lancing and hoped no one would notice. Then I went back to work, because there is very little money in perpetual revelry.
Champagne being the price it is, there was no money left to buy a weekly Health Stamp. When I went back to work it was fine. I wrote a few books, did a couple of TV series and hired the voice out for money. In no time I had enough to put back the stamps, even before the DOS realised they weren't there. Doesn’t make any difference. They could still have docked a fiver a week off my pension because I paid late. I suppose if I hadn't paid at all they would have shot me. In fairness you can appeal and when I did, a Portia among women came from the Contributions Agency in Colwyn Bay and took pity on me.
Can anyone tell me why we pay tax on our pensions? We have already paid tax on the money which paid the contributions to our pension. Why should we have to pay twice?
And they hanged Dick Turpin.
No wonder the Treasury lets the banks get away with murder. Not just because every time a Treasury mandarin retires he walks straight onto the board of a bank. It is because they could both give Jesse James three black masks and still beat him when it comes to Stand and Deliver time. This job that has bank-rolled Britain, I am now doing free. Even though I agree with Dr Johnson: No-one but a blockhead writes, except for money.