From Sexhow to Tattyknuckle
|Sitting out in the sunshine, listening to Diplo,
and trying to catch up on my reading. A lovely way to spend a day. Still
working my way through Greil Marcusí Like A Rolling Stone, but
Iím about to give up. It started promisingly, but now it seems pointless.
I couldnít care less about about 'Like A Rolling Stone' now. I wonder if
Greil will ever listen to the song again? If he says, yes, he hears something
different each time, then I think Iíll scream.
I found myself increasingly distracted by a book I picked up for 50p in a charity shop, which was Tony Dewickís Complete Atlas of Railway Station Names. Itís surely unintentionally the most amusing and engrossing book Iíve come across in a long time. It took an astonishing 30 years to put together, and you have to admire such dedication. It contains all stations ever in the UK and a bit more, whether extant, long since disappeared, never completed, or strangely private. The fun comes from some of the names. Childish I know, but wonderfully irresistible.
I mean, did you know Sexhow was next to Potto, though both are long gone. And in Ireland, Killywilly and Tattyknuckle are no more. As are Robin Hood and Fighting Cocks. Though Peter Panís Playground is probably still on the sea front at Brighton. I just kept sitting there sniggering. I suppose itís all a bit nonsensical in a strange Monty Python-esque way. The same charity shop oddly had a set of Monty Python scripts. These editions still turn up with alarming regularity in charity shops, rather like the Spike Milligan War memoirs and the Goodies Files. The odd thing these were childhood staples. As Jonathan Coe noted recently, there was not the opportunity to video your favourite show. So there were either bizarre novelisations, or the complete scripts, which many people memorised. I never could. I could recount all the words to Terry Jacksí 'Seasons In The Sun', but not Monty Python sketches.
And no, I didnít buy the Monty Python books. I did, however, buy a secondhand copy of Julian Maclaren-Rossí Collected Memoirs, which is wonderful. Patrick Hamilton seems back in vogue, which is great, and if you have been taken by Slaves of Solitude or Hangover Square, then Maclaren-Ross is a must. His of Love and Hunger is up there with the best of Graham Greene and David Goodis. The memoirs are as priceless, capturing the struggle to be a writer, and then life in the Soho and Fitzrovia of the Ď40s and Ď50s as a dandy raconteur and ďcharacterĒ. Some lovely stories of Dylan Thomas and Graham Greene, and the like. A touch of the jesse hectors there in a funny kind of way. Maclaren-Ross should have been one of the greats, but when he should have been heralded he was writing about sleeping on Euston station, which for this old codger has a bittersweet irony of sorts.
Interestingly, the big chain bookstores seem to be
heavily promoting Dudley Moore and Peter Cook scripts. Elsewhere the
HMV sale racks are
chock-full of old British comedy DVDs. I did indulge in the Ripping
Yarns collection, and have been having a whale of a time trundling my way
through all the episodes. Ripping
Yarns is the post-Python work of Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and is probably
the best thing ever by that crowd. I genuinely believe that, like the Pop Group
perhaps, the offshoots and splinter groups of the Monty Python team did its best
work elsewhere. Fortunately most of it is more available than the works of Rip,
Rig and Panic, Float Up CP, Maximum Joy, New Age Steppers, and even Mark Stewart.
© 2005 John Carney