Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Taxi Driver

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

taxi 1

If I was thinking up an idea for a film, I would want it to have a snappy title. After all that is what your potential customers see or hear first and if it dosen’t sound interesting you’ve got to have a second go at getting their attention. Imagine you’re a schoolteacher and you’ve told the kids to come up with a film you’d be going “yes Jordan very nice but you can’t just call it that cos it doesn’t sound exciting enough.”

That didn’t seem to bother Martin Scorsese or the writer Paul Schrader with Taxi Driver and it didn’t do the film any harm either although I suppose we will never know really will we.

It stars Robert de Niro when he was quite young and its funny he doesn’t look right as a young  man its like he was born to be middle aged he’s got that quirky look and was never the heartthrob type but maybe that is a good thing because his character Travis Bickle is strange with a capital STR. He’s  a Vietnam veteran used to be in the Marines and he can’t sleep maybe traumatized or something anyway so he wants a job he can do all night and when he goes for the interview he gets it mainly because the boss was in the Marines too and he says he’s not scared he will go anywhere any time. New York was pretty rough at that time and I guess there were some drivers that refused to go to some areas.

Anyways the job suits him and he’s doing well at it but he’s still lonely and he meets this girl Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) who is part of the campaign team for a politician she’s much more whats the word sophisticated than him but he don’t care or maybe see it he takes her to see a movie but its at a dirty little cinema where he’s used to going and it’s a dirty film and she freaks out and leaves and that looks like the end of it but he don’t give up he takes her for a coffee and a piece of pie and he gives her a Kris Kristofferson record but she’s got it already he’s trying his best but its never going to work even in a film.

taxi 2

Then the violence comes to the surface maybe repressed from his army days or whatever but he is disgusted by the way the city is and the drugs and prostitution so he buys a load of guns and makes this sort of sliding thing up his sleeve so he can keep a pistol up there and whip it out and surprise people. He wants to kill Senator Palantine the guy Betsy’s working for. First he walks into a store where a robbery is going on and he shoots the robber and you wonder if he’s going to be a good bad boy but he gets weirder and weirder and gets his hair shaved down the sides into a Mohican or Mohawk  whatever you call it bad idea cos now he looks like a troublemaker.

The Secret Service guys suspect he’s up to no good and chase him but he gets away.

He has met this teenage prostitute Iris played by Jodi Foster and he don’t want to do nothing with her he wants to stop her doing what she’s doing her pimp is Harvey Keitel whose always brilliant I reckon. But Travis goes and finds the pimp and there is a big gunfight everybody gets shot including Travis but he survives. There’s a kind of happy ending because Iris goes home to live a normal life but we don’t know what’s gonna happen to Travis and they leave it that way you couldn’t have this sort of film ending up all neat and tidy.




The English Pedant – Dumb and dumber

Picture the scene: a cheap recording studio in a basement in a once-elegant street alongside the Clyde in Glasgow. In a small booth (a floor-to-ceiling cubicle, usually used for recording voices), a man hunches over an acoustic guitar to record the backing track of a simple song he has played a thousand times. It’s different when you’re just playing it, rather than singing at the same time. You’d think it would be easier, but with no melody line or words to guide him the man becomes too aware of what he is doing. He loses track of where he is: how many more times does he have to play this sequence before the verse ends and the chorus starts? Halfway through he fouls it up and stops.

Through the microphone the engineer hears a muttered “You f***ing moron.” It’s the guitarist talking to himself. And that guitarist was me.

What I didn’t realize was that I was using a technical term formerly used by psychologists to define an individual’s intellectual level.

The word “moron” was coined by a psychologist in 1910, based on a Greek word meaning “dull”.

I used the word deliberately because it seemed more appropriate than the other options: idiot, imbecile, pillock, berk and on down the list to profanities. In fact the first and second in that list are also technical terms. “Moron” was originally used to describe someone with an IQ of 51-70, which is higher than that of an imbecile (26-50) and an idiot (0-25). The average IQ is between 90 and 110. Einstein clocked up 160.

I used moron because it sounds duller than the others. There is something exotic in the Frenchness of imbecile, while an idiot appears in my mind as a slightly hysterical, unpredictable figure. But moron sounds just plain dull, colourless, lifeless.

The psychological terms have fallen out of favour in these non-judgmental days, when any term that could conjure up negative connotations is quickly stamped out and replaced by  something watered down or obscure.

The list of informal options (I found this one online) is a long one. Dope, ninny, chump, dimwit, goon, dumbo, dummy, dum-dum, dumb-bell, loon, jackass, bonehead, fathead, numbskull, dunderhead, chucklehead, knucklehead, muttonhead, pudding-head, thickhead, wooden-head, airhead, pinhead, lamebrain, pea-brain, birdbrain, zombie, jerk, nerd, dipstick, donkey, noodle.

Notice how it went distinctly American in places? And yet it includes dipstick, as popularised by the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

The same site then gives us a category called British informal, which  ranges from old fashioned (nit, nitwit, twit) to the current favourite numpty, along with such essentials as berk, prat, pillock, wally, git, wazzock, divvy, nerk, dork, twerp, mug and muppet.

I remember a conversation a few years ago in the office of a local radio station, where a rather strange young man had just started appearing, on work experience.  He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t unpleasant, so he wasn’t really a pillock or a git; he was just a bit slow and a committee of us decide the word was plonker. Not even a fully-fledged one, but a bit of a plonker (another Only Fools staple). Harmless, forgivable, almost endearing.

It is said that the Inuit have many different words for snow, although the current received pub-talk wisdom is that that is not true.

I wonder if they sit around in igloos and discuss the number of  English words that can describe an unintelligent person.


Confessions of an expat – what the Brexit vote tells us

So the British public has had its say – or has it? The voting took place and a result was reached. Britain wants to leave the EU – but for what reasons?

brexit 1

It is not so much about real issues and whether Britain will be better off financially and security-wise in or out. It’s all about the principle of being open to outside influences. The Remain people don’t just see strength in numbers but think that other people’s ideas are probably better than our own, while the Leave faction just don’t want anyone else telling them what to do.

Unfortunately, on social media (or what I see of it on Facebook, at least), it’s the lefties who are always shouting. Sometimes it seems that the default FB attitude is to support any underdog just because they’re the underdog. But is that necessarily a good thing? It is good to support the needy and underprivileged. It might be said that that is the Christian way, but of course many of the social media shouters object to organised religion for the same reason: they don’t want anyone else (in this case God) telling them what to do.

But to understand why the British are like they are, first we need to understand what Britain is. It is, for a start, not Great Britain. That is just the name of the island containing England, Scotland and Wales. Add Northern Ireland to that and you have the United Kingdom.

But what about British communities  all over the world? What about the Channel Islands – only half an hour away by plane but closer to France than to England? That’s where I come from and although I am proud to be a Guernseyman, I have  a British passport. And I’m glad to have that, because it opens a lot of doors.

The Channel Islands are not and have never been part of the EU. They have a “special relationship” with it under Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community, but they are not members.

brexit 2

The Channel Islands are British Crown Dependencies. In the event of a war, they will be defended by Britain (although in the Second World War Sir Winston Churchill chose not to do that for tactical reasons) and will fight alongside other British troops. If a Channel Islander is going to play football for a country, although many of us have French names, we are likely to play for England. Guernsey’s Matt Le Tissier and Jersey’s Graeme Le Saux did just that.

As someone who has lived abroad for several years now, I have become accustomed to being assumed to be English, rather than British. That is because to most people it’s the same thing, just as we talk about Holland when we mean the Netherlands, which is Holland plus others.

A friend who was born in Guyana and is now established in the Turks and Caicos Islands (a British Crown Dependency just south of the Bahamas) told recently of how her young daughter, becoming aware of her passport for the first time, complained “I’m British?”

Well, it’s not a bad thing to be, as long as you don’t mind the rest of the world regarding you as a privileged former colonialist who looks down their nose at the rest of the world and should therefore be treated with suspicion and called to account for any failure of personal behaviour or professional competence.

You should have seen the dentist’s face in Tobago when my UK-fitted tooth crown fell off. She could hardly contain her glee at such a clear example of British unprofessionalism.

It’s called inverted snobbery: looking down on someone because you think they are looking down on you.

But getting back to Brexit, no sooner had the result been declared and the regional breakdown studied than Scotland was jumping up and down, shouting “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! It was them!” Scottish First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, is already planning a new referendum aimed at leaving the UK and joining Europe.

That is because, just as Brits abroad are still regarded as arrogant, whether we are or not, within the UK it is the English who are seen as the bad guys who have claimed the entire country rather than just their own part of it.

Scotland was jumping up and down, shouting “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! It was them!”

So, is leaving the EU a good thing or a bad one for the UK? We don’t know yet, but that wasn’t the point of the question for the Remain people in the first place. Maybe it should be rephrased and asked again.




Ref! On the end of the world

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.


Cheer up, Baz. We’re English football fans. So we know the end of the world comes around every two years, and it happened again last night. You just don’t expect it to be caused by Iceland, that’s all. Remember when that Norwegian commentator gave us a load of verbal when they beat us? 1981 or something. And he was going “Maggie Thatchuurr. Maggie Thatchuurr. Your boys took a hell of a beating. Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana.”

That’s right, I know it off by heart. It used to be my party piece whenever there was a Scandinavian in the room. Yes, Dave, I was a bit of a pillock at the time. But really – who do these people think they are? One football match and they think they’re entitled to mouth off about it and we’ve just got to take it.

Who was Lord Beaverbrook, Baz? Newspaper proprietor, mate. Owned the Daily Express. No, I don’t know why the guy picked on him, must have just liked the sound of it. If we were doing that in reverse, who would we name? The only Norwegian I know is Anders Breivik.

Anyway, it wasn’t Norway this time, it was Iceland, and who do we know from there? That’s right, Dave: Bjork, funny-looking singer with a funny voice. Anyone else? No, all they’re famous for is having volcanoes that send out a load of dust and shut down airlines for a few days.

Well, that was all they were famous for. Now Iceland is another country that has beaten England at football.

Cheer, Gary, I’ll have a vodka. On the rocks. Just like it is, a drop of the hard stuff, mate. Down the hatch, bottoms up and here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women. Robert Shaw in Jaws, Dave.

Good game? I suppose you could say that, for the neutral, anyway. We weren’t bad, were we? Just unlucky. Rooney was off his game and Sterling had one of his days when he had plenty of the ball but didn’t look like he’d ever actually played before outside his back garden. I know some of the pundits are saying it was a diabolical performance, but really, we had a few chances and if just one of the shots on target had been a foot to one side we’d be laughing.

So what now? What now indeed. Another two weeks of football and no vested interest. No, I’m not supporting Wales. Do you think they’d support us if it was the other way round? No, good luck to them, but they’re a bunch of journeymen with a couple of superstars. I always want the best team to win a tournament, and I’m afraid that might mean the bloody Germans again.

So, for the neutral it’s a lose-lose situation. We’ll have the telly on , but I’ll be trying it on with Jody most of the time. And it’s very hard to combine making love with watching football. But in this case there can be only one winner, and it’s not Poland-Portugal.



Tyson Fury’s appointment with God

While the boxing world got all emotional about Muhammad Ali and forgot that their sport is all about one human being inflicting physical damage on another, the less admirable side of it all was alive and well and living England. If Ali represented all that was good about boxing – much of it based, strangely, on the man’s intelligence – Tyson Fury has shown what sheer brute strength can achieve, and it’s not a pretty picture.


That is not to say that Fury is unintelligent; he has a way with words that can make the most idiotic pronouncements sound almost credible. He may be prejudiced, bigoted, small-minded and dumb enough not to notice until it is pointed out to him, but he has things to say. And in this quote-hungry world, to some observers that is better than silence.

Disregarding the emerging story of a dodgy drug test, what Fury has done to bring the sport into disrepute is to declare that becoming world heavyweight champion has made him rich and that’s what it was all about. Now he feels he has nothing to prove, nothing left to achieve. He is happy to sit in front of the media and grab rolls of fat around his middle to demonstrate that he is in fact an overweight slob rather than a finely-honed athlete. And he uses this to laugh at Wladimir Klitschko, whom he beat in the contest to become the world’s most fearsome man. But if he laughs at Klitschko, he laughs at the world; he laughs at all of us for being naïve enough to think he was a sportsman.


The rematch with Klitschko has been delayed, supposedly because of an ankle injury, but what that is doing is robbing us of the pleasure of seeing Fury humiliated by the former champion, whose mojo will hopefully have been restored by his sudden casting as the hero. Only the most blinkered and leaden of thinkers can be rooting for Fury now. Lovers of sport in all its many forms are willing Klitschko on, desperate for him to shut Fury up once and for all. Not that that is going to happen, of course. Because Fury has an answer for everything, and the perfect excuse for losing this time: he’s done it, achieved what he set out to achieve, and no one can take it away from him. His name is in the record books. The monolith from an Irish traveller background, son of a bare-knuckle fighter, has scaled the only peak available to him and if he is knocked off it straightaway, so what? The money is still in his bank and the title that defines him just gains one word: former heavyweight champion of the world.

If it seems uncharitable to hold views such as these, let’s just say it is the only language Fury currently speaks. To look into his future is to imagine a spiral of decline, where the money disappears, the friends and family fall away and he hits rock bottom with only his wit and bravado functioning. And then he can reinvent himself, perhaps as a man dedicated to helping unfortunates such as himself to make a living with their fists. Or perhaps religion will present itself as a secondary career, because someone with such a huge ego couldn’t keep it to himself.

A far more admirable fighter, former middleweight champion Nigel Benn, found God once his boxing days were over, albeit without the drama that somehow seems inevitable in Fury’s hypothetical demise and rebirth.

So let’s get on with it. Over to you, Mr Klitschko, to set the ball rolling.

Bloke in the Kitchen. Barbecuing meat


Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

Here’s a question for you: what is barbecue sauce? And more importantly, what is it for?

Is it like barbecue-flavored snacks, in that it gives the flavor of  barbecued food?

Well if it is, why put it on food that actually has been barbecued on a proper charcoal unit?

barb 4
The source of the magic: smouldering charcoal is the king of cooking fuels

There seems to be some confusion about this, and because Bloke in the Kitchen is all about keeping things simple, let’s start with a basic point of view: when you cook food on a barbecue, you don’t need to then smother it with something to make it taste like it has been barbecued. That’s like going on a beach holiday and basking in the sun but using fake tan on your skin too. If you’re going to do that, you can save the air fare and just bronze yourself out of a bottle in the privacy of your chilly northern bathroom.

If you’re having a barbecue, by all means have a sauce or two available for those who want one, because burger joints have taught many people that no meal is complete without ketchup. If they want to engage in that practice, that’s up to them.

barb 3
Shop-bought or homemade, who really needs it?

We had a teenager staying with us recently and I made Spaghetti Bolognese for us. She immediately stood up, went to the fridge, took out the ketchup and slathered it all over.

Well I’m sorry, but I didn’t take that very well. Okay, the Bolognese possibly didn’t merit words like “exquisite”, but it was pretty tasty, rich and juicy and it certainly didn’t need a squeeze of red colouring and sugar to make it edible.

But that’s another story. With a barbecue, anything goes, really, so there’s no harm in providing some gunge for those who automatically reach for it.

Make your own if you like: mix some tomato ketchup (yes, that) with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, honey and whatever else takes your fancy, and let those who are that way inclined gorge themselves on it.

Some people smear the meat with it before they cook it, but they are confusing it with a marinade, which we will come to in a minute. But if you do cover the food in sauce and then place it over the heat, you’re boiling and burning it. If you’re in a household where such sauces are seen as essential and you will be lynched if you don’t do it, try to get away with giving it a quick coating when it is almost cooked and ready to serve. That way everybody is happy.

barb 5
That’s a pretty civilised plate of food: chops, vegetables, potatoes, and not a plastic bottle in sight

However, if you are indisputably  in charge (or if you can get away with it), just cook it as nature intended.

A marinade can help get some flavor deep inside a piece of meat, but that means a liquid, which can penetrate the stuff, not a slimy substance that stays on top.

For chicken, squeeze a couple of limes or lemons into a bowl and crush some garlic into it. If you have some lemongrass, you can add that and let it infuse (give up its flavor to the liquid), before removing the strands and steeping the chicken in it.

Even then, though, bear in mind that you will have given the chicken a new flavor, when it has a perfectly good one of its own, so unless you’re convinced it is better, maybe you should do half with the marinade and half without.

With sausages, marinades do not work. They have a plastic skin that will keep the flavor out. You need to buy tasty sausages, and there are plenty around, from the local butcher’s own creations to some fancy ones in the supermarket.

barb 2
The barbie chef’s friend, the humble sausage

Burgers: well, they’re a piece of cake, aren’t they? And they really can benefit from some sauce.

Now, the serious meat. As mentioned last week, it might be tempting to add a touch of class to the meal by including some steaks, i.e. beef, but in fact it’s asking for trouble. Unless you get some pretty expensive stuff and you’re skilled at cooking it, it could well end up tough and dry. If you insist, however, you could use a marinade, but a better option is to rub it with some spices. Sprinkle on some paprika and a little chilli pepper, perhaps, and rub it in so it’s not just on the surface. And a knob of butter is always well received by a steak.

A better idea, though, is to use pork or lamb chops. They are far more cooperative, more forgiving. Make sure the pork ones are cooked through, because undercooked pork can be dangerous. Having taken care of that, you’ll find that chops do the trick of making it seem more like a proper meal than just a barbie, and they’re no problem. Throw them on, make sure they’re done, singe them a bit around the edges and Robert is your mother’s brother.

barb 1
And just to show you’re not a complete moron: some pieces of meat

Next Saturday: fish, seafood and side dishes for barbecues


The wisdom of pop songs – Rain is good

The human condition explained in three-minute bursts
rain c
Hey Barry, we’re up here

As we established last week, rain is generally seen as a bad thing in pop songs, but there are notable exceptions.

Walking in the rain might be avoided in the normal course of events, but when you’re in love, suddenly it’s a romantic thing to do.

Just before the dawn of rock’n’roll, in 1952, the classic musical number Singin’ in the Rain left no doubt as to the singer’s mood, while Johnny Ray had a hit with Just Walking in the Rain, in which he’s happy to be getting wet in this way because it takes his mind of his broken heart.

In 1964 the Ronettes brought us an update on that with their own Walking in the Rain, courtesy of the songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil plus producer Phil Spector. Jay and the Americans did a version too, and I am indebted to the erstwhile David Cassidy fan proprietor of the What’s It All About Alfie blog for pointing out that the Partridge Family also recorded it. They featured it in their TV show, playing it out by the pool, all dressed in pale blue shirts and dark blue trousers with matching waistcoats. Very smart. This is the sort of thing that women know, because while the show could be mildly amusing, Mum Partridge (Shirley Jones) didn’t appeal to us boys as much as Cassidy did to the (Eeek, I love you David!!!!!!!!!!) girls.

Not long afterwards, Barry White introduced himself by stealth as the power behind Love Unlimited, as the lovesick girl gets soaked through as she walks home and then, in one of pop’s cheesiest moments, phones Barry and tells him she has something to tell him. Guess what: she loves him. And he loves her too. And it’s still a monsoon outside but she doesn’t care because if he lays his bulk on her, the rain’s not going to be getting anywhere near.

Grace Jones’s Walking in the Rain in 1982 was a pretty straight rehash of the original by Flash and the Pan, and it is hard to tell whether the singer is happy to be out in the deluge or not. He or she just sounds defiant and contemptuous, so we’ll put it in the ‘rain is good’ column.

rain a
Oops, nearly forgot this one, which is all about trying to rescue an unhappy girl. She’s lonely and so is he, so there might be an ulterior motive

Randy Crawford’s version of Tony Joe White’s Rainy Night in Georgia is also ambiguous. He/she is tramping the streets with nowhere to go, but love in the heart makes it all bearable. Interestingly, White wrote this in the Sixties and soul crooner Brook Benton had a hit with it in 1970, but it’s Crawford’s damp sweater and angelic delivery in 1981 that puts the crown on it.

In other news, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen included Walk between Raindrops (he sings the raindrops but it isn’t in the title for some reason) on his solo album The Nightfly. And it’s a happy one. They’re in Florida, where rain is warm, and they’re in love, so let nature do what it will. Sleet and lightning? Who cares? Give us a kiss.

The Move had long since had their flower power hit, Flowers in the Rain, in which the singer is quite happy to be  in the rain because he’s out of his head… and what’s this… “If my pillow’s getting wet, I can’t see that it matters much to me.” Further scrutiny of the lyrics reveals that he has pushed his bed “into the grounds”, so maybe he’s been locked up already. Ultimately, though, as we keep discovering, you can almost never take a pop song at face value.

The Everly Brothers had found a new angle in 1962, or rather songwriters Howard Greenfield and Carole King had, with Crying in the Rain: it disguises tears, so you can walk around blubbing as much as you like if it’s pouring down on your head.

rain b
And take that fag out of your mouth when I’m talking to you

The Lovin Spoonful’s Rain on the Roof was all about being warm and dry with one’s new girlfriend, while Eddie Rabbit’s I Love A Rainy Night is pretty hard to misinterpret. He, apparently, just loves the rain because it cleanses things, including his life. Good for you, Eddie, glad you’re okay. (Strange boy.)

Possible the most joyful rain song of all is the Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men, but then they’re not talking about real rain, and presumably the guys who are falling from the sky are not drips either.

Garbage’s 1995 hit I’m Only Happy When it Rains sounds to this hawk-eared observer like a title that sounded good, so they fleshed it out, desperately trying to create  a cohesive theme and thereby finding themselves claiming to enjoy misery and depression. God help them if they’re ever cross-examined about their mental state after they’ve just flown their passenger plane into a mountain and unexpectedly survived.

“I put it to you, Mr Garbage, that you were not a fit and proper person to take on this position in the first place.”

“Your honour, it’s only a bleeding pop song…”

A much happier vibe permeates Joni Mitchell’s Rainy Night House, back at the turn of the Seventies when Joni was happy to be seen as (and possibly was) naïve. Rainy night, empty house, young couple – whatever could happen next?

Rihanna’s huge hit Umbrella brings us right (and unusually) up to date, with a song that glorifies the strange contraption that someone must have invented (but we don’t know who). The umbrella of the song is in fact a metaphor: the girl is illustrating the fact that whatever the metaphorical weather in their lives, she will always provide her man with protection and comfort.

Again, she might regret it if it ever comes to a bitter marital breakdown and she’s sued for breach of promise.

“But madam, you stated in front of millions of people, through every TV, radio, laptop and cell phone in the world, that you would stick by him no matter what.”

All together now: “Your honour, it’s only a bleeding pop song.”




Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Madeline Kahn

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

madeline 1

There are not many actresses in my opinion that are truly funny but can still be attractive I know a feminist would say what’s that got to do with it but I’m a feminist in my own way and if you said that about men nobody would make a fuss. What I mean is I suppose that some people play the clown to make up for the fact that there not a conventional looker and don’t have guys falling over each other to get in their drawers but old Madeline had both.

She had leading parts in several Mel Brooks films I first saw her in Blazing Saddles which is pretty funny all round but she really dominates it in parts as the saloon bar singer Lili von Schtupp I think the character is based on Marlene Dietrich but she really was before my time so I can’t say for sure.

Blazing Saddles is a spoof western and this little town appoints a black sheriff and the local bigwigs want Lili to seduce and abandon him (that’s exactly how they put it). So the makeup and costumes people make Madeline look as sexy as hell which isn’t hard but she’s wearing a dress with a slit up the side that makes her legs look a mile long. She’s doing a speech impediment which you wouldn’t be allowed to do nowadays for PC reasons she just can’t say her Rs and says W instead so she calls him shewiff. And she seduces the guy and bangs the living daylights out of him or gets him to do it to her I suppose but anyway he ends up shattered and she ends up falling for him.

This was in the mid 70s when racial integration was not as big as it is now get me  with my big words I mean you didn’t see white women with black guys and they make a big thing of it if you pardon the pun. She goes, “Is it twue what they say about how you people are… gifted?” so he shows her and she says “It’s twue, it’s twue, it’s twue!” Well you know girls it is twue of some guys but it ain’t the be all and end all is it and I know some black girls who are parshall to muscling in on my territory I don’t know what difference does it make? I’m an Irish Indian, by the way. Cork Asian.

Anyways that’s just one scene and they had a black guy on the team of writers Richard Pryor the comedian I suppose to check the language was orthodontic if that’s the word.

Madeline does this song and dance and she’s great because she could really sing it’s about how tired she is from being a whore.

This isn’t really showing you how funny she was I suppose you have to watch it you can see that clip on YouTube.

The same year Madeline was in another Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein when apparently she turned down the big female part of Frankenstein’s assistant (Teri Garr did it) because she thought one of the small parts was funnier, so she’s this posh, spoilt fiancée who won’t let her man kiss her cos it will spoil her lipstick and he can’t stroke her hair or anything so they end up touching elbows.

And in High Anxiety she’s an heiress or something who’s supposed to be in love with the Mel Brooks character and he phones her and gets strangled and she thinks it’s a dirty phone call. That’s here:

She was great, wasn’t she? She did loads of other stuff on TV, film and stage and died of ovarian cancer at the age of 57 in 1999. I don’t have many heroines but she’s one.





The English Pedant – Feeling fine is a fine feeling


A little while ago we looked at the potentially confusing word “quite”, with its various meanings. Another one in that vein is “fine”. It’s the sort of thing that the TEFL (English as a foreign language) teacher dreads a student bringing up, because when they ask what it means, there is more than one explanation. Even native English speakers can get confused when they start to think about this one, as I found early in my magazine-editing career when the secretary, with whom I had been at primary school, attempted to show me that education counted for nothing and anything I could do, she could do too.

So when I described a cricketer as being a fine player, she took issue with the word. Fine, she stated, meant okay. And it does. Sometimes. How is your burger? Fine. How was your day? Fine, thanks. Nothing special, just okay. Don’t worry, it’s fine.

But what about fine art and fine wines? What are they? Just average? No, they’re fine, they’re top class, exquisite. And Brian Lara, the subject of my discussion with the secretary, was a fine cricketer, as was Ian Botham and Joe Root is now. Lionel Messi isn’t just a fairly good footballer. He has a level of skill and “footballing intelligence”, if you like, that makes him exceptional. He’s a fine player.

But fine can also mean thin or very small. There is a fine line between very good and great. Sandpaper that consists of fragments of glass so small it actually feels smooth is known as fine, and its opposite in that case is coarse.

We strain fluids through a fine mesh, a fabric of very slim strands that allows liquid through but catches any solids.

Some people have fine hair. That doesn’t mean it’s just okay or even that it’s beautiful. Each strand of hair is just very thin, that’s all.

In a business document we may look at the fine detail, a close relative of “the small print”.

Then there is the weather. If that is fine, there is no rain about. There might be the odd white fluffy cloud passing through, and it might even be a bit windy, but it’s fine. Plenty of sunshine.

If someone “picked a fine time” to do something, we mean it ironically: they did it at a very inconvenient moment.

Then there is the noun; nobody wants to have to pay a fine, because it is a penalty imposed for breaking a law or rule.

And finings are substances added to beer, wine etc. to get rid of any lingering sediment or other particles, making it perfectly clear.

If we refine something, we improve it, except in cases such as sugar, where the process of removing impurities is said  to produce something that is harmful to health. It’s similar with flour, where the refining process removes the “bits” that are good for digestion and contain nutrients.

So, have you ever wanted to be teach English as a foreign language? Just steer the students away from this kind of thing, because it is almost unexplainable to an English speaker. To a Chinese speaker or even a Spaniard, it must sound a if you’re making it up as you go along.

Even writing about it, it’s the sort of thing that makes you wish you’d never started.

And by the way, have I missed anything?