Friday 13 June 2014

Week 41 - Grambling in a caramel shop

The Grambler is the brainchild of Stewart David Smith, who lost his wonderful life to Colorectal, or Bowel, cancer aged just 28.  He fought a horrendous battle for 2 years and 1 month, defeating septicemia, multi-organ failure, antibiotic-induced hearing loss, kidney failure and countless other complications with a bravery none of us will ever see again. 


Stewart was an amazing person -  A wonderful husband, a fantastic brother, a loving son and an adored uncle.  He was also a brilliant friend and colleague and will be missed by so many people. His family are determined that his death will never be in vain and are doing their part to beat bowel cancer for good.  We are fundraising for the Bobby Moore Fund which is part of Cancer Research UK and specialises in research into bowel cancer.  If you wish to donate to the fund, you can via .


If you haven’t already done so, please read the article which recently appeared in the Daily Record and learn from Stewart’s story that you must never be complacent.  It makes grim reading for us, his family, even though we were beside him throughout his ordeal, or battle; call it what you will.


His wish was that The Grambler should continue after his death and I have been happy to oblige.  Welcome to The Grambler, the most ill-informed blog you are ever likely to see. Read on and enjoy…


Well, it’s started.  The World Cup 2014 started on Thursday, but before we get onto footie matters…


I have just seen what could be a contender for the worst TV advert ever.  It advertises Bertha’s originals.  Now, we are all aware that Berthas have some of the worst adverts on television.  Who can forget the classic of a sinister-looking old man beckoning a young boy while tempting him with a toffee.  The ad claimed it was the creepy man’s grandchild, but I’m not so sure.  If I’d have been that kid I’d have been on the phone to Childline pronto.

This new ad though.  Oh dear.  It begins with a small girl staring longingly at a pile of sweets wrapped in the telltale gold cellophane.  Then a voiceover (meant to be the child as an adult) coos, ‘I remember the first time I was taken to a caramel shop…’  STOP RIGHT THERE! What the fu…What is a caramel shop?  Are we talking a shop that sells only caramel?

What kind of a business plan is that?  It would be like a butcher selling only beef, or a shoe shop selling only plimsolls, or a greengrocer selling only apples.  Hang on.  That might actually exist.  I have definitely seen a shop called ‘Apple’.  Anyway, a shop that sells just caramel?  Nonsense.  Or is it?


‘Good morning sir.  Can I help you?’

‘I’d like to buy some caramels.’

‘Then you’ve come to the right place.  As you can see, we sell only caramel.  Nothing else.’

‘That’s a bit specific, isn’t it?’

‘Why?  Shops sell chocolate don’t they?  They employ a chocolatier.  Well, I am a caramelier.’

‘What kind of caramel do you sell?’

‘All kinds, sir.  Brittle.  Crunchy. Chewy.  Runny.  From chewy to gooey, you might say.’

‘And you’re wearing a caramelier uniform are you?  A white tunic buttoned up to the neck.’

‘Indeed, sir.’

‘Why have you got a little mirror on a stick in your top pocket?’

‘Have I?’

‘Is that your name above the door?’

‘Yes it is sir.’

‘Why does it have the letters BDS after it?’


‘You’re a dentist, aren’t you?’

‘It’s a fair cop.  You’ve got me bang to rights.’


Okay let’s move on shall we?  Any birthdays this week?  Yes, indeedy.  Barry Manilow – the man with a face like a siege gun - was born on the 17th of June in 1943 making him 71.  Here are some pictures of the man.



The one on the right is the more recent.  Nuff said.  Mr Manilow, perhaps you should read it shows a few more ageing celebrities who have given vast sums of money to dodgy cosmetic surgeons.


No matter.  Anything in his repetoire to gramblerise?


I gramble songs that make the whole world sing.
I gramble songs of love and special thing s.
I gramble songs that make the young girls cry.
I gramble songs, I gramble songs.


Not the best gramblerisation, I’ll admit.  But the alternative was I can’t gramble without you.


Right before we get on with our World Cup grambling, do you want to know what happened last week?  You do?  We won.  Yay!  Well, we nearly won.  Ahh!  We bet 2 quids and 20 pees.  How much did we get back?  2 quids and 11 pees.  Ah well.  Onwards and upwards. 


So what do we do this week?  Do we say goodbye to Neddy, Trigger and co. and concentrate on the footie?  Difficult decision time.  For 34 weeks we grambled on the football and overall how much did we win?  We didn’t.  We actually lost £17.96.  So?  In the 4 weeks we have grambled on the gee gees we have won…have a guess.  Couple of quid?  Fiver?  Tenner?  Would you believe £22.82?  Surely we have to continue mining this rich seam.  The Bobby Moore Fund deserves it.  What about hedging our grambles a little?  A footie gramble and a gee gee gramble.  Okay?  Yeah, okay.


Right.  Finally.  The World Cup 2014.  Whahey!  It’s here at last.  Who will win it?  Defending champions Spain seem a sound choice to me.  They haven’t lost a knockout match in a major championship since 2006.  Surely they must be favourites.  Surely.  Nope.  Not even second favourites.


I can understand Brazil being favourites though.  If a lucky English side can win the cup on home turf [Did they? When did that happen? – Ed.], surely an incredibly talented team like Brazil can do the same.


Second favourites are Argentina.  Yes, another incredibly talented lineup but, better than Spain?


If Spain could win this World Cup, it would be a tremendous achievement for this team which has been at the very top for so long.  And there’s the problem.  They have been around a long time, but they are not the oldest squad in the tournament.  That accolade falls to Argentina with an average age of 28.5.  But the only figures available are of squads.  Most of Spain’s 2010 side are still in the squad.  Spain might choose experience over youth in which case I would wager the average age of the team might be over 28.5.  Could they still hack it?  Spain certainly has the most experienced squad as far as international duty goes. They can boast 1,375 caps in the squad.  That is 243 more than the next highest, Uruguay.  Indeed, there are five, yes five, players with over 100 caps in the Spanish squad.


I am arguing with myself here.  I would love to see Spain win it again.  And they could do it.  They have the talent, certainly.  They have the desire to win.  Do they have the stamina to win?


They are 13/2 to win the cup again.  Surely, it’s worth a couple of quid.


I think it is time to ask The Grambler to make a selection.  Now, you may well moan at me and say that I am not letting The Grambler have his/her/its full rein, but (for the World Cup only) I am imposing some rules which should simplify things a bit.  Before I explain those rules I want to give you some background information.  Checking the final weeks of the football season it was clear that the bookmakers very rarely get things wrong and over 50 per cent of games went the way of the favourite.  So, in a similar vein to the method used to select the gee gees, we will be selecting only favourites.  Cop out, do I hear?  Yes and no.  I am using the World Cup as an experiment to test whether we would win more by simply going with the bookie [Surely, you mean lose less. – Ed.].  If it succeeds, then The Grambler may have less say in the future.  If it fails, we return to the status quo.  Whatever you want.  Do you see what I did there?  For the World Cup games, The Grambler will make five random selections from the whole week from Saturday to Friday, which means that we have totally ignored the first two days of the tournament.  Sorry Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon, Spain, Holland, Chile and Australia but we are not even considering your first matches.  The bet will be the usual 20 pee accumulator plus 10 x 20 pee doubles.  Clear?  As mud.

So what five games has The Grambler selected for us?


Date – Time – Game – Result – Odds

14/6  20.00         Uruguay - Costa Rica          Uruguay    9/20

15/6  20.00         France - Honduras              France      1/3

15/6  23.00         Argentina - Bosnia               Argentina 4/9

17/6  17.00         Belgium – Algeria                Belgium    1/2

18/6  20.00         Spain – Chile                         Spain         4/5


Of course, going with favourites creates its own problems.  The biggest problem is the amount we could win for the Bobby Moore Fund.  Not much, basically.  How much/little?


Rubbish, isn’t it?  All the more reason to continue with the gee gee bet.


Before that, we say farewell to another famous comedian who died before his time. Rik Mayall, who died this week, was only 56. We have seen all the eulogies about how he was the inventor of 'alternative' comedy.  Nonsense, of course.  First of all, I would argue that there is no such thing as alternative comedy; it's either funny or it’s not. If it isn't funny it isn't comedy. Simple as that.

Every generation seems to throw up a comedy original that influences a legion of imitators. In the 1950s it was Spike Milligan and The Goon show. It was off the wall and totally surreal; something never before heard on the radio. Listening to it 60 years on, it seems childish and some of the gags are pretty lame. Example – ‘If you’re a spy, why are you dressed as a shepherd?’ ‘I’m a shepherd spy!’  Ouch!  However, it was a programme of its time. It was the show that was the talk of the school playground, where future comedians would imitate and repeat every voice and gag of the previous night's programme.  

Fast forward to the late 60s and the programme imitated by every schoolboy was Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Again looked at 40 plus years later it doesn't seem so brilliant. Yes, there are the classic sketches that we all remember, but there is a lot of dross in there that most of us conveniently forget. You could liken a Monty Python show to a typical music album; some great tracks plus a few fillers.
Sticking with the music analogy, the late 1970s brought us punk music which aimed to steamroller the pompous progressive rock that had been king up to that point. Comedy got the same punkification, if you like, when young comics of the day - Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Ben Elton et al - came along to give the stand-up comedians a kick up the backside.

The first time I saw Rik Mayall was on a BBC Scotland programme called A Kick Up The 80s.  He played a rather pathetic character called Kevin Turvey and simply did a five minute spot to camera.  I thought he was great and followed his career from that point onwards.  With partner Ade Edmondson he appeared on Channel 4’s Saturday Night Live as ‘the Dangerous Brothers’.  It was basically the violent slapstick humour which would be revived in Bottom ten or so years later.  And it was long before Reeves and Mortimer became famous for the same kind of act.

Channel 4 gave us the strand called The Comic Strip Presents which were occasional programmes featuring Rik and Ade, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Richardson, Robbie Coltrane, Alexei Sayle… a veritable who’s who of late 20th century British comedy talent.  It even featured Kate Bush!  I watched them all.  It was a strand that gave us the mockumentary about the heavy-rock band called Bad News – a full year ahead of a film which, to me, seemed to be a complete rip-off and yet it, rather than the original, has acquired the status of a cult classic – a mockumentary about a heavy-rock band called Spinal Tap.

In 1982 Rik and Ben Elton came up with an idea for a sitcom about students which would take the piss out of all sitcoms there had ever been.  BBC Scotland made The Young Ones the 80s’ equivalent of The Goon Show or Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  It was utterly anarchic and ‘tore up the rule book’, I think is the cliché used to describe its approach.  It was full of utterly off the wall visual gags that were more like Tom and Jerry than sitcoms of the time.  It was a resounding success.  It was the show that was repeated next day in the playground.  Nigel Planer (as Neil) had a number 1 hit with a version of Traffic’s Hole in My Shoe.  Comic Relief benefited when the chosen song for 1986, of Cliff Richard and The Young Ones cast performing Living Doll, went straight to number one.

Yes The Young Ones, despite its anarchic madness, proved to be Rik’s biggest success to date.  It has been called ‘genius’, ‘brilliant’, ‘groundbreaking’…and other such superlatives.  My own word to describe it?  Rubbish.  Seriously.  I hated it.  Yes, there were some good gags but, overall, I found the whole a bit tiresome.  There was a lot of shouting, a lot of things being wrecked and a lot of injuries being inflicted in the name of comedy.  To me, it just wasn’t well-written or well-performed.  It all seemed a bit manic and self-indulgent. 

And I still haven’t worked why there was a boring guy called Mike living with three nutters.  Or was that the one subtle gag in among all the violence and slapstick?

Luckily, Rik redeemed himself in my estimation with The New Statesman.  Though, the less said about Bottom, the better.

What will he be best remembered for?  A three-minute cameo in Blackadder II.  He played the character of Lord Flashheart (meant to be Blackadder’s best man) in typical over the top fashion.  Forget the swaggering performance.  Next time you see it check out the look on Rowan Atkinson.  Sheer admiration was written all over his face.  I don’t think he was in character at that point.  I reckon it was a look of awe at being party to a brilliant performance from an absolute comic master.

There.  I bet you didn’t expect there to be a tribute to Rik Mayall in amongst all the usual drivel in this blog.


Before we get on with this week’s grambling on the horses [Sounds a bit suspect. – Ed.] I walked past a bookies yesterday (Thursday) and spotted a bet in the window that they were pushing.  It went thus: ‘Brazil to win 3-1, Neymar to score first’.  They were offering odds of 21/1.  Not a bad wee punt.  Did you watch the game?  Brazil to win – check, score 3-1 – check, Neymar to score first – almost check.  BUGGER!  The bet was almost a winner; unfortunately Junior Marcelo netted first.  And it was for the opposition.  Tit!


So, shall we move on to the gee gees.  Last week we were aiming to make The Grambler’s success rate three out of four.  It didn’t happen, but we didn’t really lose.  This week – Can The Grambler make it Three out of five?  I don’t know, but let’s look at the donkeys he/she/it has chosen.

Meeting – Time – Horse – Odds

York                    2.00            Pres Rapide                           5/6

Sandown            3.15            Token of Love                      4/5

Musselburgh      4.30            Classy Anne                          4/5

Chepstow           5.30            Smaih                                     2/5

Aintree                5.50            Master of Deception            11/8

There you have it.  Five meetings; five races.  How much will be winging its way to the Bobby Moore Fund if they all come up?


Not that much, is it?

What about last week’s teaser, I hear you ask.  Yes, last week I asked who had scored the most goals ever in World Cup finals tournaments.  I told you it wasn’t Pele; he scored 12.  Ronaldo (the Brazilian one with the teeth) also scored 12.  It wasn’t Frenchman Just Fontaine who went un better and scored treize.  However, the scorer of the most goals in World Cup finals history is German Gerd Muller who went eins better still and scored vierzehn; the goals coming in two tournaments – 1970 and 1974.  Presumably, this was before he started making yogurt.

That was easy.  Obviously, a quick google (they can’t touch you for it) would have given you the answer.  Try this one without resorting to your ‘search engine of choice’ – That’s what they say on the Beeb Beeb Ceeb, where they’re not allowed to advertise, but we all know they’re dying to say ‘Google’.  Any road up, this week’s teaser – Who was the first player to score in every round of a World Cup finals tournament?


Stewart began a blog for the Euro 2012 tournie which played about with the names of footballers taking part and had a silly piece of Photoshopped (Can’t say that on the Beeb either) artwork attached.  Daft I know, but it helped keep him sane during the strength rebuilding days after three months in hospital, two of which saw him hooked up to life support.  Anyway, as some of those players are in the World Cup squads, I think it only fair to give Stewart’s gags an airing.  Here is a couple for this week.



The Smiths have finally agreed to a multi-million pound offer to reform and tour, but not all of the members were keen to accept.  Thus, they have nae Marr.


What do you call an Italian who is frequently overcast by cloud and constantly demanding contributions of various cheeses?

Cloudy-o More Cheese-io!

Thank you Stewart for reminding us why you never went in for stand-up comedy.

And finally, a quote from Rik Mayall (as Kevin Turvey)

“Do you know what makes me really sick?  Sticking two fingers down me throat!”

Happy grambling.



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