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 is 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 https://www.justgiving.com/Geraldine-Smith3 .
If you haven’t already done so, please read the article which 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. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/heartbroken-widow-geraldine-smith-raises-3452997
Similarly, if you haven’t heard it, please listen to Geraldine’s moving radio interview which was on Radio Scotland recently.
Stewart began writing The Grambler when he was between procedures and hoping for some form of recovery. He loved all aspects of football and was a lifelong Motherwell supporter. 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…
Last week I told you of a visit to Noo Yawk. I enjoyed our four days there very much, but it was a bit hectic. After that, Mrs G and I needed time to relax. And relax we did. This week I will tell you a little bit about the second part of our once in a lifetime holiday (Never again.)
So, after New York, we began our journey home; in style. For the next eight days we would be travelling across the North Atlantic on board the Queen Mary 2; Cunard’s flagship. Cue crap joke... Two people talking - ‘I work for Cunard,’ says one. The other says, ‘I work quite hard, too.’ Boom and, as it were, tish.
Yes Mrs G and I were going to lord it up in the manner of royalty and famous people from the past. Ah yes, I was going to enjoy this part of the holiday.
First impressions were not good. Our driver took us from one extreme (wealthy Manhattan) to the other (far from wealthy dockland area). It reminded me of that Trainspotting moment where the American tourist, sporting his rich man’s jacket and carrying an expensive camera, ventured into the dingiest pub in town looking for a loo. Do you remember that moment? We never saw him again in the film, but we saw the lowlifes that frequented the pub with his coat and camera. The point I am making is that he had ventured into a part of town that no visitor should ever go to and this part of New York seemed no different. It was a really shabby, run-down looking place and I would not have dared go out alone there. How odd then that this was the part of the city where the most prestigious passenger liner in the world was about to sail from. Never mind, thought I, once we get into the ship’s departure terminal, we would be experiencing luxury unrestrained. Oh dear. How wrong can you be? We were ushered into a huge barn-like structure made of corrugated metal that reminded me so much of the immigrant arrival point at Ellis Island that we had visited a couple of days before. The only difference seemed to be that Ellis Island had a far more attractive building. Anyway, we queued. And we queued. And we queued. For what seemed like an hour, we were in a queue waiting to board the ship. I thought this mode of travel might be less stressful than travelling by air, but was beginning to have serious doubts.
Eventually, of course, we boarded the ship and all those doubts disappeared when we reached our ‘stateroom’ or cabin, if you prefer. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough, if you get my drift. I think a cat might just about avoid getting a sore head if I attempted to swing it.* Cosy, you might call it. Pokey, if you were less charitable. No matter, it would be home for the next eight days.
The first thing we did was to try and familiarise ourselves with the ship. Mrs G wanted to see the spa facilities. Incidentally, it was her last visit... ‘What? A hundred dollars to have your nails painted!’ Anyway, other passengers were doing the same familiarisation thing. Mrs G saw a woman there who she thought was a dead ringer for Celia Imrie.
‘Isn’t she a dead ringer for Celia Imrie?’ she said.
‘Who’s Celia Imrie?’ I responded.
‘You know. The one in that film. Calendar Girls. She was the one that wanted bigger buns.’
‘Oh yes. I know who you mean. Nah. Nothing like her.’
It is a game Mrs G like to play whenever we do a bit of people watching; spot the celebrity lookalike. It amuses us no end.
After checking out most of the ship, from the pointy end to the blunt end, we headed back to our cabin for a glass of bubbly that Cunard thoughtfully provides for its guests. There we perused the daily doings sheet that tells guests what activities are taking place the following day. Not much appealed to us, other than a talk on women playwrights by someone called Fidelis Morgan and... Oh, so it was Celia Imrie.
There was an odd mix of things taking place to amuse us over the next seven days or so. As well as talks, there were musical shows, dancing lessons, silly games including quizzes and bingo. It all seemed a bit like a posh version of Butlins. Mrs G only ever plays bingo when we go of holiday to Lancashire’s finest resort, Blackpool. There, she will have a couple of games on those light-up machines that cost 20 pees a game. I fancy a game of bingo, thinks she. She knew it wouldn’t be free, but expected it to be just a nominal sum. Let me tell you, there is no such thing as nominal on a Cunard ship. How much do you think she was charged for her bingo cards? $25!! That’s twenty five dollars, in case you thought you had read that wrongly. She was too embarrassed to hand the cards back after asking for them, so had to pay up. There must have been thirty or more playing that day, so I reckon Cunard had raked in at least $750. How much did they give out in prize money? $155. Hang on, that is a heck of a profit from one game of bingo. There was, though, the possibility of winning $500, if the numbers came out the right way and house was called before 44 numbers had been called. But that never seemed to happen. They did guarantee a prize of $1000 on the last day of the voyage. Woo hoo! A thousand smackers! Hang on. Let’s qualify that woo hoo, shall we? $750 taken in each day; so, over the eight days, a minimum of six grand would be raked in. Correct? With a maximum of only (8 x $155) + $925 = $1365 being paid out in prize money, I would like to know where the other $4635 goes. Not to charity, I’ll wager.
Any road up, you are probably wondering if Mrs G won. Yes she did. $75! Yay! Enough to buy at least two drinks on board.
As you know, I like to spot the oddities on my travels. Even on board the QM2 there were some oddities to amuse me. For example... Many doors to public areas on the ship have signage in Braille as well as English. This is true of toilets. Thus, we might have a sign saying gentlemen followed by the relevant number of dots to spell that out for blind people. With me so far? One I noticed made me smile. It was a sign for a ladies’ toilet and the sign was above the door. How many blind women are going to be able to reach a sign that is seven feet off the ground? I wonder about the people that plan such things, I really do.
As well as Mrs G’s bingo exploits, we had a go in the ship’s casino. Wow, you must be thinking, you must be made of money. Too right. We each put a grand total of two dollars into the one cent fruit machines. I am not sure of the correct name for these machines. I grew up calling them one-armed bandits because those purely mechanical devices of old had a large lever at the side (its arm, if you like) which you pulled down to operate them. The bandit part of the name is self explanatory. Other people call them puggies. I have no idea why. Whatever, one dollar was supposed to give you one hundred plays. One cent machine, therefore one hundred cents = one hundred plays. You would think. No. It’s a con. Yes, it’s a one cent per bet machine, but you must play a minimum of five bets per play. So, why not call it a five cent machine. Anyway, we didn’t win, but it was an enjoyable twenty minutes of daftness.
I mentioned earlier that many famous people travelled across the Atlantic in the past. Obviously, it was once the only way to make the crossing and only very wealthy folk could afford to do it. Cunard take their ‘history’ very seriously and all around the ship there are pictures of some of the film stars and royalty who used their ships in the past. Obviously, not so many can spare the time for such a relaxing method of transportation. Others, like Celia Imrie, work their passage by doing a few talks or shows and getting a free trip (and they get paid into the bargain). Apparently, previous crossings have seen Sting, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills and Nash singing for their supper. I believe the last three mentioned were on the same crossing as each other. How fortuitous was that?
Other famous types still use the ship. Apparently George Dubya has made the crossing as has John Major. Both retired, of course, so they can now spare the time.
Our famous lookalike watching threw up some interesting folk. I didn’t realise King Edward VII was still alive. Obviously, he isn’t, but his lookalike is. One of the ‘turns’ on board was an excellent guitarist called Robin Hill and he is the spitting image of Kelsey Grammer. There was a waiter who looked like Carlos the Jackal. Okay, he wore black-rimmed glasses and was a bit chubby. Another waiter looked like that grinning ‘comedian’ Michael McIntyre. Among the guests, there was Walter Smith the footbally bloke and Norris Cole from Coronation Street. Silly, I know, but as I already said, it amuses us.
I only found out about the famous people - Sting, James Taylor, George Dubya, etc. - after we got off the ship at Southampton and we were waiting in a queue for a taxi. One of the entertainment staff was next to us and I asked him if there were still famous people used the ship. ‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘On this crossing we had Walter Smith, the football manager.’
* Yes, I know that the word ‘cat’ refers to the naval discipline inflictor (I think I just made that word up.) the cat o’ nine tails, whereas I am obviously referring to a small, furry, feline-type creature. It would, of course, be cruelty to swing a live animal round simply to judge how large a room was. So to all you cat lovers out there in gramblerland, I would like to put your collective mind at rest and assure you that I would never do such a thing. Honestly. I mean, why would I ever do something so barbaric? True, they do their business in my garden. And I never notice the fact until I am digging about with my bare hand and inadvertently pick up a soft brown poo which some neighbour’s cat has buried there. Why do they bury their shit? Is it just so that I will pick it up? They are probably watching me from behind the shed and having a right old laugh at my expense. But I still wouldn’t swing one. I mean, what if the room really was too small to swing one of these furry, shitting-in-my-garden b******s? Can you imagine the mess of blood and guts on the walls. I wouldn’t want to have to clean that up, I can tell you.
Any birthdays of note to celebrate? Did any famous or notorious folk came into this world on the 11th of June? Of course they did. Ben Jonson 1572 (No, not the runner.), John Constable 1776 (Evening all.), Richard Strauss 1864 (Inventor of denims. [Shum mishtake, shurely. - Ed.]), Jacques Cousteau 1910 (Inventor of the aqualung my friend, don’t you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see, it’s only me.), Richard Todd 1919 (Lonely actor.), Beryl Gray 1927 (You dancing? You asking?), John Aspinall 1927 (Zookeeper and friend of Lord Lucan.), Gene Wilder 1933 (It’s pronounced Fronkensteen.), Jackie Stewart 1939 (Racey car bloke.), Rachel Heyhoe-Flint 1939 (Crickety bloke.), Jenny Pittman 1946 (Horse racery bloke.), Lindsey de Paul 1948 (No, honestly.), Frank Beard 1949 (The one without the beard in Zed Zed Top.), Collis King 1951 (Crickety bloke.), Hugh Laurie 1959 (Roast my raisins!) and Jean Alesi 1964 (Racey car bloke.)
Let’s move on to grambling matters. What happened last week? We won. Yay! Sort of. 45 pees up from our £2.20 stake, so some of our horses did what they were meant to.
Well, Euro 2016 has started and France managed a 2-1 win against Romania thanks to a terrific strike from Dimitri Payet. I think it likely that it will be goal of the tournament; it was that good. Any road up, all this means that we don’t need to bet on the nags this week. Yay! Let’s see if The Grambler can pick us five games for our little flutter. The only problem with any bet is that the games take place at different times so normal 3 o’clock Saturday rules don’t apply. Indeed, it is necessary to pick from all the games being played between today (Saturday 11th June) to Friday (17th June). Sorry about that, folks.
Game (Time) - Result - Odds
Albania vs Switzerland (Saturday, 2pm) - Switzerland - 10/11
Poland vs Northern Ireland (Sunday, 5pm) - Poland - 8/11
Germany vs Ukraine (Sunday, 8pm) - Germany - 3/5
Austria vs Hungary (Tuesday, 5pm) - Austria - 8/11
Portugal vs Iceland (Tuesday, 8pm) - Portugal - 3/5
The bets have been placed (10 x 20 pee doubles plus 1 x 20 pee accumulator) and if they all go according to The Grambler’s Prediction, the Bobby Moore Fund stands to receive a whopping...
Hmm. That’s not particularly whopping.
Teaser time. Yay! Last week I told you that Gareth Bale has now joined two other Welsh Players by winning his second Champions League (or European Cup) medal and asked you to name the other two boyos to have achieved this. You probably got Ryan Giggs who won it on two occasions with Manchester United (1999 and 2008). The other was not Ian Rush, who only won it once with Liverpool (1984), but Joey Jones who won twice with Liverpool (1977 and 1978).
One for this week? Let’s have a question relating to Euro 2016. Of all the players representing their countries, who has scored the most international goals (67 at the time of writing this)? One to ask down the pub.
Once again, let’s finish with a mention of the main reason for continuing to publish this blog – to raise awareness about bowel cancer. If you have any bowel problems, don’t be fobbed off with the line that you are too young for bowel cancer to be a consideration. Just point your doctor in the direction of http://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/campaigns-policy/latest-campaigns/never-too-young-campaign
And finally, Cyril? And finally Esther, I am indebted to birthday celebrant Mr G. Wilder and Mr P. Boyle for this week’s finishing clip. From the film Young Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen), here is Putting on the Ritz .
And I couldn’t finish without a picture of a Miss C. Imrie showing off her bigger buns.