Look Out, Here Comes Fenella Federal

Today: more researching Polari at the British Library (and more walking the 4 miles to get there).

Like all lexicons associated with criminality, Polari has many words for police. eg ‘Betty Bracelets’, ‘Hilda Handcuffs’, ‘Lily Law’, or ‘Lilies’ for short. Makes me idly wish that the term favoured by last month’s rioters, ‘The Feds’, is short for ‘Fenella Federal’.

Discovered that Polari pops up in a 1973 episode of Doctor Who, as spoken by Vorg, an intergalactic showman. Jon Pertwee plays the Doctor. Here’s the clip: http://dai.ly/pBH7Fc

In fact, although he says he’s using ‘carnival lingo’, which would make it the 19th century Parlyaree (one of Polari’s many ingredients) the phrases he uses are more like Polari.

‘Vada the bona palone’ (get a load of this pretty lady)

‘Nanti dinarly round here, eh Jules!’ (no money round here)

It really sounds like Jules, too, as in Julian and Sandy. I’m guessing it’s a knowing Round The Horne reference for the family crowd of 1973.

I was also intrigued to learn that the 2010 arena show, Doctor Who Live, featured the son of Vorg – Vorgenson – played by Nigel Planer, getting up to similar tricks with Matt Smith’s Doctor. The writer, Gareth Roberts, confirmed to me on Twitter that he snuck a bit of Round The Horne into Vorg’s lines as a tribute.

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Josie Crystal!

I’m determined not to let another day pass without getting something in this diary, however dull.

Today, morning: dental check-up. Went so well that the dentist said I don’t need to come back for nine months, rather than six. This is actually quite a big thing for me – I think at the age of 40 I’ve finally managed to look after my teeth.

Afternoon: researching Polari for my talk on Tuesday. It’s at the Camden School Of Enlightenment, upstairs at the Camden Head bar, in Camden High Street. That’s in Camden, strangely enough. More details at: http://www.csofe.co.uk/

Learned today: ‘On your tod’ (meaning alone) is rhyming slang. After Tod Sloan, a US jockey popular in the 1890s. Tod Sloan = alone.

Found on the web: the entire Bible translated into Polari, courtesy the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence:


Jesus Christ is ‘Josie Crystal’.

This evening: I attend Miriam Miller’s birthday do at the North Nineteen bar in Holloway. It’s in the same road as the flat where Douglas Adams wrote the novel of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (19 Kingsdown Road, according to the book I Was Douglas Adams’s Flatmate ). Miriam is a comedy fan and promoter. When I pointed out the proximity of this slice of comedy history, she and a gaggle of her comedian friends nipped out to have their photo taken outside it.

(Douglas Adams is actually getting a heritage plaque next year, courtesy of Islington Council. It’ll be at one of his other Islington addresses. I’m hoping to attend the unveiling).

Walked today from Highgate to the British Library: 4 miles, 1 hour. I’m trying to do at least an hour’s brisk walk every day now, in place of jogging or going to the gym. Not quite up to Dickens’s alleged 20-mile walks yet, but I’m working on it.


Recent activity: I spend my 40th not bothering with the stresses of organising a party, but going on an impromptu solitary day trip to Margate and Broadstairs, via the new high speed domestic trains. What better way to celebrate the continuing existence of one’s eyes and legs than to give them new sights to see, new paths to walk?

The sleek nose of Southeastern’s HS train looks too priapic to refuse, frankly, the big trainy Casanova  (Microsoft Word’s spellcheck isn’t accepting ‘priapic’. What can that mean about Mr Gates?). Top speed of 140mph, 82 minutes journey time to Broadstairs, and 88 to Margate. Canterbury is now a mere 56 minutes away: Chaucer’s pilgrims would have to condense their Tales into Tweets (I bet someone has done this).

The town of Margate is, like a 40-year-old person, getting on a bit. One of England’s first seaside resorts from the 1700s, its decades-old amusement park ‘Dreamland’ is now listed and in the throes of restoration, currently hidden behind hoardings and scaffolding: see www.dreamlandmargate.com). But also like a 40-year-old, it knows the story is not at an end, and it’d be a shame to just lapse into decay, moaning how things aren’t what they were. The past can be a burden (my ever decreasing energy, my lower tolerance for youthful things like noise and Mucking About, my ‘life experience’ proving difficult to use when chasing conventional employment), but it can also be a tool for building the future, if done carefully and properly. Just a question of knowing what to do.

One man’s regeneration is another’s despoiling. (“Aw, I preferred it when it was falling apart”). The council rubbish bins are in brightly coloured plastic (red, blue, purple), emblazoned with the phrase ‘margate – the original seaside’ in self-conscious lower case and Helvetica font. One idea of what Taste means. I visit the brand new Turner Contemporary gallery: huge blocks of geometric White Cubes with slanted roofs joined together, a similar feel to the Tate St Ives. Staff in the gallery cafe wear black shirts and trousers: another indication of what Taste means.

I wistfully remember Break In The Sun, a 1981 children’s BBC TV drama based on a novel by Bernard Ashley, in which a young girl runs away from her awful stepfather in London to be with her mother in Margate.

Other Margate sights seen: the incredible Shell Grotto of underground tunnels covered in millions of seashells (discovered in the 1800s and still officially Unexplained), the Old Town shops around the old marketplace (very Brighton), and the town museum based in the old police station and court room (where 60s Mods and Rockers were jailed and called ‘seaside Caesars’ by the judge).

One unexpected memory of the trip: in the Margate museum, in a room of old Punch & Judy booths, a blind woman sits playing Una Paloma Blanca on the accordion.

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Sequined Vodka Tales

A Fosca London gig announcement. Oh yes!

It’s the much-threatened Fosca Farewell show. Saturday December 13th at Feeling Gloomy, Bar Academy, Islington. Stage times to come.

The line-up will a five-piece, three-guitar and two synths (plus laptop) assault: Rachel S, Kate D, Tom E, Charley S and myself.


Two DJ gigs of mine, at somewhat shorter notice.

I’m DJ-ing on Sat Sept 20th, at a plush dress-up event called The Magic Theatre. This takes place in an Art Deco ballroom in Bloomsbury. Here’s what their website says about the dress code:

“Ladies: The perfect place for all you Cinderellas and Style Queens, Pink Princesses and Leggy Latex Babes… Audrey Hepburns and Barbarellas, TV’s, Saucy Secretaries and Rock Chicks…Whether you’re a Goth Girl, Dowager, French Maid or Precocious Teen Queen, Marie Antoinette, or Marilyn Monroe, the Magic Theatre is YOUR stage. Gentlemen: Retro Glamour, Uniforms, Lounge Lizards, Gentlemen of the Cloth, Fauns, B-Movie Stars, Prince Charmings, Pirates and Dandies of all kinds…Arise, Sir Galahad, kneel before Zod, come out, come out you Peter Pans, Dick Turpins and Darcys…”

I’ll be doing two DJ sets between 8.30pm and 11.30pm. Ticket details at www.magic-theatre.co.uk.


I’m also putting in a brief DJ appearance at The Beautiful & Damned on Thursday 18th, at The Boogaloo (near Highgate Tube). Martin White & The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra will also be playing. The B&D isn’t ‘my’ club any more, as I’m forever correcting people, but it’s still going strong under the auspices of Miss Red and The Boogaloo team. They’ve reinvented it into a kind of cabaret / club night / music hall booth affair. It’s great to see unwitting Highgate pub goers wander in off the street, and wonder just what weird, time-hopping universe they’ve stepped into. Part Red Room in ‘Twin Peaks’, part Sapphire & Steel…

Back to the diary.

Wednesday evening: to Trash Palace in Wardour Street, for a club night called ‘Polari’. It includes Jamie McLeod’s exhibition of modern dandies, which in turn includes me. Always nice to swan into a club to see a large framed photograph of oneself on the wall. The club also supplies free quiche.

On this occasion, special guest Sebastian Horsley takes the mic, and prowls and provokes and reads from his book, to a packed and appreciative crowd. Including his mother. He’s in his red sequined suit and brandishes a matching sequined bottle of vodka. Well, a sequined bottle cosy.

I say hello to David Benson, Anne Pigalle, Jason Atomic and Ms Ruta, and meet Clayton Littlewood, author of the ‘Soho Stories’ column in the London Paper. The window by his writing desk (or rather,  laptop perch) looked out from the clothes shop he worked at, Dirty White Boy in Old Compton Street. A particularly good spot in London to watch people and gather (or imagine) stories: Soho media types, the famous, the homeless, the vicious queens, the prostitutes, the tourists, the tramps, the old survivors, the new blood. He’s put together a book version: ‘Dirty White Boy: Tales Of Soho’, which I’m rather looking foward to.

More details at his MySpace page, with excerpts, readings and so on: www.myspace.com/dwbsoho

After Polari, Mr Benson takes myself, Mr H, Mr L and his friend Ms Lois for dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street. Sebastian invites me to an orgy on Friday. I politely decline. I’ll be busy playing indiepop songs in Madrid. Many of which are about, well, not going to orgies.

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