Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 19th December 2017

CHALK it up, another victory for the sickly puritans of the snowflake generation.

An advert for a DVD of a 70s performance by North East comedy legend Bobby Thompson has been banned from TV because it shows cigarette smoke in the air. Thompson, who died in 1988 aged 76, had his trademark cigarette smoke digitally removed from the ad, but regulators still banned it.

Clearcast, which must pass television adverts, said it showed “excessive cigarette smoke”, thus breaking a rule banning ads from promoting smoking or tobacco products.

So what next? Regulators impound Inspector Maigret’s pipe. All past episodes of The Sweeney, in which detectives Jack Regan and his sidekick George Carter invariably seemed to be lighting up, sent to the official crusher. Any film made before the millennium probably showed its leading actors smoking so room there for a total ban on all those old black and white classics.

Of course, as the DVD’s producer, Ray Laidlaw, said, common sense needs to be applied here. Common sense? What’s that? Markedly lacking nowadays.

Bobby Thompson, who was known as the “Little Waster”, is an acquired taste. He made a comedy career of debt 20 years before we’d even heard of the credit crunch and goodness only knows what he’d have made of austerity and food banks.

Unless you can understand the accent, straight from a Durham pit village, you will probably have no idea what he is on about, but Thompson was a master of the mother-in-law joke, which later became a standby for comics like Les Dawson, and he told stories of an older generation locked in marital war.

There was a footballer called Frank Worthington who wrote in his autobiography about how he squandered all his money on booze, drugs and loose women. “At least I didn’t waste it,” he famously stated.

The “Little Waster” might have been the template for that lifestyle. Bobby gave up the booze for health reasons, but continued with the fags which were his famous stage prop, was an incorrigible ladies’ man and blew thousands gambling. He died bankrupt owing the tax man £137,000. So he didn’t waste it either!

The tatty striped jumper, flat cap and Woodbine stub and the stories about financial hardship were very regional in their audience appeal. He once went on Wogan. It didn’t work for Terry or Bobby, yet in his native North East he was revered.

He wasn’t promoting the idea that his lifestyle should be copied, quite the opposite. His act was a slice of social history drawn from the 1950s. To have him airbrushed is another example of how modern day super sensitive souls would rewrite history to make it politically correct. It shows not just a lack of common sense, but a failure to understand what comics like the “Little Waster” have to teach us about life in the raw. These snowflakes insult us with their censorship and their hypocritical assumptions that the public is so easily corruptible.

MONEY BACK, PLEASE

AS presumably we all pay our taxes, and a share of those taxes will go into the pot to fund High Speed Two (HS2), and we now learn the trains will be flying through Cumbria without stopping, I’ve had a thought. Can we have some of our money back, please?

I realise people in Northern Powerhouses shouldn’t throw stones, but with HS2 and now transport minister Chris Grayling’s talk of reopening branch lines, well it’s all bluff and bluster, isn’t it?

Travel expert Simon Calder reckons that as the Government wobbles and the Brexit brake slows the economy, grand projects are off the agenda for a decade or two. However, some microsurgery could help reconnect a few resorts left out in the cold by Dr. Beeching. “How We Plan to Wreck the UK Tourist Industry for Future Generations”, as Calder thinks the Beeching report should have been subtitled.

As for HS2, the costs are escalating like crazy. Cynics already forecast it will not get beyond Birmingham and that northern cities will get little more than an upgrade of what there is now. Grayling’s masterplan for smaller lines? Probably most of them around London. If it’s such an innovative idea, then why have these branch lines, many of which have sound business cases, not been done before?

Cumbria’s Chamber of Commerce is demanding a rethink of plans for HS2 after it emerged trains will fly through the county without stopping between Preston and Glasgow and Edinburgh. But of course it’s all about getting people into London quicker, not getting them into the Lake District.

Forward thinking politicians? You must be joking. I sense another fobbing off exercise. Still, we northerners can lie back and dream of our powerhouses in the sky.

IS SPORTS PROGRAM OLD HAT?

IT might be sporting heresy, but the thought struck me this week — has the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year program had its day?

It used to be de rigeur viewing for the whole family in its heyday. But now many of the top sports stars nominated for the award can’t even be bothered to turn up for the show which once had more than seven million viewers.

Four-time Le Tour winning-cyclist Chris Froome, who is surely our top sportsman if not the most charismatic, is away on a training camp in Mallorca, while it seems Lewis Hamilton is winding down somewhere exotic in the sun after his world championship season, and Mo Farah has indicated he won’t be present due to family reasons linked to his move back to the UK from the United States.

With many of the leading candidates giving the show a miss, there’s not the same interest for those of us viewing at home. In fact, I’ve lost a lot of interest in Sports Personality. I can’t be bothered to watch the whole sugar sickly tribute program and merely dip in and out.

The program was devised for the BBC by Paul Fox in 1954, a relatively low key 45-minute show. Viewers — most of us didn’t even have a telly in those days — were invited to study the rules in the Radio Times and send in a postcard with the name of their chosen winner. The award was restricted to athletes who had featured in the Beeb’s Sportsview program, and the initial winner was Christopher Chataway, who just pipped fellow runner Roger Bannister.

They were amateur sportsmen. Today’s sport is all about big money. Does being sports personality of the year mean as much to nominees now as it used to? I doubt it. If they can’t be bothered to appear in person on the show, why should we be bothered to watch?

JEREMY’S JACKET

I REMEMBER visiting a posh gents’ clothing shop in search of a smart new jacket and trousers. It was like that Fast Show “suit you, sir” sketch. The man with the tape measure round his neck surveyed me up and down and remarked dismissively — “I’m afraid we don’t do sir’s trousers.” Well, it’s not my fault if my waist is broad and my legs are short.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was also brought down a peg or two when he thought it was a smart move to get suited for a cover boy appearance on GQ magazine. After surveying Jeremy’s M&S jacket and red tie, supermodel David Gandy, a regular GQ cover star, suggested anyone serious about being Prime Minister should give fashion shoots a miss.

“Corbyn is trying to appeal to the younger people to get their vote,” suggested Gandy, who last year earned £4 million from modelling underwear. No Jeremy, please, no. A jacket and tie are more than enough.

I’m just surprised Corbyn found a jacket that fits at M&S. When I try they either won’t fasten at the front, or the arms are a foot too long. And I can never get pants that quite fit. Maybe Marks don’t do sir’s trousers either.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

APROPOS my recent note on the subject of power points for electric cars, I wondered exactly where owners in this neck of the woods might be able to locate a plug-in site.

You can rely on Herald readers to know the answer. In this case it’s the car park in Kirkby Stephen. Kirkby Stephen is the only one to come to light so far. “Unless,” as Esther Rantzen used to say on That’s Life, “you know different”.