Minor Vanity Project

This is a thing which exists. Try to contain your excitement.


It is a book collecting my columns from the Liverpool Daily Post, with some bonus material. The bonus being it was stuff I’d already written.

You can buy it here for £5.95 plus P&P —> http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/GaryBainbridge All proceeds go to Tesco, following a very short stay in my account. It would make an ideal Christmas gift for somebody you do not like very much, a frenemy, perhaps.

What An Ungrateful Piece Of Work Bainbridge Is

REGULAR readers of my weekly column will be well aware of my unerring ability to alienate people in pretty much any situation.

I like regular readers – they are great. I also like irregular readers – they are nearly as great, but would be greater if they were regular readers.

My favourite readers, though, are the ones who read my column online and retweet it when I publicise it on Twitter. They are the best. When I am king of the universe, they will all get galaxies of their own.

Like the well brought-up chap I am not, I try to thank everybody who RTs my column on Twitter. I used to be able to do this by looking at my bit.ly results and working my way through them. I often get around 100 RTs, for which I am very grateful. Obviously it takes a bit of time to thank 100 people, but, like I say, I am very grateful.

Now bit.ly has stopped providing this service, at around the same time as Twitter brought in its Activity and @Gary_Bainbridge tabs. I presume you don’t have an @Gary_Bainbridge tab. That is probably specific to me.

So now, unless I spend every second monitoring Twitter – and, despite all evidence to the contrary, I do not – sometimes I do not find out that somebody has pimped my column. So I don’t know to thank him or her. And if this is somebody who I normally thank, i.e. anybody at all who pimps my column, then I am worried that he or she will think that I have become all lah-de-dah and up myself.

I am not all lah-de-dah. I admit to being up myself. Nevertheless, if you did pimp me this week, and did not receive my thanks, please accept my thanks. And my assurance that I am mortified.

Bandage’s Interview With The Tube Man

Years ago, when I used to blog as Graham Bandage, I had an irregular feature: The Friday Interview. This was an interview and it was published on Fridays. This was my second favourite, about The Tube Man. I can’t remember what my favourite one was.

Roger Dulwich, you’re the last tube man in Great Britain. Why do you stick at it?

It’s the only life I’ve ever known. And, you know, it’s a craft, my father was a tube man, so was his father. And if it dies with me, then so be it.

Tell me what the tube man did.

Does, man, does! I’m not dead yet. They’ll have to crowbar my tube out of my cold dead hand.

I don’t think so. Not straight away. Rigor mortis only comes in a few hours later. You’d be floppy at first… Sorry, go on…

We all worked out of a depot. And we’d just wait for the letters to arrive. Then we’d go through the letters and decide who was going where. Then we’d put the contents in the tubes and take them out in our floats to the houses.

So what would happen when you got to the house?

Well, we’d knock on the door. And there’d be a proper old buzz. “Ooh, the tube man’s here. The tube man’s here. Quick, come and see the tube man.” So then they’d bring me into the lounge, sit on the sofa. And they’d make a fuss, bring me a cup of tea and that, and then it’d start.

You could use a lubricant, like WD40 or something.


To get the tube out of your dead hand. You wouldn’t necessarily need a crowbar.

And then it’d start. I’d slip the content out of the tube. And I’d show them.

What was the content?

Ooh, it could be anything. Nothing blue. We didn’t do blue. Old films, emo kids talking, pointless re-edits of Doctor Who title sequences. That was the beauty of it, you see. Just the tube man standing there, with a massive unrolled flicker book, simulating animation.

How long would it last?

Ooh, anything from 30 seconds to five minutes. Or until my wrist gave out.

And what happened in the end?

Well, the last frame had a big roll of paper attached. And they’d write their comments on it, like “OMFG! That was TEH L4M3ST. LOLZ” and … actually, I think that was the only thing they’d write.

Was the tube cardboard?

Yes, why?

Well, if you were cremated, we wouldn’t need to take it at all.

Now they do the whole thing on the internet. But it’s not the same.

No, because there’s sound and it’s quicker.

You-bloody-tube? No. Let ME bloody tube for you, a professional.

I am not reproducing this as a pre-emptive strike, following the production of my first filmed sketch on YouTube. Not in the slightest. 

Britain’s Got People Called Mark Thomas

Well, I’m no Andrea Mann, but I have managed to get myself involved in this…


I am under no illusions that it is because of my ability to create the logo above, but I have contributed sketch material to the pilot series of Britain’s Got People, a daily topical comedy programme available exclusively on the internet, from Monday, November 14.

It is the brainchild of Dave Cohen, who writes for everything good on the telly, and features all sorts of famous and eminent people, including Mark Thomas. That’s the left-wing comedian Mark Thomas, rather than Mark Thomas, the editor of the Liverpool Daily Post. I also went to school with somebody called Mark Thomas. Sometimes I wonder if everybody is secretly called Mark Thomas, and only a small minority is unable to keep a lid on this.

Anyway, I would be grateful if you watched it.

You may go about your usual business now.




Stop reading. There’s nothing left to read.

Column: January 5, 2011

I AM not adept at getting a big shop. Actually, I’m not bad at gathering the items. I’m quite tall, so I can retrieve blackcurrant jam from the top shelf without having to go on my tip-toes. I feel sorry for short people, actually, who have to eat strawberry or Value Mixed- Fruit Jam.

The difficulty comes when I reach the checkout. I’m fine at emptying the trolley onto the conveyor belt, and these days I know where to place the baguette so that it doesn’t get lodged against one of the spare dividers and knock the cylinder of barbecue flavour Pringles onto the floor.

It’s the other end of the process which troubles me – the filling of bags. And, even then, it’s not the filling itself, it’s the opening of the bags. For I have a Teflon thumb.

Normally it causes me no pain. I can hold a pen, make a cup of tea and perform all of my morning and late evening ablutions, but ask me to pick up a five pence piece from a tiled floor or open a fresh supermarket carrier bag and you might as well ask me to trap moonlight in a Thermos flask.

I tear the first bag from its holder and hope that it’s pulled the next one open enough for me to jam a finger in. Usually it hasn’t. Then I attempt to rub the little flappy thing to make it open. That doesn’t happen.

Then I look at the handle for the tiny millimetre-width seam and eventually prise the bag open. While this is happening the groceries are piling up, as if in a Tesco version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I feel like a contestant in The Generation Game: everybody around me is making pots with no fuss, while I’ve got clay all over my face and in my ears.

It is at this point that the assistant usually takes pity on me, and tears off eight wide-open bags with a single flick of the wrist. It is then the work of a moment to clear the backlog and look to all the world like a competent adult.

This is assuming, of course, that I am not being assisted by a charity bag packer. I would happily pay a charity bag packer not to pack my shopping. I have a system for filling bags, baked goods in one bag, fridge items in another, etc. The only system charity bag packers have is first come first served, eggs and yoghurt at the bottom, and tins on top of the soft baps.

This is what happens when children are given a job more suited to a grown-up. I have no objection to them doing jobs that adults are unable to do, for example, nipping up chimneys or repairing looms, but packing shopping bags is man’s work.

So it was with the intention of avoiding charity bag packers that I used the self-service check-out facility. And, to begin with, it all went swimmingly. The bag hung invitingly open on the rack. The items glided from trolley to carrier via the bar reader as if nature had intended it. And when the bag was full I tore it away.

But the next bag did not open. It just hung there, its white tongue lolling mockingly in my direction. I pulled it off. It was replaced on the rack by another obstinately closed bag. And as I struggled with my Teflon thumb to open the second bag, I became aware that there was a queue behind me. And I was flying without a co-pilot.

At this point, my body decided things were going far too well and directed a consignment of sweat to my index finger. I struggled some more. I even blew on the bag to try to part the tongue.

Then I heard it, an audible “tut” from the woman behind me. I had to cut the Gordian knot. I turned my back on the woman and surreptitiously pressed one knee on the pad. I have never been so glad to hear the words “Unexpected item in the bagging area.”

Within seconds, a supermarket employee was at my side. I expressed my bafflement, clearly there was nothing in the bagging area. He fiddled about with the machine as I whistled innocently.

Then, as an afterthought, he tore off half a dozen bags. If only I could use my Machiavellian powers for good.

Column: December 29, 2010

HERE is my review of the year. (NOTE TO EDITOR: written on December 12 – should be all right).

It’s hard to imagine the streets filled with snow now, but at the start of the year, Britain is absolutely battered by Arctic showers. Doubtless this year, the Government will have shipped a load of salt over in summer, and not at the last minute when snow, in a display of petulant irony, would make it impossible for the cargo to arrive.

Britain gets a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when Amy Williams takes the first prize in the bob skeleton.

Opinion is split three ways: those who said “We are all very proud of Amy,” those who said “So basically, she is the best at lying down? I am amazed Great Britain doesn’t win more lying down prizes. I could get a bronze just now and I’m resting on my elbow,” and those who said “Ha! That reminds me of that lad I went to school with, Bob Skelton.”

Chancellor Alistair Darling presents his 2010 Budget to the Commons. There is minor controversy when it is discovered the last few pages of the full budget document contain the text “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit,” over and over again. A contrite Mr Darling later says, “It just seemed pointless writing more.”

Eyjafjallajökull erupts in Iceland, sending an ash cloud into the sky, severely disrupting flights to and from Europe. BBC News, ITN and Sky News convene and decide they’ll just call it “the volcano.”

Nick Clegg wins the General Election by coming third, after Gordon Brown calls an elderly voter a bigoted woman, then goes around to her house and tries to make it better by saying he was referring to the size of her chest.

BBC bosses announce they are cancelling Last Of The Summer Wine after 38 years, then feel bad about it so tell the cast and crew they were only joking and of course they can carry on, but secretly take all the film out of the cameras.

A Sydney court rules Men at Work must give away 5% of royalties from their 1981 hit Down Under after claims they plagiarised Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. The composer of the South African national anthem crosses fingers and hopes “Underneath The Spreading Chestnut Tree” is out of copyright.

Big Brother finishes its final series. Bereft fans shift attention to miners who have become trapped underground in Chile, but lose interest when they realise there is no prospect of individual eviction.

Tony Blair releases his autobiography, A Journey. Opponents of the Iraq war march down to Waterstone’s to move the book into the crime section. They are met by pedants who say that the book should be moved to the travel section, given the title. Blair laughs all the way to the bank.

Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry agrees to buy Liverpool FC on the grounds that the team shifts to wearing red socks as a mark of respect. LFC chairman Martin Broughton tells Henry it’s a big ask, but he’ll see what he can do.

Students protest at Coalition plans to raise tuition fees at the same time as cutting courses. It all gets very heated outside the Palace of Westminster. Nick Clegg puts a brave face on in the Commons as chants of “Clegg, you fat idiot” and “This is exactly what happened with Mars bars” echo around Parliament.

(NOTE TO EDITOR: Can you put something in here? It’s too early for me to say, and I don’t want to look daft. GBx)

Column: December 22, 2010

“RUDOLPH the Red-nosed Reindeer/Had a very shiny nose . . . ”

Whenever I hear that song, I find myself feeling sorry for the other reindeer.

I am not condoning the practice of leaving out Rudolph when organising reindeer activities. Heaven knows I was picked last many times at school – and that was bad enough – but at least they let me play.

But put yourself in the place of the other reindeer for a moment. You’re playing a reindeer game. I have no idea what games reindeer play – I suspect football is a non-starter because of the antlers – but that is irrelevant.

Then along comes Rudolph with a nose so shiny one would even say it glows.

And here I think the song is probably underselling the luminosity of the nose. I think it’s quite clear the nose does glow in itself. Never let us forget, the light from this nose is powerful enough to penetrate a fog which envelops THE WHOLE WORLD. A red reflector isn’t going to cut the mustard in daylight hours, never mind at night.

So, back to our reindeer game. Along comes Rudolph with what is, quite possibly, the most powerful fog lamp in history attached to the front of his face.

How on earth are you going to play against him? You wouldn’t be able to see the ball or frisbee or whatever you are playing with. You don’t even have hands to shield your eyes from the piercing light as you are a reindeer with hooves. The game would be utterly ruined.

Or what if the reindeer game is hide and seek? How would anybody be able to hide in the Arctic forest from a reindeer with a searchlight? Conversely, how would a reindeer with a facially- mounted red light conceal himself?

If he were not the first reindeer “found”, then I would suggest that he would be being patronised.

No wonder all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. The laughter would be the nervous howl of the truly terrified. And the names they would call him would not be “Tomato Nose” or “The Scarlet Hooter,” but “Mutant Laser Freak” and “The Bogey Reindeer.”

Because the question in all of the other reindeers’ minds would be, “What is powering this glow? Is he radioactive? Can his beam give us cancer? Will he use his uncanny powers to enslave us all?”

Again, I say that none of this is Rudolph’s fault, he was simply born a mutant, like one of the X-Men, but we should not be so swift to judge his peers. If anything, Santa Claus is the villain of the piece.

We are supposed to be grateful that Father Christmas stepped in to smooth over the fractious relationship, making Rudolph take point on the night of The Gigantic Fog, but where was he for all those months when Rudolph was being shunned? It’s only when Rudolph becomes useful to him that he takes any interest.

And a more suspicious mind than mine might wonder if Santa Claus himself were the cause of Rudolph’s mutation. Perhaps there were other mutant reindeer with less useful powers, like the ability to predict the outcome of football matches that had already happened.

I might be over-thinking what is possibly intended to be a cheery Christmas song, but I doubt it.

Come to think of it, they wouldn’t be able to play with a frisbee either.

Merry Christmas.

NEXT WEEK: What would possess a man intent on proposing to his sweetheart to take her to a snow-blasted meadow in the dead of night, construct a frozen effigy of the local clergyman, and conduct a creepy conversation with it in lieu of said proposal?

And what sort of woman then would go back and sit in front of the fireplace with him, apart from a very cold one who’d just been out in a frozen field? I ask the questions . . .