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 . . . 

Column: December 15, 2010

MY HAIR presentability cycle goes like this: haircut, rubbish, fine, fine, fine, fine, good, fine, fine, fine, FOR THE LOVE OF MERCY, GET A HAIRCUT.

Unfortunately, I can never quite predict when my hair will fall off the plateau of fineness, which means that there is usually a short period every six or seven weeks during which mothers pull their children away from the Big-Haired Man, because I haven’t been able to get to the barber’s in time.

The period of bouffant terror has been longer than usual this time round because I went to my usual barber’s, only to find that he had closed down. This was a small bereavement. A gentleman only changes his barber under such circumstances. Partly this is because of loyalty, partly because of fear that another barber might faff it up.

But mostly it is because he doesn’t want to experience the excruciating embarrassment delivered in the barber’s chair by those five painful words: “Oo’s been cutting your hair?”

I have no idea how barbers can tell that somebody else has cut one’s hair for a change – surely one cut strand is much the same as another – but they can. I suspect that each barber leaves their own mark in the hair, perhaps initials, or a phallic symbol. He probably does it at that point in the haircut where he “remembers” that he’s missed a bit, even though he’s used that lethal electric razor/combine harvester thing, and gives the back a bit of an unnecessary clip with the scissors.

Nevertheless, aside from the embarrassment of having one’s disloyalty found out, there is the more practical concern of knowing that one has severely cheesed off somebody who is wielding a blade about one’s head. One grumpy slip and from then on everybody calls you Van Gogh behind your back. Or by your side . . . you’d never know.

In the absence of my old barber, I had to find a new one. And so I gingerly entered a new establishment. This was a very manly shop and I am, admittedly, a man. But I am the sort of man who was not good at games. Oh, they were ALL OVER ME when it was class quiz time. But when it came to football, I was stuck in goal, precisely the worst position to put somebody who is, at best, eye-wateringly rubbish at football.

The talk in this barber’s shop was of football and boxing. This was bad. I could pick out Henry Cooper in a line-up, but that is my limit. However, there was only one barber. And that was good.

Because the worst thing about my old barber’s shop was that there was always one barber who wasn’t as good as the others, and I would pray that it was one of the better two who would finish first and usher me to the chair.

This barber would ask me what I wanted, but give me the same haircut no matter what. She would comment on the amount of grey hair I had accumulated on the back of my head, as if I wanted to know. And she would offer to shave my eyebrows, making me feel like the love child of Denis Healey and Frida Kahlo. I would stumble out of the shop feeling like the loser in a game of Tonsorial Russian Roulette.

I settled into the new barber’s chair. He asked me what I wanted, then proceeded to give it to me. He didn’t ask me who’d been cutting my hair, or about my holidays. He established in his own mind early on that he’d get little change out of a conversation with me about boxing.

For my part, I was able to discuss the relative merits of Liverpool and Everton with such fluency a casual observer would have thought that they were my own opinions, rather than pundits’ observations I’d managed to dredge up from memory.

It was, in short, the perfect haircut experience, if not the perfect haircut. As a result, he is now my barber. 

And if you see something obscene and grey on the back of my head, I don’t want to know.

Column: December 8, 2010

I WAS doing a spot of Christmas shopping, it being the season, and wandered down the boys’ toys aisle. I picked up the odd item, looking for all the world like a solicitous adult looking for a gift for a young relative, but actually thinking “Whoa! Look at that, if you press a button, wings swing out of the Batmobile. That is so cool!”

And then I saw it. The abomination. A Postman Pat figure which transformed into his own post van. Evil toymakers had turned Postman Pat, lovable, plodding, decent Postman Pat, into The Terminator. I didn’t see Jess, his black and white cat, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d turned him into some sort of robot puma with laser claws.

I am assured by those who know about such matters that this is not a reflection of the TV show, Pat still being all flesh and blood, or Plasticine, I imagine.

When I was a small boy, I liked toys which were more or less accurate replicas. That’s what toys are for.

I remember being given a Batman mask which had the Batsignal placed just above the eyes, which, as any eight-year-old boy will tell you, is NOT where it’s supposed to be, and I refused to wear it until I realised I could colour it in with black permanent marker. Which didn’t dry very quickly. Which leaked through. I was 27 before all the ink had vanished from my forehead.

Consequently, I find it difficult to understand the mindset of a toy manufacturer who thinks that a child will be happy with a cyborg Postman Pat/van hybrid which doesn’t look anything like the character he sees on the television. A child wants a Postman Pat which goes inside a van.

Nevertheless, Pat is now much more of an all-action hero these days. He flies a helicopter and delivers parcels with a sense of urgency and purpose not necessarily representative of the wider Royal Mail.

I think this is a terrible shame. I was too old to watch Postman Pat as a child and came to it only with my own children. And then I was struck by the sheer reality of the programme.

For a start, all the characters had names which sounded authentic. Lesser children’s shows would have a postmistress called Mrs Stamp and a farmer called Farmer Combine-Harvester, instead of Mrs Goggins and Alf Thompson. The adults spoke down to children, and to each other like adults, and drank endless cups of tea.

Pat’s own adventures revolved around helping to find some lost sheep after a townie had left a gate open, or delivering the mail despite roadworks in the only road into the village, things that might actually happen. It was a more accurate reflection of life in a small rural village than Emmerdale.

But the changes wrought upon Postman Pat are nothing compared with what’s happened to Noddy in recent years. The Noddy episodes from the mid-1990s by Cosgrove- Hall, the makers of DangerMouse, Chorlton And The Wheelies and, ironically, the new series of Postman Pat, are perfect little jewels, with wit running from the scripts right through to the stop-motion animation.

The Noddy episodes of today are like caffeine- free Diet Coke, utterly pointless. They are computer-generated, lowest common denominator, bowdlerised rubbish stripped of any ability to offend. And bear in mind that we are not exactly talking about Reservoir Dogs in the first place. Even the naughty goblins have been made over to look like boy-band members, a change with which I would be happy, if I thought for one moment there was any satirical intent.

Programmes of quality, like Aardman’s Shaun The Sheep, and its spin-off Timmy Time, spark just as many toy sales, but at least their hearts are in the right place.

I know they’re not for me, any more than that Batmobile was, but children deserve better than to be treated as wallet fodder. The old Pat would agree with me.

Column: December 1, 2010

THERE are many amusing examples of items designed to be unfit for purpose – a chocolate kettle, the 2010 Lib-Dem manifesto, the Irish government.

I once had a plastic canoe with an integral gas stove to keep the feet warm while one sliced through the icy waters. Unfortunately, the first time I used it, the stove melted the plastic hull below the water line and the whole thing sank.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day: you can’t have your kayak and heat it.

The most obvious unfit- for-purpose item is, of course, the big winter glove. These bulky hand-shaped garments keep the hands toasty warm right up until the point at which the hands have to operate as hands.

If one needs to unlock a door, operate a touch- screen phone, or hold anything smaller than a rat for any more than a nano-second, the gloves have to come off. It is like having a pair of trousers which only work if one is standing still, and if one tries to walk or engage in any other leg-based activity (hopping, skipping, Kung Fu, etc) the pants transform into some sort of polyester man-trap and make one fall over.

I might as well put my hands in my pockets. At least I wouldn’t lose one of my pockets on the bus.

One would think the big winter glove’s position as “Most Useless Thing In The World” would be unassailable. But one would be wrong, wouldn’t one? Because such a reckoning does not take into account the new John Lewis TV ad.

I don’t know exactly who thought the commercial was a good idea, but I can imagine the thought process behind it. And here I am, imagining it . . .


JOHN LEWIS: Tell me about Waitrose .

MALFOY: Oh, it’s a corker, my lord. We’re getting Roger McGough to do the voiceover.

JOHN LEWIS: Ah, that will annoy the people of Liverpool at least, given that we refuse to put a Waitrose in Liverpool. Good . . . but not good enough. I want an advertisement which really winds its target audience up.

LESTRANGE: We did try, my lord. We did that very scary advert where the dark-haired girl grows up into an old woman while the outside world remains exactly the same, like a backward version of The Picture Of Dorian Gray.

MALFOY: Yes, my lord. And we even used one of Billy Joel’s most sour, some would say misogynistic, songs as the soundtrack. And a rubbish version of it, too, just to underline the horror. We have no idea why it did not work.

JOHN LEWIS: We need to be more subtle. You will create a heart-warming Christmas advertisement, filled with images of loving parents sneaking presents into their home, a gentle giant wrapping a child’s teapot, a dolls house placed in the attic . . .

EXTRA: That’s a rubbish idea.

JOHN LEWIS: Avada kedavra!


MALFOY: But, my lord, I do not understand.

JOHN LEWIS: You fool. We are using tender images of homes where the children are expecting a visit from Santa . . .


JOHN LEWIS: And what will happen if a savvy child sees these images of parents hiding away Christmas presents? And puts two and two together . . .

MALFOY:We will destroy Christmas in those households! We will alienate our core customers! Gasp! It is evil genius, my Lord.

JOHN LEWIS: I know. I’m ace, me.

This is the only explanation. You’re a shop, John Lewis, not WikiLeaks.