I got to have a pint in the local the other day, a rarity you understand since if staying in is the new going out, I’m never home. The pub only serves local and nearest, meaning real ale and bottled Ukrainian cider and it was quiet in the way pubs were when I was a child and only ever saw them in Newcastle. Entirely apt (and indeed probably because), the only other people in there were Bob and Terry. There’s not many like them now. Hancock was much the same at times, great sprawling scenes where two baggy men would blather on for a brown-painted ten minutes exchanging pathos and bathos all tied up with the ridiculous. Messy in appearance but written tightly and well, and very funny without anything exploding and no one’s trousers falling down. Or rarely.
Bob and Terry drink here now and quietly since they were worked with passion and the pure pen of wonder into Kim Newman and Eugene Byrnes incredible short story Teddy Bears Picnic. Part of the collection Back In The USSA and impossible to get hold of, Teddy Bears Picnic is told from the view that it was England in Vietnam, through the eyes of conscripts Bob and Terry - and when the cavalry go in in the wockas it’s to the loud and terrifying thump, thump,thump of the song that gives the piece it’s name. And Bob and Terry know I know, and Terry’s never quite been the same since Indo-China.
You can catch this sort of thing, the Likely Lads at least and other gems on what was BBC Radio7 - now 4extra. It’s Radio Four but without all the dull bits. When I was young I was fascinated by this sort of thing. I had script books for Round The Horne, the Navy Lark and Steptoe. I knew so much of it backwards, and never heard a word. And so because it was still on tele, I grew to love The Likely Lads though I could not have said where it was set, or where that was if given a blank map. And it’s here now in my local where they sit and for the moment only nod as I sit apart. And I listen loving every wonderful word, the end of that rumpled sort of comedy that remains from the austerity years it seems. People not going anywhere are forced instead to be funny and a little bit sad, but so wonderfully, so brilliantly written.
As I sit in the pub and listen to Bob and Terry reminisce and worry, and care – deeply.
So instead of listening to the same tunes or watching the same rubbish on tele, try the radio once again. Radio 4Extra. You’ll hear marvels from dusty ages long gone by. Or as we get it in Tolly Maw, live.