Sir Geoffrey rocks

For a while I’ve found the extent to which the most unlikely figures speak out against the Iraq war inspiring, but also slightly disconcerting. I accepted Jimmy Hill, and Burt Bacharach and Joanna Lumley and Eminem. Then I saw an interview in my local paper with Leo Sayer to advertise his show at the Fairfield Halls, and in the middle of a question about his seventies perm he informed us that George Bush was a war criminal. This was now like a puzzling dream, where you wake up gibbering to your partner that you were in a canoe with Eddie Large who was yelling “I can’t sell my gooseberries because of that bloody illegal occupation.” Would we get as far as Roger Whittaker releasing an album called ‘Whistle Against the War’ with Des o’Connor in the background reading extracts from Robin Cook’s resignation speech. Even more remarkably, while I was driving to do a show at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Trade Union Festival in Dorset, I was listening to the Test Match commentary. And Jonathon Agnew was complaining that the security had been so tight it took him an hour to get into the ground. So out of nowhere came Geoffrey Boycott, who sneered “We’ve Tony Blair to thank for that.”

“I’m sorry Geoffrey,” said Agnew, with a hint of “WILL you keep quiet” but Boycott asserted “Tony Blair’s to blame for that. He was told if we went to war with Iraq it would increase the risk of terrorism but he wouldn’t take any notice.”

“Well,” said Agnew, “I think it’s the terrorists to blame really,” mumbling as if he had a dozen producers yelling into his earpiece “SHUT HIM UP – distract him by suggesting he was weak against left-arm spinners or something.”

But Boycott held firm, which was how British radio broadcast for surely the first time ever the sentence “We should never have invaded Iraq in the first place that’s pushed out gently on the off side and there’s no run.”

I’ve suggested before that the Labour Party, supposedly a party of the left, now finds itself on the defining issue of our times militantly to the right of Jimmy Hill, two ex-Presidents of America, Joanna Lumley, Zoe Ball, the ex-President of France, ninety per cent of Spain, Chris Eubank, Brigadier Hewitt, almost every living Arab, Burt Bacharach, the Liberal Democrats, Leo Sayer and the Pope. But who amongst us, even the most poisonously cynical, believed on that day when Labour were elected in 1997, that this government would end up being chastised as too right-wing, pro-war and up America’s arse on Test Match fucking Special.

Mister postman, look and see, have you a hammer in your bag for me?

Do things like this happen to other people? To me they seem normal, but I’m often told they’re not.

A few days ago I left my phone charger round someone’s house, so it was posted back to me. But the postman delivered it at a point in the morning when I was out, so when I got back it was jammed into the letter box, in a parcel. I pushed it one way, then the other, then ripped off the package so only the charger was left, utterly immovable, impervious to any shoving at all. So I tried whacking it out with my cricket bat, but the bat was too big to swing in the area behind the door. Then I remembered my daughter had been given these kiddies’ golf clubs, kiddie size but proper metal ones, as if they were designed for blasting phone chargers that were wedged in letter boxes.

So I chose my club carefully, and could almost hear a commentator mumbling “Ooooo he’s going for the putter – brave choice.” Then I stood by the front door ferociously swinging this thing, but even on the occasions I connected perfectly with the charger it didn’t budge at all (although the sports fanatic in me thought ‘Hmm, I’m pleased with the way I timed that one’).

There’s a moment in a crisis like this one where you panic, and contemplate the consequences if the problem can’t ever be solved. I could get a new charger, but what would I do with the door? How would I get any post? Was there a way this could go that would end up involving the fire brigade? Could it result in the whole street being condemned and all my neighbours being put up in temporary accommodation at a DSS hostel? So I went to the sorting office, where I know all the staff, and they all started laughing. Then someone got the manager and, being a manager, he only giggled politely. But he got a hammer and came to the house where the two of us bashed and shoved the bastard thing, occasionally getting excited because it squeaked a millimetre sideways. Passers-by were infuriatingly English, allowing themselves a puzzled glance, then marching on, perhaps assuming this was an experimental form of anger management called ‘Letter box aggression therapy’.

After about half an hour it surrendered and popped out, probably because all the bashing had increased the size of the letter box by about three square miles. You feel such a moment of triumph in that sort of situation, you want to lie on your back and yell out an exhausted groan like Nadal after the winning point against Federer. “Here you are,” said the manager nonchalantly as he handed me the liberated charger, and he gave me an “I don’t know – honestly” look, as if it was MY fault. But maybe it was. Because perhaps things like that don’t happen to anyone else. I don’t know.

Still, I bet you won’t get service like that if it’s all privatised. Or there’ll be a ‘jammed charger hammer tariff’, or you’ll have to ring a call centre that goes “If the jammed object is perpendicular to the door frame press seven.”

Then a couple of nights ago I was walking home when two local postmen ran out of the pub they were in and yelled across the street “Here Mark, got anything stuck in your letter box mate. Haaaaa haaaaa.” I almost felt like a celebrity.