Thursday, September 13, 2018

Skripal Assassins and Street View Blocking

[Image from Daily Mail.]

Could a blocked 2016 Google Street View of the Skripal home lead to doorstep assassins? TheBigRetort

A click on Google Street View records a picture of the Sergei Skripal home captured in April 2009. 

But when you use the Google viewer and turn around to leave the house - and proceed down the street - the image capture flashes forward... to 2016.

The property can only be viewed in the 2016 capture at a distance... before jumping back to 2009 as the viewer approaches the house, and a closer view of the property.

Attempts to reverse the process and turn back towards the house jump from 2016 back... to 2009. So it isn't actually possible to get that close to the property at the time Skripal was living there.

But why did Street View not film that portion of the street in 2016 – whilst filming the rest? Instead, the driver seems to have done a quick U-turn.

Apparently some sensitive areas are removed from Street View by the authorities. And Street View does knit together various footage over the years. But are we expected to believe that the Skripal section of road has not been filmed again... in nine years?

Or... is the 2016 close-up of the house being blocked?

Does something in the capture contain evidence that may record the assassins in action - at the door?

Only time - and further nearby CCTV footage perhaps? - may tell.


See to view the 2009 image. Before Skripal lived at the property. And which jumps forward to 2016... But only when you are a distance away from it. And after Skripal moved into the house.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Lewisham Homes: a jackboot too far

Lewisham Homes was just three years into its tenure when, in September 2010, the arms length management organisation (ALMO) posted a letter which read: 'Dear Homeowner. Lewisham Council and Lewisham Homes do not inspect the inside of your property or make any necessary safety adaptations to your property". (Emphasis added.) So why has the council's rabid housing enforcer placed its bullyboy jackboots across leaseholder thresholds? TheBigRetort

Lewisham Homes has called for an avalanche of (so-called) improvements to its housing stock. Recently the amateur managing agent has gone  way "bespoke". Under the watchful eye of Mrs Hilary Barber (above) its Director of Corporate Services. This "necessary" (is it really?) fire-safety equipment has been placed into 1400 street properties along with a raft of additional unnecessary improvements... earning Mrs Barber the honorific Baroness Barber of Breachlease. 

Barber is threatening court action if any recalcitrant leaseholder doesn't bow to many of her outrageous demands. Automatic Fire Detection is one. 

"AFD" is being pressed on Lewisham's beleaguered property owners; who have the misfortune to have the not-for-profit ALMO as their management agent.  This consists of a fire control panel positioned on the walls of communal hallways. It also calls for flat entrance doors to be changed as well. 

Lewisham Homes spent millions of pounds changing its own tenants' doors. It was actually all unnecessary - as a later post will show - and a huge waste of public funds. 

However, unknown to me, it had entered my tenanted property, screwed a heat detector to the hallway ceiling, and interlinked it with its own tenant's system. Supposedly monitored back in Catford Central, it was only when a false alarm was triggered that I discovered the trespass and the little interloper itself.  (Pictured below. Just to the left of the light shade.)

[ Apparently if you put your ear to it you can almost hear someone at the other end saying "Start the tape." Very Orwellian indeed. ] 

When challenged Mrs Barber imperiously responded: “All flats within the house require a heater/sounder device to be installed in order for the whole fire alarm system to function normally to satisfy the fire safety legislative requirements.”

This is not actually true. But, then, Lewisham Homes staff regularly reach for a lie when the truth won't best serve its actions or expenditure. 

The heat detector is different to a smoke alarm as it activates on temperature rise and will not sound from household smells such as if you burn your toast!” LH claimed. 

Which is laughable. How many residents cook in hallways? 

Why this heat device is placed where it is really a bit of a mystery. (Perhaps they'll place it in the bedrooms next...?) 

So, by locking me out of the communal entrance for three months, following many months of threats and cajoling, by placing a monitor in my ceiling - without my permission - the council's Rachman enforcer has created an easement into the flat. Left unchallenged it allows a right of entry for maintenance as and when.  (Does it simply kick the door in next if one is away on holiday?) 

Unfortunately Lewisham Homes Board, which consists of councillors and lay persons appears blind to this.  And a brief chat with many law firms suggests they are unwilling to represent on the issue. (Probably due to Lewisham Council hiring as many law firms as it can within the Metropolis. Smart move.)

In the case of my flat the operative had simply tricked the tenant into believing I had given permission for the placement of the device. And it was all based on yet another Lewisham Homes porky. One of many the managing agent regularly utters to leaseholders.

"Pathological lying is habitual to Lewisham Homes and its staff," one frightened leaseholder informed. 

Lewisham Homes staff  should of course lean towards presenting the ALMO in a favourable light. But when forensically examined, or experienced personally by a leaseholder, the truth is often quite galling - and so too its constant drip feed of misleading and/or erroneous information. Never more so than with its presentation of service charge bills that constantly contain errors that favour LH financially and  not the leaseholder.

But who amongst the 5000 leaseholders will step forward to throw off this yolk of oppression?

A little David against the huge bosom of Baroness Barber's Goliath, TheBigRetort tentatively approached Catford Town Hall... and slowly withdrew the sword from its rotten bricks and mortar. 

What followed was the formation of  a group of leaseholders across the borough known as "The Alliance"(Lewisham Council Leaseholder Alliance, to give it its full title.) 

It fell to these knights of the round table - at a coffee bar in Lewisham - to commence plotting a coup d'√©tat against what they see as the mighty oppressor... Lewisham Homes. 

But first... back in the days of yore.

Back in the days of yore, before it got too big for its jackboots, things were very different betwixt the peasant leaseholders and the sheriff's men at Lewisham Homes. 

Then, in 2010AD, CEO Andrew Potter, who has since resigned to greener pastures, gently reminded leaseholders and private landlords of their duty: “This includes you, as the landlord installing smoke detectors. It is also your responsibility to test them – you cannot pass this responsibility onto your tenants.”

Potty Potter as he later became known to TheBigRetort offered a polite reminder of the need to... 'minimise risks and keep your blocks safe.' 

Contrast that with present landlord-leaseholder relations championed by Big-stick Barber de Breachlease.  Whilst LH had claimed in 2010 it did 'not inspect the inside of your property - or make any necessary safety adaptations to it' - now things are different. The agent is using subterfuge to bring about change, and at cost.  

Actually, when I discovered that the proposed fire-safety system was “bespoke” to LH, I came out in what I  my doctor later diagnosed as "Sham Flu".  Lewisham Homes Flu produces a myriad of symptoms. Cold sweat. Raised blood pressure. Reduced bank balance. Whenever Sham Homes wrote - usually at the wrong address - I knew it meant trouble. Its mostly unqualified workforce is known to turn up without warning -  or not at all when it does finally make an appointment. But a heat alarm? Inside your flat? Controlled by Lewisham Homes..? No thanks.

When LH does actually manage to make an appointment, which is rarely, then fellow leaseholders, brothers, sisters and comrades out there, will know that, after years of abuse, the canny leaseholder wouldn't care much for its cavalier attitude. Nor what it thought was its "baronial" right to enter private property and introduce... "things" ad hoc or "bespoke". 

I mean.. if Albert Einstein had worked for an ALMO instead of the patent office in Berrn, Lewisham Homes it would not be. 

I winced at the thought of false alarms sounding long into the night. Until I was expected to arrive to sort it out when it finally did go off. 

So, like any Lewisham Council leaseholder should, I trod on the side of caution where Lewisham Homes was concerned.  I said No to the heat monitor. (I said No to Lewisham Homes quite a bit actually; for all the good it did.) 

It was for me simple: The leaseholder is responsible for the interior of the property and for certain obligations under the lease.  End. 

Unfortunately, Hilary Barber did not see it that way. Neither did she believe that she had breached the lease. Earning her the sobriquet Breachlease Barber.  Neither did she accept that Lewisham Homes, despite the evidence, had behaved 'in any way' unlawfully.  The lockout was purely an accident, apparently. (It claimed there was a burglary; but could not adduce any evidence of this dueto the Data Protection Act.)

There were aggravating factors too in Lewisham Homes' Stasi-like behaviour. Amongst which, the following, harassment, deception, trespass, damage, MONEY LAUNDERING - you name it, LH had actually done it. Feigning, making a show of, making a pretence of, seemingly assisting, were amongst many of its attributes. In truth, this kind of behaviour was really rather insidious and endemic within the organisation.  Clearly designed to wear down a certain leaseholder who was considered by the ALMO to be... "very problematic".

"But this was after all just a 'low risk' Victorian flat.. Not a high-risk high-rise 'stay put' tower block."

Breachlease Barber and her cohorts feigned assistance. They claimed that they did not know when the conversions took place: so they had to make "assumptions".  

One such assumption was that the Victorian property's construction was not up to present-day standard? 

It's true to say that as it is over a hundred years before the present day then this is entirely likely.  But since the council controlled the planning approvals for the conversions...  it must have known the actual date. Lewisham Homes is the pseudo council under a different name. These "assumption" really allowed a multitude of abuses against the leaseholder. 

As did a failure to consult the planning and building records. In a Victorian property converted to flats, this oversight gave Lewisham Homes plenty of scope to introduce changes to its own portfolio; subsidised by leaseholders. The gift that keeps on giving. However, clearly, if audited properly, it would soon become clear that this ALMO is money laundering. Which is a crime under the Proceeds of Crimes Act.

Additionally, Hilary Barber's earlier demand to change the flat entrance door and introduce a monitored alarm system (that wasn't really monitored) appeared to be driven by nothing short of hysterical mania. Whilst the hysteria is understandable in the present climate,  it really manifested itself after the 2010  letter from former CEO Potter. In other words before Grenfell Tower and that tragic "stay put" night.  

Lewisham Homes simply, conveniently, rides on the back of the tragedy. But "stay put" they should not have that night. And stay put in any Victorian conversion you should not do either: certainly not if it's managed by Lewisham Homes.

Following a tragic arson, just after the 2010 advise letter to leaseholders and private landlords,  . Lewisham Homes received a conviction. (The trial did not take place until 2016.)  LH failed to prevent what was an arson. The judge.. gave them a "wake up call" in the form of a fine and conviction. So the Gang of Five that headed Lewisham Homes nearly received a go straight to gaol card. 

Fortunately, due to the social nature of its management, they were all spared porridge.And they were determined that this should not happen again. However, as a result of the Marine Tower Tragedy, and with certain terms contained in the leases, the "victim" was now the service-charge-paying leaseholder.  Sh/e was the cash  cow that part-bankrolled mainly 'unnecessary' works, and would continue to do so. 

However, it is the  cosmetic appearance of fire safety - above and beyond that which is needed - that drives Lewisham Homes and its bullying staff - simply in an effort to avoid gaol a second-time around. Many of the changes introduced are not really in the best interests of the occupants. Certainly not in Victorian properties. 

According to accounts filed at Companies House, the officers who occupy the organisation's top tier are well rewarded. A regular yearly increase in costs for the top team is syphoned off the what it conveniently terms the "surplus" - profit by another name. And by this not-for-profit coterie of bureaucrats. Into their own pay packets it goes, and on and on and on. 

Be that as it may... perfectly adequate flat entrance doors have also been culled. At a cost in the millions. In what is simply a hysterical vanity project for this Stasi collective.  Most of the old doors that were changed were actually more resistant to fire than the walls and ceilings inside the flats themselves, and so the so-called fire-safety introductions are dubious, to say the least. Added to which... the Lewisham Homes bespoke alarm system was not actually really “monitored” when I challenged this. 

Did you know that emails to Lewisham Homes can take up to ten days - or longer - for a response? Imagine that. It was against this backdrop, one of overzealous and uncontrolled overspend, riding on the coat-tail of the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, that I resisted the introduction of a little heat device. And all the other unnecessary "improvements".  

Repeated harassment followed.   The device screwed to my ceiling was a reminder of  leaseholder impotence in the face of local government adversity. I was both amazed and appalled. 

We still think these are essential for both the protection of residents’ safety and to comply with fire safety law. You disagree with this. This is an area we take very seriously, and will take legal action if required.  I think the only way to move this on is for the courts to decide."

The deceit. The unbridled arrogance. Barber, as head of corporate services, refused to accept that its “above and beyond”  and "zero tolerance" approach was actually harassment and trespass and deeply distressing. Not only did Barber repeatedly threaten legal action, but her bully-boy behaviour, endemic within the organisation, went unrecognised by her. 

But I, like many leaseholders,  felt a breach of the lease had taken place. And it was the Gang of five that had  breached it, constantly.  The Alliance was born.

The behaviour of Lewisham Homes' staff verged on the criminal. The lease doesn't allow a freeholder to place devices inside a private dwelling. And neither could the managing agent, under the terms of the lease, and various other laws, use subterfuge to place it there. Despite this, Automatic Fire Detection (AFD) was seemingly being pushed, not into dangerously clad high rises but Victorian street properties - simply to satiate the Gang of Five's ego. 

Despite the evidence before her, Barber responded: 

“...we believe these are required for both the protection of residents’ safety and for Lewisham Homes to comply with fire safety law.”

Lewisham Homes employees speak with forked tongue. 

When an organisation refuses to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, or is ponderous in its response, it merely peaks the old investigative interest.  TheBigRetort...
  • The new AFD system will not be monitored 24/7/365
  • A number of alarms have resulted in emergency visits by the Fire Brigade... later found to be due to 'dust'. But the fire brigade will not respond unless telephoned
  • There will be no immediate response from the fire brigade
  • One company that installed the system has gone bust; leaving the AFD project itself in doubt
  • The officer who commissioned it has left LH; and his colleagues in the lurch 
Be that as it may...  there is no smoke without fire. So too, there is no fire without fuel. And Lewisham Homes has added lots of it.

What "bespoke" Automatic Fire Detection actually means

A potential fire is detected in the form of an "error". A live report is sent - by email? - to Lewisham Homes. Where 'Appropriate actions will be taken.' 

The fire-safety panel has a back-up battery which vents hydrogen and has been known to explode in past tests.

The system introduced, along with the electrics, actually adds to the risk.

What Lewisham Homes neglects to mention is that the appropriate action itself is a bit... inappropriate. 

Following one such false alarm I was contacted by phone. A disembodied voice told me to sort it out myself. 

Lewisham Homes did attend to reset the device...  days later.

 A case of more is actually less?

An additional demand by Lewisham Homes for changes to perfectly robust flat entrance doors, to be replaced with those with in-tumescent fire-safety strips around its edges, could effectively funnel the smoke from a potential fire through inadequate Victorian lathe-and-plaster ceilings to the flat above. Due to the strip around the door the smoke would not reach the smoke alarm sited in the communal hallway...  Meanwhile, the heat detector in the private leaseholder hallway, interlinked to its system, would sit waiting for it to get hot. By which time the smoke would have overwhelmed the unwitting inhabitants. And don't get me started on those anti-arson letterboxes. (Who needs a letterbox on a flat entrance door of a property with just two flats?) 

More exciting revelations in a forthcoming post that will save you the leaseholder thousands £££!

Any Lewisham Council leaseholder will know by now that the communal hallway itself is a ransom strip. A licence to print money in DEED. A handy cosh  in the grubby hands of Lewisham Homes' Gang of Five. 

However, regardless that these parasites are preying on tragedy. Making money off the back of Grenfell Tower tragedy. In my humble opinion the hallway is a place where the prying and preying eyes of the state should well-and-truly end. 

Not so Lewisham Homes: A wireless heat detector will be installed inside the front door of your home in the hallway ceiling.” 

Note, it did not say: 'May we'. It did not even say: 'Pretty please'. It simply stated: 'We will'. 
But what ever happened to that place commonly known the Englishman's home?

A precept since the 17th Century, it was established in The Institutes of Laws of England 1628, which states: "For a man's house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man's home is his safest refuge]."

Not any more. In addition to forcing its heat monitor into leaseholder flats, despite advice in its own Fire Risk Assessments stating that this was not needed, Lewisham Homes removed perfectly adequate lighting from hallways. 

It replaced this with its own emergency lighting - and a bonfire of fire-safety paraphernalia. The cost of which is to be passed to leaseholders as an "improvement" of course. 

This constant drip-drip-bureaucratic-drip against the leaseholder brings with it a huge financial burden. In addition to the erosion of well being. And it is the leaseholder as well as the taxpayer who carries the burden of this rampant bureaucratic stupidity. Causing some leaseholders to breakdown mentally and/or financially. 

Others are forced to sell their homes due to these punitive charges. But no one at the Council or in Parliament seems to care. And why should they?  It is after all benevolent corruption.

Instead... Barber of Breachlease maintained that the relevant legislation and guidance for the system which is “bespoke” to Lewisham Homes - in other words, designed by one of our backroom idiots - was due to the Housing Act 2004 and the Fire Safety Order 2005. In addition to LACORS.  But whatever this all means, contradictory information aside, it's quite simply utter guff. Designed to conceal the mugger from the mugged. 

Many of Lewisham Homes assertions were found to be untrue.  One quickly learns when dealing with it, which is really Lewisham Council at an arms-length-distance, that there are two truths. Truth that Lewisham Homes sees. That is truth for profit. And truth ...from which it cannot profit. 

However the above Act and Order and "guidance" do not state that the fire-safety devices must be introduced by a freeholder into a private dwelling. That's a truth from which LH cannot profit. 

Nor do they state that this system must be interlinked to a private residential dwelling. Another truth from which LH cannot profit. Or introduced into the hallway for that matter. 

Certainly not a heat monitor.  (Try the kitchen, divvy!) 

That's another profitless truth.

When pressed on this Hilary Baroness Barber appeared confused. And vague. Amongst one repeated utterance “They were converted before 1991, and we cannot be sure of the quality of the compartmentation at that time.” 

But...  why not?  Lewisham Council was the freeholder. And the controlling building authority. Surely it must know the dates of the conversions, and what materials were used?  But then, what do you expect the compartmentation of a Victorian house to be like -  a highrise? A purpose-built block? 

Fortunately there is no "stay put policy" for a Victorian conversion.

So. Is the introduction of heat monitors inside the hallways of private dwellings a step too far?  Today the heat monitor - and new door - tomorrow the whole dwelling. But for the hapless council leaseholder, where does the call for "improvements" actually end?

Coming up in the next exciting instalment...  TheBigRetort is summoned to an audience with Hilary Jean Barber (nee Doe). Before she received her new title that is. 

And following that useless meeting we see the birth of The Lewisham Council Leaseholder Alliance. Ensuring Fairness and Transparency for Lewisham Council Leaseholders.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Leaseholders and taxpayers in London have been hoodwinked into paying thousands of pounds for fire-safety measures that are 'not to the necessary standard'. According to details contained in board minutes of Lewisham Homes at least. A discovery that may see the arms-length management organisation in the dock...again. TheBigRetort exclusive.

In my last post I reported that Andrew Potter CEO of Lewisham Homes was due to decamp to greener pastures at Hastoe Housing Association. Meanwhile... back in concrete city, board papers dated August 2017 reveal that six thousand two hundred composite fire-safety doors recently installed into properties managed by his former south-east London Almo may not be up to the necessary fire safety standard.

The shock finding, unearthed by TheBigRetort, follows threats by Lewisham Homes to prosecute leaseholders if they do not change their own flat entrance doors - which the managing agent has “deemed” unsafe. 

Potter himself was "uncertain" about the legality of this. However, according to board minutes, Lewisham Homes' own fire-safety door debacle assessment is to take 'over a year to complete'.  

So homeowners may be forgiven for not forking out thousands of pounds in pursuit of the Lewisham Homes Standard so readily. A standard the ALMO itself has failed to achieve with its new safety doors. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent under Lewisham Homes' thinly disguised vanity venture, many leaseholders are asking if the "improvements" are actually necessary. 

Time alone will tell... but the move may have led to tens of millions of pounds of frivolous overspending of public cash. 

Many of the doors to Lewisham Homes' street property conversions were introduced under the old building control pre-1991 regulations. Then, flat entrance doors were rated between twenty to thirty minutes fire resistance. (FD20 to FD30 in the trade.) Which is still acceptable.

Leaseholders may be surprised to learn that this has been withheld because building control records have been mislaid for many of these former conversions.

Homeowners are encouraged, under the threat of legal sanction, to simply replace doors; whatever the cost... Or else. It “may”. You never know - serve a nasty injunction.

If all of the six thousand two hundred new doors are actually proven to be deficient, the cost of replacement to the taxpayer may end up reaching... over twelve million pounds.

So, what the hell, pass the cost to leaseholders. 

In order to subsidise another mistake, Lewisham Homes, having spent taxpayer funding via its decent homes scheme - somewhere in the hundreds of millions, and counting - will no doubt employ its usual open-palmed approach, and target leaseholders. It is leaseholders who will be forced to pay directly for this largesse. Many are already straining under bloated service charge requests for so-called “repairs”. In the Lewisham Homes lexicon interchangeable with "improvements". 

Some leases allow for improvements: some don't.

Before contacting elected representatives, leaseholders should study the lease. Whilst older leases may not actually allow for improvements to be charged back, others do. Lewisham Homes seems to be unaware of this. Whatever... any lease should ensure that such charges are always "reasonable". The reason why perhaps Lewisham Homes now claims that many of its improvement works are not “repairs” - having presented them under its Decent Homes programme for years, as... improvements. 

Lewisham Homes refuses to respond to requests for further details on its front door debacle. Councillors and MPs have been alerted... but they seem content playing a game of  ping-pong with TheBigRetort.  But the May election is fast approaching....

The Big Retort on doors... Guidance from the Building Control Alliance allows for the retention of FD20 doors. This is widely accepted practice throughout England. Providing a sufficient level of protection to escape routes within dwellings are present. It is also accepted - without objection - from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The government department which oversees Building Regulations. Indeed this has been the case for many years; allowing the use of such doors 'unsupported by fire tests or independent certification'. 

In short: 'reasonable compliance' is all that is required.

That comes in the form of a reasonably robust door. And not necessarily a fire door. 

But it isn't just a gentle tap on that dodgy door you may have to watch out for...  it's smokescreens. 


Monday, March 12, 2018


Your intrepid investigative reporter reveals the source of Doddy's Dosh and his missing millions. It was during the Christmas period of 1980/81 at Birmingham's Alexandra theatre. The panto was Dick Whittington. The Big Retort encountered that master of merriment then simply Mister Ken Dodd playing Idle Jack. Also in the cast was Jeffrey Holland, who had recently climbed to fame as Spike in the hit BBC tv comedy series Hi-de- Hi. And of course, somewhat further down the celebrity line-up - in the various guises of Dream People, Sailors, and Moroccan Guards - yours truly. TheBigRetort looks back on the king of comedy's licence to print the millions that the tax man never got his hands on... and reveals where it eventually ended up. 

The panto was a sell-out over its 6 week season. With matinees, the money going in and out of the cash tills was, I reckon,  in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. However what the tax man didn't know is that an equal amount of money was being secreted out of the stage door into Doddy's jag from the lucrative and not so secret franchise that he was allowed to exploit during each sell-out performance.  Known as Ken's kickback, it was allowed by the company which looked the other way due to the magnitude of its star. 

In addition to his ample wage packet, Dodd, the undisputed star of the show, used direct selling marketing of the paraphernalia surrounding his Diddy Men creations. This franchise amounted to tens of thousands of pounds. 

“Could you ger us a pint, Kid. An' get one for yourself,” he said.

Between acts Doddy liked a pint to quench his thirst. However, because he was so famous, Ken couldn't simply walk into the nearby pub without causing a bit if a sensation.  I used to go for his bevvy regularly. Once off stage I used to pop into the pub in my costume, which caused a bit of a stir. Pints in hand, I would return to the theatre and see Ken sat in his dressing room reading one of the  many books on comedy that he regularly devoured. Or, more usually, counting out the spoils of his Diddy Men franchise. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, tickling sticks, colouring books, dolls of Doddy - you name it - Ken flogged the lot to a legion of fans... and raked in a veritable fortune. 

Ken retained two women who would stand in the foyer taking in thousands of pounds during the interval when the kids were all fired up on Doddy and his jam-butty mines.

Over the run of the show, whenever I would return with his pint, I would regularly see wads of cash stuffed into bags which would later go in the boot of his nearby Jag.

Doing the maths, I reckon Old Ken, who was then in his fifties, was probably pulling in about two thousand quid a day minimum - six days a week. 

And with matinees the takings would leap to phenomenal levels. 

Ken's stipend never went to the production company which looked the other way. They knew that this wasn't really Dick Whittington, but the Ken Dodd Show. 

Dodd was without doubt one of the most thrilling entertainers on the stage and had so much onstage charisma that he could light a city with it. 

However, the mask of comedy slipped on one occasion during that drive back to Liverpool.

The Lift to Knotty Ash

The trains weren't running out of Birmingham. I couldn't get home. However a former Bluebell dancer and singer was also appearing alongside Doddy under the stage name Sybie Jones. “Anne” (her real name) was also Ken's girlfriend. They seemed really close. They had been together for a couple of years. A really nice woman, Anne was then in her late thirties. She came in for a bit of stick due to her being cast in the pantomime as the Fairy of the Bells. But as nice as the fairy in the production she was, Anne was ten times nicer off the stage too... 

When she heard that I couldn't get home for Christmas, she would have none of it... and ordered Ken to give me a lift. 

I didn't hold out much hope because, whilst they lived in the other direction of the M62, my home was closer to the centre and out of their way.

There were also two Kens, the lightning-fast comedian, and the more staid and conservative loner.  

Ken like most stars I had met, was naturally protective of his privacy... and Anne his great and loving protector. However, to my great surprise and relief, Doddy said: “Annie says you need a lift. Ok, kid!” (He used to call me Kid as I was in my early twenties.)

Immediately after the curtain came down the colouring books and tickling sticks had been sold and the cash was firmly in the boot of Ken's Jag. Anne was behind the wheel. Ken had recently been banned from driving due to drink-driving. However, before we headed for the motorway he had arranged to stop off for midnight mass at a nearby church.

No matter where Doddy was appearing he did this every year and it was set-in-stone. Unfortunately lovely Anne got lost in Birmingham's then notorious one-way traffic system and with every turn of the wheel gone was the comic genius - and in his place was a very dark and moody Ken.

And as the clock ticked, and that midnight Christmas mass looked ever doubtful, Ken started to criticise Anne's driving. The king of quaint colloquialisms turned the air blue with four-letter invective

Finally, having enough of this, Anne slammed her foot on the brake. Nearly sending Ken through the windscreen, she stormed off in tears telling him to drive and giving a few expletives back.

Doddy looked at me; What's up with her – daft cow!”

He jumped in the driver's seat and took off after Anne, telling her to get back in the f-ing car. People looking on in amazement mouthing: 'Isn't that..?.'

Coaxed back, Anne remonstrated. She told him he couldn't drive: "You're banned!"

Ken would have none if it... He was headed for midnight mass and nothing was going to stop him.

Unfortunately as he steered this way and that through the city centre he was getting even more lost, and with mounting tight-lipped anger the devil had emerged.

Suddenly Doddy pulled up alongside this man, wound the window down and said “'Scuse me mate, do you know where the church is?”

This guy looks in the window and started to say. “Ermm... ermmm.'  His eyes went wide. He started to stutter: '”Hold on hold you you''re you're - Oh my god. You're you're... you're... hold on..”

--With that Ken floored the accelerator: 'Forget it!”he said. Leaving the man staring open mouthed and thinking.. I'm sure that was Ken Dodd.

When we finally arrived at the church we were late. Ken was really, as he might put it "discomknockerated". 

We rushed into the congregation. 

The Priest was in full flow and blessing his flock. However... murmurs were going all around the church “Doddy!” “It's Doddy!”

The priest, seeing Ken Dodd, stopped making the sign of the cross and rushed down the aisle.  The king of the Diddy Men had blessed one little church with his royal “plumtiousness”.

Doddy knelt. He placed his tongue out, and took holy communion. Ken, who had turned the air in the car blue, now looked as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He looked incredibly serene. And what was that? There was a halo around his head. It was from the flickering candles. A true master, he had somehow managed to find the limes, even in church. 

Ken Dodd was upstaging God! 

During the journey back to Liverpool, Ken started to have a bit go at my naive ambitions about acting. Anne told him off. But Doddy explained: 'You have to work hard if you want to make a success. That's all I'm saying, kid. It's the non-stop honing of your craft, falling down and' pickin' yerself up, that's the main thing. And even then you have to be lucky. Do that, Kid, and you're set.”

So said the man who had an instinctive timing and stage presence that electrified millions. I wasn't about to disagree.

The drive back to Knotty Ash should have taken just under two and a half hours. However, even though it was in the opposite direction, Doddy, who must have been absolutely knackered after his gargantuan performance and the drive, dropped me near my house. “Toxteth...hmmm OK” he had demurred.

I waived as they headed back to Knotty Ash after telling me where to meet on Boxing Day for the lift back to the show.

It was early morning. As I knocked at my mum's door she was waiting up for me.

"Ken Dodd just dropped me off,” I said chuffed.
"Yeas, sure,” she said. 

She was supposed to say 'Did he?' Then I could respond: 'No Doddy.' 

Mum wasn't falling for that one, "Ken Dodd... in Toxteth?"

But, anyway...

As for that dosh in the back of his car.... where did it end up?

Before his death Ken's house was raided in a search for his missing millions. Three hundred and thirty six thousand pounds was found in a suitcase. The rest was apparently secreted in 20 offshore accounts. 

But TheBigRetort can reveal where Doddy's millions lay buried... in a jam-butty mine in Knotty Ash. 

Kenneth Arthur Dodd OBE was born 8th November 1927. He died on the 11th March 2018, the undisputed King of Comedy. 

How tattyfilarious.

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