Written by Erskin Quint
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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

image for Frankie Howerd on Margaret Thatcher Mrs Thatcher. Peculiar woman. Strange woman, she was. Very odd. Peculiar. Mind you, she was very popular.

Well. Here we are. Here we, ooh, no. Ooh. Ah. Ooh, I don't know where to put meself. Don't know which way to turn tonight. Yes, Missus, you've been there, haven't you? Hmm? You've felt my predicament. Look, now don't start. Shut your mouth. Oh, the riff raff we get in here.

But ooh. Ah. No. Don't. Hasn't it been a hard winter? It's been a hard winter. And it's not over yet, I can tell you. Ooh, it's bitter out, Missus. Bitter. I'm all at sixes and sevens tonight. No. Ah. Listen. I feel, well, ambiguous. Yes. You know. Ambiguous. I. Oh, shut yer face, you. Ooh. No. Here we go again.

But no. Listen. Ambiguous. Yes. Or on the other hand, ambidextrous. Oh yes. Ambidextrous on the other hand. They're coming thick and fast now. Don't doze off.

But hasn't it been a hard winter? It's been hard. Ever so hard. I've been on the wane. On the wane, Missus. Ooh. Ah. It's been a struggle, I can tell you. It's been, ooh. Ah. No. I'm trussed up like a Christmas goose. Did you get a goose at Christmas, dear?

But ooh. No. I can't go on like this. No. Listen. I'm thinking of packing this in. Yes. I was better off in the circus. Oh, I was. Better off, yes. At least I got three square meals and a bed for the night. Even if I did have to sleep with the performing seals. Still, it did stand me in good stead, looking round here tonight.

But no. Ah. Yes. I was better off with the circus. Even if I did have to muck out the elephant. Yes. No. It's hard to credit. Hard to credit, it is. Oh stop it. Don't mock. Don't kick a man when he's down. It was hard to credit. 'Where does it all come from?' I used to ask myself. All I saw it eat was currant buns.

But ooh. Ah. No. Listen. Don't. It's been a hard winter. My interests have been dwindling. Dwindling, dear. My assets have been frozen. Now look. Don't lower the tone. This is culture. Culture. No. Listen. They want me to wax lyrical. Wax lyrical, Missus. Oh, leave her alone, you're making her worse.

Anyway, ooh. Ah. Ooh, it's been hard. It's bitter out. Bitter. Isn't it? Hmm? Oh yes, bitter. I know what you're thinking. 'How much more of this is there? Surely he can't go on like this for the whole act?'

But it is bitter, isn't it? Ever so bitter. It's been like that for weeks. Weeks. I don't know how I keep going. I don't know how I keep it up. Yes, Missus. Oh, don't start again. Shut yer faces.

And ooh. Ah. Well. It was the other night, at Easter. It was bitter then. There I was, in my garret. Garret, Missus. Oh yes. I'm a struggling artist. A frustrated thespian. Oh how I struggle, night after night. There I am, wrestling with my creative urges. Ooh, it was bitter out. I'm huddled in front of the electric fire, airing my smalls. Oh behave yourselves. Talk about casting pearls before swine.

Ooh, it was bitter out. But ooh. Ah. Have you seen the state of the lighting in here? You'd think we were back on the three day week. But no. No. Listen. Wait. Hang on while I assess the damage. Yes. No. Ah. I'm transfixed, you see. Transfixed I stand before you. I shall have to get something done about these trousers. I shall have to expand into new premises. Yes, Missus. Have you had to expand into new premises? You look as though you have. That's it. Don't just sit there. Wriggle, dear. Don't suffer in silence. Make a break for freedom.

But ooh. Ah. No. Don't. Ah, no. Listen. You see, I was sitting there, in front of the electric fire. Reclining. And the phone rang. Well, it was my agent. My agent. Yes. And he, well, he's a funny man. My agent. Funny man. Ooh. Ah. No. I'm transfixed, I think the circulation's cut off. I shall have to squirm. Yes, Missus, I bet you know how to squirm. Yes, that's it, wriggle. Ah. No.

But no. Ah. That's better. That's a relief. Can somebody put a fifty pence in the meter? No. Listen. My agent. It was bitter. Ooh it was bitter out. It was my agent on the telephone. Strange man. He's what they call a dual personality. If only they'd keep to themselves there wouldn't be half the trouble. But no, he has to keep hounding me. Yes. No. They want a thousand words about Margaret Thatcher, he said. He's a peculiar man. He's a Rosicrucian, you know. No. Not that I object to that. So long as they do it in private. No. Listen. Ah. Yes.

A thousand words, he said. 'What?' I thought. Well, where do I start? Yes. Where? I must say, I'm loth, I told him. Loth, I was. Airing my smalls and minding my own business. You've been to Finchley before, he says. In 1969. Well. No. Yes. I did. Yes. No. Listen. I went to see the mayor, you see. Mayor of Finchley. You'll get a Police escort, they told me. Well. No.

So I went to see the mayor. Yes. I did. The mayor of Finchley. In 1969. What a disappointment that was, I can tell you. Of course I did get the Police escort. Well, you'd have thought they could have run to something bigger. I had to be shoehorned into the back seat. Me and Charlie Drake. Charlie Drake, yes. He was playing the giant in the pantomime at Finchley Empire.

Now don't. No. Listen. Titter ye not. It was the cutbacks, you see. Don't mock the afflicted. Times were hard then as well. You should have seen the state of the beanstalk. Bitter it was, too. Finchley High Street. Me and Charlie Drake squeezed in the back seat. Well, there was no dignity in that. Oh no. No dignity. Yes, Missus, you know. You've been there. You know what it is to lose your dignity in the back of a Ford Escort.

There was no sign of Margaret Thatcher. Oh no. Yes. No. And the poor old mayor. Well, he was past his best. He'd seen better days. Haven't we all, Missus, yes. Mrs Thatcher wasn't there. No. She wasn't there, you see. She was out confiscating the milk bottles from the schools. Ah. Yes. You see. Here it is. Satire. They're coming thick and fast now. What do you mean, about time?

But in vain did I protest. In vain protesteth Francis. Mrs Thatcher, he said. Airing my smalls or not, there it was. A thousand words, he said. I hardly knew her, I said. It would be acting under false pretences. False pretences, Missus. Yes. I know it wouldn't bother you. Oh no. Anything for a babycham and a bag of chips. Yes. But I'm a man of principle. What about my principles? You wouldn't want me walking round with wounded principles would you, Missus? Oh shut yer faces. To think I could have been on Radio Four with John Humphries and Joan Bakewell. No. Listen.

I didn't know the woman, I said. I'd have to make it all up. It would be absolute drivel. Piffle. That doesn't matter, he said. My agent. He's a funny man. He takes his cat for a walk, you know. Wears a different cravate every day. Not the cat. My agent, though it is a job to tell them apart sometimes. Oh, please yourselves.

But ah. Yes. No. Doesn't matter, he said, doesn't matter. Not a jot. Not a tittle. Tittle, dear. Yes. Tittle. Look it up when you get home. But ah. Yes. Look at the Daily Telegraph, he said, they don't care, why should you? Look at Simon Heffer. I'd rather not, I said. No. Listen. Yes. This is the good stuff. They're coming thick and fast now. Satire. Yes. No. Listen.

So there I was. I was impaled. On the horns of a dilemma, I was. On the horns. Don't titter. Titter ye not. You don't know the half of it. No. Listen. Don't.

But I could hardly say no. Could hardly say no, now, could I? It's been such a hard winter. Oh it's been bitter. No. Ah. Listen. Yes. Mrs Thatcher. Peculiar woman. Strange woman, she was. Very odd. Peculiar. Mind you, she was very popular. I'll give her that. Very popular. She used to have them all round. She wasn't proud. It was always open house round there. They were all there. Cecil Parkinson, Jeffrey Archer, General Pinochet and Jimmy Savile. Yes. No. Listen.

I often wonder, you know. I often muse. Oft I ponder. Oh yes. No. Listen. Shut yer faces. I ask myself, they were a motley crew, weren't they? Hmm? What did they all find to talk about? Caravans? You couldn't imagine Edward Heath talking about caravans. That was the difference you see. That gave her the edge.

But no. Ah. Listen. Ah. No. No. They would be too busy listening, though, wouldn't they? To talk. That's it. Yes. Listening. And Denis would pour the drinks. He might even pour them one. Ah yes. No. This is it. Satire. Yes. Thick and fast. No. Listen.

Anyway, we must be up to a thousand words by now. Surely. More than a thousand, in fact. Yes. Ah. But ooh, it's bitter out, isn't it? Bitter. More than a thousand words by now. I've overshot. Overshot, Missus. I don't know my own strength. No. Listen. Ah. No.

I'll have a column in the Times at this rate. I'll be doing Thought For The Day instead of those bishops and Tim Rice. I'll have to expand my repertoire. Yes. Expand my repertoire. Of course I've got to be careful at my time of life. You've got to be careful at our age, haven't you, Missus? Careful, dear. Oh, I'm wasting my time with her, I can see that. No. Don't. No. Don't mock. Poor soul. It's a shame. Don't titter.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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