Welcome to my writing archive…

This is where I shall be archiving my various scribblings, past and present, which I deem anywhere near good enough to want anyone else to read (rather than collecting dust in my house, doing no good to anyone).

There’s my Mortimer & Mears comedy sketches (or blatant Morecambe & Wise rip-offs), poems, short stories, miscellaneous humour, stuff I’d posted to now defunct websites, and eventually there’ll be articles and other stuff too. Meanwhile, more than enough stuff to keep you entertained (I hope!) until I upload some more stuff.

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Bloody Meetings!

Bloody meetings! Chat, chat, chat
Discussing this, the other, and that
Taking minutes, lasting hours
Getting nowhere
Slow, slow, fast!

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Fitting Ends III

More of my entries from the now defunct website, fittingends.com (link to archive.org).

Dawn French

Sacrificed by Zanon7c

On location in the jungle, making a Vicar of Dibley Missionary Special, she bends over (for no adequately explained reason) causing an eclipse of the Sun. The terrified natives attack and slaughter her as a sacrifice to their gods. Asked if it had affected morale amongst the other actors, Trevor Peacock (Jim Trott) replied: “No, no, no, no, no….yes. She will be sorely missed.”

Pam Ayres

Final wish by Zanon7c

She wished she’d looked after her teeth — Cause then (it was her belief) — She could’ve gnawed through the ropes — Employed by the blokes — To bind her, then hang her (then leave).

E.J. Thribb (17 1/2)

Lines by john anon mcgonagall by john anon

Twas in this year of 2005, that E.J. Thribb, Great Poet of Private Eye up and died. His many lines had remembered others, who’d left behind their friends and fathers and their mothers. Alas! in his final days he went round the bend, from ink poisoning. A sad but fitting end. Let us all hope whether heavenward or hellbound he ended up going, it’s full of people who liked his poems.

In Memorandum by Zanon7c

So, farewell then, E.J. Thribb. (17 1/2) — In Memorandum poet in Private Eye magazine. — “So, farewell then.” — That. Was your catchphrase. — “That was your catchphrase” — That was your other. — Keith’s mum says she will miss your poignant poems. — Keith’s dad thought they were rubbish. — I just wondered how many more years it would have been until you turned 18.

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Re-Introducing Mortimer & Mears!

Good reading,
ladies and gentlemen,
and welcome to our show.

Dick: Please!!! Not such large print. I haven’t fully recovered from “The Bentilean” Christmas Party yet.

Sarah: Too much to drink?

Ed: No thanks, he’s had too much already.

Dick: Blummin’ heck, I’m still drunk! And seeing the most horrible, crawling, slimy thing.

Ed: It’s me, the editor.

Dick: Arrrrrgh!! It’s real!

Ed: How would you like to spend the New Year in a manor house? Or haven’t you read Elsie Procter’s article?

Dick: I’m sorry, your Crawling, Sliminess.

Ed: I’m warning you.

Sarah: Ignore him, Your Editorness, and tell us why you’ve called us out of the blue like this. I thought the next issue wasn’t due out ’til Summer ’92.

Dick: Yes, and why’s the mag shrunk? I’ve been all the way through and can’t even find a Poety Page.

Ed: There isn’t one. Just the odd ode inserted to break the monotony. And you two are here because our wonderful and dynamic publisher, RM

Dick: Raving Megalomaniac!

…..has made his New Year’s Resolution to develop “The Bentilean” into a more newsy, topical, and professional magazine — and increase its circulation to rival to that of the Bentilee Bulletin.

Sarah: But why call us up? And why, as Dick asked, as the mag shrunk?

Ed: The mag’s shrunk because he’s planning to publish one once every two weeks now, for at least the next three months, and eight pages should just be the right size for this — more would be too much, less hardly worth the effort.

Dick: It never is.

Ed: And you’ve been invited along to add a little light relief to this, the first issue of what R.M.’s calling “The Bentilean” mini-mag.

Dick: But what can we be doing? We’ve got no script, again, and the author’s gone off on holiday with the new designer woman, Molly.

Sarah: I didn’t know they were so close.

Dick: They aren’t, but you know what these writer-performers are like, always giving themselves the best parts. And Molly has some of the best parts I’ve ever seen!

Have you forgotten about me?

Sarah: Who said that?

Me! Your dynamic and
wonderful publisher, RM.

Dick: It’s the Raving Megalomaniac!!

RM: Watch your tongue, you. I thought this script was going to be all about me and the new mini-mag, and here you’re going off at tangents about the author and the new designer woman, Molly.

Dick: Ah, well, we were just filling in ’til you arrived. Weren’t we, Sarah?

Sarah: Sheer, desperate ad-libbing to mask our eager anticipation.

Dick: Do you know, if you’d crawled any lower then, nobody’d been able to read you?

RM: I’m warning you! Any more snide comments and you could be one of the changes round here.

Dick: Don’t threaten me! Without me, you’d have to give the mag away to people.

Ed: We do already. That is why you don’t get paid, you know.

Sarah: And we though he’d just sent our cheques 2nd Class. But what’s all this about changes?

Ed: He means more news, more features, more community info, less mindless gibberish!

Dick: You can’t do that!! What’ll we do for a living?

Sarah: I have a dog and useless wastrel to support.

Ed: Dick’ll just have to find somewhere else to live.

Dick: I’ll smash his face in!!

RM: That’s not what I meant at all.

Ed: No?! Hold the front page!!

RM: Why?

Ed: Sounds like news to me.

Dick: He’s been reading my jokebook again, “Frankie Howerd’s Greatest Titters, 1872“.

Sarah: Don’t you mean 19-72 ?

Dick: There’s none of them that new!

RM: No, what I had in mind was semi-naked women.

Sarah: I won’t do it!!

Dick: Besides, you’d never fit her on the page.

He doesn’t mean her.

Dick: Who said that?!

RM: Our latest asset, Samson Fox.

Sarah: Shouldn’t that be Sam?

RM: No, she’s bigger than her! Show them, Samson.

Sarah: He’s gone all BIG and Stiff.

Ed: Please!! This isn’t The Sunday Sport, you know.

Dick: We can tell from this rubbish we have to perform.

Rupert said that, if I was good, I could
have the entire centre pages to myself.

Dick: Rupert!!? I wondered why he was wearing that red scarf and them there yellow trousers.

Ed: Last warning.

Don’t let him fool you, if you’re ‘good’, you won’t even last to the end of this sketch — nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more

I don’t know what you mean,
our relationship is purely
professional, like a boss
and his secretary.

Dick: I know a secretary who got made pregnant by her boss, twice!! A Mrs. Pendlebury it was. Mr. Pendlebury’s boss was most upset.

Sarah: His boss was upset?

Dick: Yes. Mr. & Mrs. Pendlebury has supposed to have been sorting out theit in-and-out trays at the time, and the photocopier’s never been the same since!

Can you say things like that
in a magazine?

Dick: You can when nobody reads it. Anyways, your charms may be great, but why do you need two pages?

RM: Well, semi-naked would just be the beginning.

You mean, I’d have to go
completely naked?

RM: Soft focus, one leg over an armchair rest, your hair teasingly not quite hiding your left nipple, it’d be very tasteful.

Sarah: Have you ever thought of a cruise round the Canary Islands on a small yacht?

RM: Think of it: together we could grind our rivals into the ground, with your attractions — first the Bentilee Bulletin, The Advertiser, the Evening Sentinel, the Beano & Dandy; then onward to a national magazine — The RM Times — and International — a Euro-Bentilean!! — then into satellite television, cable television, Worldwide Radio!!! And you; you could be Britain’s first nude chatshow hostess; Calendar Girl to millions of macho mechanics; video star, and the voice for all those lucrative 0-8-9-8 numbers!

{Dick: Sad, isn’t it? They can land a man on the moon
but they still don’t a cure for the Raving Mad and
Chronically self-deluded.}

I just can’t do itt, my
mother’s still alive.

RM: Then you’re both fired! And Dick as well.

Oh, what will I do? All I’ve
got going for me is my body.

Dick: Rubbish!! Let me be your Professor Higgins and we’ll plumb your hidden depths together; discover your unsuspected talents, and prove to you and the world that you’re a Mindwith brains — not just a body.

Sarah: I’ve obviously mis-judged you all these episodes. Such feeling, and not a single double entendre or sleazy, sexist comment!

Dick: No point. They’d never print the depths I’m really planning to plumb.

Bring me sunshine…

Sarah: He’ll never change. Do you think RM
or Samson will be back again?

Ed: Will any of us, after an ending like that?

Sarah: Ah, well. At least he didn’t do the one
about the feminist, the Hell’s Angel, and the
transvestite vicar.

Ed: He’s saving that for next time.

Copyright John Steele, 1991, 2011, 2016
I was allowed to go onto the government’s “Community Action” scheme (a programme for the long-term unemployed), to produce a spin-off, ‘mini-mag’ version of “The Bentilean” magazine. The original intention was to produce a fortnightly issue of 8 to 12 pages but only managed to produce 9 mini-mags and 1 full-size edition of the magazine.

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My First Kindle eBook

Someone asked me how to produce a eBook for publishing on the Amazon Kindle bookstore, so I had a practice with my old short story “Pete and the Pottery Genie” to find out how to do it and now it’s available on Amazon from today!

It tells the story of a young boy, Pete, who stumbles across an old looking teapot as he races home across the Berryhill Fields to escape a heavy rainstorm, and finds it holds a magical secret.  To buy a copy for your Kindle, just click the cover pic right to go to Amazon UK (it is also available through the .com, .de, .es, and .fr Amazon domains too).

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Mortimer & Mears #5: The Bentilean’s 2nd Birthday

Dick: Good reading, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the mag.

Sarah: And what a special mag we have for you this time. [To Dick]: You know what it is this time, don’t you?

Dick: We haven’t got to go visiting somewhere like that Willfield Open Learning Centre again, have we? It was just too terrible last time.

Sarah: Why? The place was alright.

Dick: It’s not the place, but last time I was just standing by the fire, in the manager’s office, when he shouted from the corridor “I want that office cleared now!!”

It took hours. There was three skips worth of waste paper on his desk alone! And so old — I found a Computer Studies test paper written in Latin. Very easy though — cause they didn’t have many computers in them days, you see.

Sarah: Gibberish, sheer gibberish!

Dick: Well, what then? Have we got a plot this time?

Sarah: Now you are being daft. No, it’s only the second birthday of this magazine, that’s all.

Dick: You mean we’ve been doing this rubbish for two years now?

Sarah: Amazing, isn’t it?

Dick: Sure is. You don’t get that long for murder nowadays. Mind you, I did tell you that if we kept that photo of the editor and….you know….

Sarah: From Berryhill High?

Dick: Them are the three!!!…we’d have a job for life, didn’t I?

Sarah: You did.

Dick: But what are we going to do this issue then, if we still don’t have a proper script?

You could throw a party.

Sarah: Look who it is! It’s the new designer woman, Molly.

Molly: I said, you could throw a party. You know, for the editor. You could even invite your fan, whats-her-name?

Dick: Good old Gladys!!

Sarah: But could you get enough food? The editor didn’t get that size by eating a few ham sandwiches and a fairy cake, you knows.

Molly: No problem. We just have to get the author to write a few words to the effect that there’s a banquet of food as far as the eye can see, and then a few more words if those aren’t enough. You can do stuff like that in a magazine.

Dick: Could he write a few words about you, me and a tropical island, do you think?

Sarah: What are we waiting for then, get clapping.

Dick: Clapping?

Sarah: Well, you know what these authors are like: clap, chant “Author!”, and there’s no stopping them from appearing.

Dick: O.K. Altogether now:

Author! Author! Author!

Thank you! Thank you! You’re too kind, but you know
I really couldn’t have done it without the support of
my wife, my publisher, my silver haired old granny….

Dick: What’s he on about?

Molly: Just author talk. Probably thinks he’s getting an award or something.

Sarah: Author chappie, we’ve been thinking, it’s the mag’s second birthday this issue and we thought it would be nice to throw a party for the editor.

What?! Oh, er…yes… I just thought I was at an awards dinner
for a moment there. You were saying?

Dick: We just wanted you to write a few words to conjure up a celebratory banquet for the mag’s second birthday.

Write? Write?!!

Sarah: Why’s he in a box all of a sudden?

Molly: It’s writer’s block.

You don’t know what you’re asking. I can’t just ‘write’ like that.
I have to muse and cogitate for hours, form a crystal clear image in my mind,
then prick the very arteries of my soul and bleed the words onto the paper.
I can’t just ‘write’.

Molly: All we want you to do is write something like, ‘An immense table of food suddenly appears on the page’, and we can take it from there.

Where’s the challenge in that? Here I am talent the size of a planet and all I’m ever asked to do is write gibberish like this, and now you want to reduce me to a common caterer.
Where are the sonnets?
The plays?
The Great British Novel?

Sarah: You could write it in verse.

Oh, alright then, here goes:

As far as humn eye can see
Appeared a table set for tea:
A banquet of food,
and the finest wine
Fit for a king or queen to dine.

Dick: Bravo! A poem worthy of John Bread-n-Jam.

Sarah: Betjeman!

Dick: Him too. Such imagery! And the rhythmic devices too.

It was rubbish.

Molly: Yes, but look at the food.

Did somebody mention food?

Dick: It’s the editor, right on cue!

Right on cue for what?

Sarah: Well, we decided, it being the second birthday of “The Bentilean” magazine, that we’d put on a little banquet — in recognition of your achievements.

Dick: Achievements?! What achievements?

Sarah: Thinking up the idea of the mag, finding people to write fo it…..

Don’t forget to mention for NO money!!

…….for no money, gaining three stones in weight, and the self-control when it’s mistaken for “The Bentilee Bulletin”.

Dick: Never heard of it!

I don’t know what to say, I’m touched.

Dick: Now there’s a novelty!!

Molly: Well, tuck in then. It was all conjured up for you, you know.

Sarah: Look! Here comes Gladys, her daughter Beryl, Samson Fox and RM from the mini-mag, and even the landlord of the Man O Horses Cottage, pub meals served twice daily.

Once on Sundays!

Both: We’re sorry to hear that!! [Sarah to author]: You don’t write them like that anymore.

Dick: He never did! It was straight out of “The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show”, 1959…..

Both: ……….and every year thereafter!!

Well, what now? A cheap double entendre and the first
three words of “Bring me sunshine”, as usual?

Dick: Ah, well, I wanted to talk to you about that, actually. Any chance of you writing a few lines about me, Molly, and a tropical island…(nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!)?

Never!!! I couldn’t prostitute my talent just to satisfy your sordid desires.

Dick: And if I slip you this fiver?

And as it came to end of day
Molly and Dick slipped away
To some isle, in a far off sea
To live in sunshine, and

Dick: Another masterpiece! Bring me sunshine….


Copyright John Steele, 1992, 2011
Self-evidently written to commemorate two years of my self-published community magazine, “The Bentilean”.

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ARTICLE: Beginning Modestly

It never ceases to surprise me the number of beginning writers who want to leap straight into the Big Time! I suppose their reasoning is that one cannot make a living by selling one’s efforts for £1 per 100 words. But this is faulty logic.

Take acting.  No doubt some people burst upon the poor unsuspecting public with super nova-like suddenness, but not the majority.  Most struggle, happy to make the horizon.  They start as scene shifters, or carpenters.  They progress to a non-speaking, two-second walk-on part, and consider themselves lucky.  That is how you should start.

First, make sure you know the nuts and bolts of your craft: spelling, punctuation, basic grammar!  It is amazing how many beginners think that the editors will deal with such things for them.  They won’t.  No more than a director will play the actor’s role for him; he will simply find someone more competent for the part.  So learn your English language.

No doubt, also, the quickest way to make writing your livelihood is to become a novelist.  But, if self-discipline is in short supply (as it is with me), it is also the quickest way to failure.  Far better to begin modestly.  Concentrate on just getting published first.  Don’t worry about payment.  Try out several types of writing, to see which comes easiest.  Articles: how to’s, personal experience, local interest.  Poetry: check the specialist mags.  Short stories: plenty of market for romance, but check the children’s mags, the confessions mags, men’s magazines, and the teenage market.

But remember, practices first.  Practice, practice, practice!  Then target the humbler markets.  Progress towards the biggies.  Then, maybe, you will be ready for that novel, or non-fiction book — even make yourself a millionaire.


Copyright John Steele, 1989(?), 2011
Published in Writing magazine, Edited by Barbara Horsfall (ISSN 0308 2024), in 1988/89(?). This wasn’t the first article I had accepted by a small press magazine (if memory serves, that dubious honour goes to Writing Today magazine), but I think the first to pay me (a modest £2) because I believe they paid on acceptance rather than publication. I believe the last sentence has been tweaked too, to make it fit the space available (the word limit was just 200 words – once again, if memory serves). I think I set out to write articles on the ‘how to’ of writing because my Writers’ Workshop tutor had had such an article published and I have a competitive streak.

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ARTICLE: On frying pans, fires, & boiling water

What have these to do with writing?

Nowt!  But they’ve everything to do with action.  They’re the essential ingredients of any action scene in any well-written book.  Take a showdown between a private-eye and a couple of baddies.  in a badly written book, there’d be a sudden blare of gunshots, then a page later, the P.I. would either have the villains trussed-up or be lying in a pool of his own blood.

In a well-written book, things would be very different.

First our private-eye would find himself in the initial frying-pan.  A mysterious phone call. “Come to Wally’s warehouse, midnight. I know who killed Mr. Fallguy.  Be there!” He goes!! The warehouse appears deserted.  But then: gunshots! He’s in the frying pan.

But he doesn’t stay there long.  A quick dash for cover and he’s safe behind one of the many islands of crates that seem to inhabit such places.  Out of the frying pan.  More shots.  Return fire.  He snakes through the crates – towards the sources of the gunshots.  Everything is quiet.  Suddenly, he sees the back of the gunmen.  He smiles, and aims his gun to pin him down…


The sound of a gun-click behind him.  He turns round.  Nothing!  “Up, here, sucker!”  He looks up; he’s pinned down.  By an impressive looking villain holding an even more impressive gun.  He looks back at the first villain.  Now he’s got him pinned down too.  The flames grow even higher.

But, in the best tradition of mystery-thriller villains everywhere, he can’t resist a quick gloat.  “Ya think you’re so clever, don’t you? But who’s on the wrong end of the guns, eh?”  He lets them ramble on a bit while he glances round for a way out.  They begin to explain half the plot to him, getting increasingly confident in the process.  Suddenly, he sees his escape route.  A mains lever!  Taking advantage of a confidence-induced lapse in their concentration, he leaps towards the lever, throws it!

Darkness.  The flames ebb.

Confusion!  Shouts!  He uses the wall to guide him to the only way out.  Hears them scrambling over, and through, the crates.  Towards the exit!  The heat still burns his neck.

Makes it!  Squeezes through the door.  hears a car, or three, rumbling towards him.  Looks.  Shortish, low.  Police cars?  His partner coming to rescue him?  Water?!  Wishes he still had his gun.  Hasn’t.  The villains are breathing down his neck.  He puts on a spurt of speed towards the cars.  They pull up.  Doors open.  Darkly clad men get out.  Cops?  Holding guns.  not police issue; the water is boiling hot!

Whether you want to call it Terrible Trouble, Awful Aggro, or Horrible Happenings, the above sequence is at the heart of all action scenes.  What happens next?  Perhaps the cops do turn up to rescue him.  And his client rewards him in her own slinky way.  Or maybe he has to find his own way out of the boiling water.  To that cool pool of pure spring water.

Only to find it’s….H2SO4*?

*Sulphuric acid.


Copyright John Steele, 1990, 2011
This article was published in the small press magazine, Writers’ Own Magazine, No. 33, in Spring 1990 (ISSN 0267-1360). No payment, but did receive a complimentary copy, and I have a vague memory that someone commented on it, or another article of mine, in a later issue.

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Mortimer & Mears #6a: The Panto

Sarah: Good reading, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our show. We nearly didn’t make it this issue, did we Dick? Missed the first edition completely.

Dick: Sure did. But they’re like Moorland Rover buses, miss one and there’ll be another two along any minute. Anyhows, I always told you that photo of the editor and them….er..you know..

Sarah: From Bentilee High?

Dick: Them are the six!

Sarah: Six? I thought it was three.

Dick: I’ve had duplicates made.

Sarah: Oh.

Dick: But enough of the libellous drivel! What have we in store for our avid readers (Sarah: All one of him!)…this time, and why-O-why are you almost wearing that Santa’s helpers costume (short skirt, stockings, silly hat and fur-topped boots) yet again?!

Sarah: The author’s written a mini-panto for us to do.

Yes, she’s an handsome prince.

Dick: Oh no she’s not!

Sarah: Oh yes I am!

See, you’re getting the hang of it already.

Dick: What am I then?

You’re her loyal servant and confidante, Velcro the Valet.
And I’m playing her mother, the Queen.

Sarah: I wondered why he was wearing that dress, but I didn’t like to pry.

Well, let’s get on with it then. Here are your scripts,
just follow me, it’s my line first:-

Queen: Oh, woe, woe is me. It’s been an awful twelve months. First half my children separate, then my house catches fire, I’ve got to start paying tax, and now I’m appearing in this drivel. Oh, it’s a right annus horriblis.

Dick/Velcro: I can see it from here, but it’s your own fault for marrying a Greek!

Queen: Oh, Velcro, can’t you do your Jeeves bit and at least find out what’s the problem between the Prince and Princess?

Velcro: If you’ve seen the way he’s dressed you wouldn’t have to ask what the problem is.

Queen: Oh that’s just pantomime tradition. The leading men are all women, the leading women are all men, they sing songs to each other, fall in love and live happily ever after. It’s all perfectly normal.

Velcro: Maybe in London… Alright, your Royal Tax Payerness, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll spy on her prince-ness while she’s chatting to her harricots, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try bribing them with a bottle of Baby Bio until they spill the beans.

(Velcro finds the Prince in his conservatory, watering and talking to his Welsh leeks.)

Sarah/Prince: Oh, boyo, look you, Neil baby, the press doesn’t understand me, my wife doesn’t love me, and one, one has been taught everything except what love is. Let me explain in song, why don’t you….

I know about the kings and queens
that have ruled over one’s country
I know about the mating habits of the rhesus monkey
I know about the concept they called ‘Relativity’
I even know a politician who’s noted for his brevity!

I know all about the birds that have an annual migration
I know all the ins and outs of one’s nation’s taxation
I know about the sides triangular
And all their complex relations
And I can recognise all our Northern constellations.

But though one’s total sum of knowledge is indeed quite staggering
(And I can say this most humbly, without the slightest hint of swaggering)
Ranging as it does from law
to those continental dances…
Still, I haven’t the foggiest idea
what this thing they call ‘Romance’ is!!

Velcro (from the undergrowth): So that’s it! I must report back to Her Horriblis-ness at once.

(Back at the palace.)

Your Royal Transvestite-ness, I’ve discovered the Prince’s problem: he’s an idiot. I overheard him singing to a leek called Neil that he hasn’t the foggiest idea what love is. Don’t they have bikesheds at Harrow.

But don’t worry, I know just the very person to sort him out.

Queen: You mean, a fairy godmother?

Velcro: Close. My fan, Gladys.

Queen: Gladys?!

Yes, he promised me a small part.

Queen: And you won’t be disappointed. But tell me, what can you do?

Velcro: What can she do?! What can she do?!!! You’re only looking at “The Bentilean”‘s answer to Majorie Proops, that’s all.

Yes, I’m always giving advice to the lovelorn.

Velcro: The editor wrote to her once. I have the letter right here, it went:-

Dear Auntie Glad,
I have lustful thoughts about young girls wearing school uniform, what should I do?
The Bent’ Ed’
JS B.A. M.Sc. Ph.D.
HGV double-0 3 and a half.

Queen: And what exactly did she reply?

Velcro: Take off the uniform!

It worked!

Velcro: Yes, now if only we could get him out of the stockings and suspenders, he’ll be as normal as you or I. Well, I anyway.

Queen: Oh, well, see what she can do. We’ll try anything once.

Twice if she likes it!

Velcro: Larry Grayson, 1975, and every year thereafter. (Gladys exits) Well, what do we do now, while we wait for her to get back?

Queen: Ah, well, this is where we run out of script actually. The editor didn’t give me enough time to finish it, you see.

Velcro: Well, don’t you have your “Best of Morecambe & Wise” book with you, that you could nick a joke or three from like you usually do?

Queen: No, left it on the bus.

Velcro: A Moorland Rover?

Queen: Of course.

Velcro: We’ll get sponsored if we carry on like this.

I’m back! I’ve spoken to the Prince and I think I’ve sorted out his problem.

Velcro: I told you she would do it. She could persuade Terry Wogan not to appear on the telly. Which takes some doing.

And is a service to the licence payer.

Velcro: Never say “The Bentilean” doesn’t help minorities.

Queen: So what has she done?

Well, I told the Prince all about the bees and flowers and love and all that…

Queen: And?

He’s divorcing the Princess and marrying his leek, Neil, next week.

Queen: Oh! Annus Worsus!!

Editor’s Apology

Editor: I’m sorry, readers, we were to have winner of the Comedy Awards 1992, Mr Paul Merton, in this script but due to circumstances beyond our control he’s only just arrived. Sorry, Paul, you’ve had a wasted journey.

Paul: Aint it marvellous?


Copyright John Steele, 1991, 2011
The plot of this panto was inspired by an unfinished work, “Penny and the Prince”, from which the Prince’s song is borrowed. Moorland Rovers were a small independent bus company that all too briefly ran a bus service from Bentilee into Hanley, in rivalry to the main bus operator, First PMT (or whatever the heck they were called back then).

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Diary of a Bent’ Vol’: A Humourous Short Story

Anyone who’s ever read The Advertiser, or listened to Radio Stoke, will have heard of the Bentilee Volunteers {or “Bent’ Vol’s”, as one wag has nick-named them}, but who are they? “The Bentilean” sent their ace reporter, Ivor Story, to find out {but he’s totally useless so we’ve made it all up —Ed.}…..

10th June, ’88

Saw Joe for the first time in ages today. Said he’d been busy with a local voluntary group he’d joined. “Voluntary group!” I said. “Become a bleeding social worker have yer?”

“Nah!” he said. “I were just bored, fed up, and had nowt to do when I got this leaflet pushed through me door all about them. “Bored, fed up, nowt to do?” it said, “Then read this!” so I did.

“Anyways, it say they were always on the lookout for new volunteer van drivers, and it sounded just like my cup of tea, so I thought I’d give them a ring to find out more. Next thing I know I’ve got half my week filled up with all sorts of activities, and no ruddy time to be bored, great stuff!”

“You should look into them yourself. They have a meeting each Wednesday, you should go along to one.”

Well, when you’ve had a life as filled and exciting as mine {Hell’s Angel, 3 years in the army, 2 in the marines, 5 in the S.A.S., and 1 in the ******* {censored under the Official Secrets Act –Ed}, you can’t just sit around the house all day doing nowt, so I gave ’em a ring to check out their meeting time.

Wed 16th June

The Bentilee Volunteers?!! huh! “The Hanley Volunteers” would be more like it. Completely off the estate, and a compass job through Bucknall. Just as well me Harley was out of dock or I’d needed to hire a team of Sherpas to find them! And the people too!

‘Just ordinary residents’ they’d described themselves as, but what do I find? Feminists, old biddies, precious few men, a skeleton with a beard, a councillor’s wife, a pedal cyclist, several ‘practising Christians’, and a fella who votes Conservative!!!

Fri 18th June

Went along to a course they’re doing, today. “Work Skills” they called it. So far, apparently, they’ve covered compiling CVs {whatever they are}, writing off for jobs, interview techniques, and body language! I’m just waiting ’til they cover shorthand so I can apply to be Desmond Morris’s secretary.

Still, met a few more of the Vol’s {there’s about 30 of ’em, they say}. Including one old chap {thin white hair, bent back, and moon map for a face}, who they respectfully introduced to me as a “Veteran amongst the Vol’s”. He told me he’d been with them now for five years, and he was only 27.

But the oddest chap was the one teaching us: Welsh, straw hair and beard as full as Santa’s, and one of the most long-winded geezers I’ve ever met. Took me over to one side, at one stage, and told me the entire story of his life. How he’d been born the illegitamate son of a sheep ducker {I think he said ‘ducker’}, and a Russian Ballet Queen; of how he’d spent his school days travelling the gay capitals of Europe, and the Eastern Block; of how at the age of fourteen he’d lost his virginity to another Russian Ballet Queen, called Ivan, and how he’d been rescued by a tall, kind man from Staffordshire Social Services {who then stripped him, locked him in a room, and deprived him of all the normal comforts of home under their Pindown Policy}, until he was rescued again by a bunch of Satanists from Rochdale — and I’d only asked him the time!

Tue 29th June

Got roped into helping out at their old biddies Lunch Club today. {That’s ‘pensioners’ not ‘biddies’ –Ed}

Anyhows, had to crawl under the bleeding stage to haul out these tressle tables, then had to put ’em up singlehanded! {My friend Joe being off with the beginnings of a nervous breakdown, apparently, the other bloke has a bad back, and the feminists were having a day off from being equal.}

That done, it was rush roung the entire estate to pick he old ‘dears’ up in their ‘minibus’. ‘Minibus!?’ It was so clapped out I had to spend ten minute trying to pushstart the thing, fifteen under the bonnet trying to find out what was wrong, and then nip next door to the primary school to borrow theirs’. Jeez! last time I saw anything so kn*!kered it was painted green and had just been hit by a grenade!

Never mind, when I got back they were serving the soup, and it seems we’d been joined by some late-comers as there was a luscious new ‘Vol’ in the kitchen. Long copper red hair, catlike eyes, and just the roundest, gropable {censored by Ed} I’ve ever seen!

Instantly, my army, marines, S.A.S. & {shhhh!! you know what} training came to the fore, and I lost no time going over to offer her a ride on my Harley. “Hello, darling!” I said. “How’d you like to feel something Big and Powerful between your legs?”

Well, she just turned round, half-smiled, and kneed me in the groin. I can still remember thinking, as my face fell into her chest, what a bleeding shame it is when such a gorgeous, f***able woman turns out to be a raving lesbian.

Mon 16th August

Got dragged into their summer playscheme now {can’t stand kids, but the red head asked me, and I still have hopes}. Come up for a bit she said {sounded promising}; just half a day will do. So I went.

Wish I hadn’t. They were all trainee Ninja Mutant Turtle; karate chopping each other to death; burying one another in the sand pit — head first! — and using the ballooons for unnatural purposes.

And you just can’t ake your eyes off ’em. One minute I was helping some ‘golden haired angel’ to my paint my picture {and my face, my jacket, my hair}, and the next chasing some spotty young herbert round and round the school yard trying to get my helmet back, only to catch up with him when he stops behind a coal bunker to have a sh*t in it.

The last straw though came when I went back round to the front entrance and found another group of herberts riding my Harley like an horse, while their friends were dismantling the engine for spares! Panic stricken, I chased them off, reassembled my poor engine, and sped off vowing never to return.

I tell yer, that twenty minutes was the longest day of my life.

Sat 21st August

Decided to give this volunteering lark one more chance so I volunteered to get an early start on this Winter Warmers visiting scheme they run. They handed me three names and said, ‘Here, visit these, they live near you.’

Well, I wanted to make a good impression so I put on my best leather jacket, polished me Doc Marten’s and went to visit the nearest one to me.

She looked a miserable old sod, but I was determined to give it my best shot. “Hello, love,” I says, “I’ve come to help keep yer warm this winter.” And the silly old sod started screaming “ sex maniac! sex maniac! and beating me over the head with her walking stick! I tell yer, if it hadn’t been for my helmet I could’ve ended up brain damaged and a fan of Neighbours.

Next old biddy was hardly any better. Just kept waving at me through her window and shouting “Not interested, not interested, I’ve already got double-glazing.”! And the third one thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness!!

I think I’ll let the silly old buggers freeze to death, and go back to the good old days of being ‘bored, fed up’, and having nowt to do.


Copyright John Steele, 1990, 2011
Yes, the Bentilee Volunteers are a real group (in fact, now a registered charity and still going strong!). Yes, I based my characters on real people, or sort of. The Hell’s Angel, ex-army, ex-S.A.S., ex-everything narrator was a mixture of several non-Bent’ Vol’s I’d met and whilst I describe the make up of the group accurately enough (at least, when I was one of them back in 1988-89), the two I involve in the storyline (the Welsh man with straw hair and the red headed Vol’) were entirely fictitious. Needlesstosay, the events described were also a figment of my deranged imagination.

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Mortimer & Mears #4: The New Designer Woman

Dick: Good reading, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the mag. Have we got a show for you this issue. There’s…..ermmmmm? And…..er…?

{To Sarah}: Have we got a show for them this issue?

Sarah: I don’t know. I thought you had the script.

Dick: I haven’t got it. Well, we can’t do anything without a script, so after 3:


Both: Editor!!!

Editor: You screamed?

Dick: He gets worse! He’s given himself an even fancier box now.

Editor: It was the new designer’s idea, nothing to do with me.

Sarah: You mean….

Editor: Yes, I’ve been framed!

Dick {To Sarah}: No need to ask where our script’s got to. {To the editor}:

You… you… thief you!

Editor: I haven’t got your script. Fact is, there isn’t one yet.

Dick: We are professional entertainers, we can’t perform without a script.

Editor: Clive James does.

Sarah: Who?

Dick: Ignore him, he’s just trying to sidetrack us. Where’s our script?

Editor: I’ve just told you, there isn’t one. The author’s suffering a crisis of creativity, he’s sitting at his typewriter, staring at a blank sheet of paper still. You’ll just have to ad lib.

Dick: Ad lib? This isn’t “Whose line is it anyway?”.

Sarah: I don’t know. You’re about the size of Mike McShane.

Dick: But you’re no Josie Lawrence. We just can’t do it.

Editor: What if I gave you a couple of items and you made a comedy sketch out of them? Here, have this banana and these two peaches.

Sarah: You’ll get us banned.

Editor: You could always gibber on meaninglessly for the next one or two pages, interspersed with the odd sexist, sizist comment, and end with a cheap double entendre and the first line of Morecambe & Wise’s greatest hit, “Bring me sunshine”.

Dick: We couldn’t do that!

Editor: Why not? You usually do.

Dick: I tell you, he’s nicked our script.

Both: We demand to see the author! Author! Author!

Author:  You chanted?

Sarah: What kind of typeface does he call that?

Author:  "Avante Garde".  The new designer's idea.  
Very appropriate for an artist like me, I thought.

Dick: He’s worse than the editor! But onward!! What’s happened to our script?

Author:  I don't know.  I gave it to the editor weeks ago.

Dick: I knew it! The thief! Well, what’s the meaning of all this then?

Editor: Errr……I’m the editor, I edited it.
Author:  Edited it?!  Edited it!!  The room's spinning....
Editor: I can’t help that, it was an awful script, full of secondhand jokes, cheap laughs, and satirical digs at Bent’….

Dick: Say no more!

Dick: Anyways, that’s as maybe, but I demand you give it to us.

{Dick thrusts out his hand to receive it, in a forceful manner.}

Editor: Okay, okay.

{He reaches down the front of his trousers and takes out the script.

It’s rolled up and limp looking.}

Sarah: Oh. And I thought he was pleased to see me.

Dick: {Rapidly withdrawing his hand in horror}: Sarah, get the script! {She does} Now read it to me.

Sarah: Oh, I see I got to speak first.

Dick: That’d have to go.

Sarah: Followed by you making a libellous slur about my mother, a camel, a cucumber, and the band of the Black Watch; going into a blasphemous sketch about the Virgin Mary and the three wise men; all rounded off by an obscene version of “Ding Dong Merrily On High”!

Dick: Nowt to edit there then. Let’s have a look.

{Dick scans the script, a slight smile forming on his face.}

Ah! I see! He’s not in it! The editor’s not in it.

Editor: That’s nothing to do with it.

Sarah: But why? He’s been in every one since we first started.

Author:  He refuses to pay me.

Dick: When did he wake up?

Author:  You don't know what it's like
to be a writer.  There's no double act
for me, writing is a one man job.  Just
me, a room, a soulless lump of type-
writer, and a piece of blank paper
staring back at me, mocking me,
defying me to defile it with words;
words that have to be ripped from my
innermost recesses, pulled and
wrenched out with all my strength,
until I'm left impotent, bleeding from
my very soul

Dick: I thought he nicked all his stuff from the worst of Morecambe & Wise.

Author:  What do you know about it?  You two 
dimensional characterisation of a jester -- a pale 
shade of such Greats as Eric Morecambe, Tony Hancock, 
and the one and only Grocho Marx.

Dick: That’d be fighting talk if I knew what he was on about.

Sarah {To the author}: Anyhow, it’s nothing personal, he doesn’t pay anybody.

He pays me!

Dick: Who said that?

{Enter a woman with long chesnut hair,
brown eyes, and a voluptuous figure.}

I did! I’m the new designer.

Sarah: It’s a woman!

Dick: A gorgeous woman!

Editor: We try not to be sexist.
Author:  Never mind all that.  {To designer}:  He pays you?
Editor: Not with money.

Dick: You dirty little devil!!!

Editor: She wants to be a journalist, I give her advice.

Yes, he’s been showing me how to take things down
when I interview people.

Dick: Would you like to interview me?

Author:  This just makes it worse.  She'd have nothing to design 
if it wasn't for me,  and without my words you two would 
get no laughs.
Editor: They never do.

Dick: Right! We don’t have to take this, we’re stars! Sarah, come with me and you, designer woman, whatever your name is….


….Molly, you bring that banana and them there peaches.

Author:  What on earth are you going to do with them?

Dick: Improvise!

Bring us sunshine…..


Copyright John Steele, 1991, 1999, 2011
I think from this episode on, I have to take all the writing blame myself. And this was the first one in which I started to use fonts to differentiate the various characters to make it easier to see at a glance who was speaking (and because I figured if I was writing for radio I’d use sound effects, so why not make use of visual cues when writing for print media). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to recreate the original fonts above.

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