The Saturday Slant with Craig Fleming - November 23, 2013

(Left-right) Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese announce their new plans for Monty Python at the Corinthia Hotel in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday November 21, 2013. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
(Left-right) Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese announce their new plans for Monty Python at the Corinthia Hotel in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday November 21, 2013. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
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And now for something completely different... or at least it would have been had I decided to write that opening line at the start of the week.

In recent days the once-famous catchphrase from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series has swung right back into fashion following the motley crew’s decision to get together again.

Unfortunately, the reunion, which will be welcomed by many in middle age as well as younger recruits to this particular comedy brand, is as they say in the best showbiz circles – “For One Night Only!”

So what brought the team to the table after all these years apart to announce their intentions at a high-profile media conference?

Eagled-eyed viewers, familiar with the individuals, will have spotted that those large name plates on the table (the kind more usually associated these days with people brought before televised parliamentary committee meetings to justify their alleged shortcomings) were deliberately jumbled up.

And it was very noticeable John Cleese and Eric Idle, never the best of friends, were not side by side either then or in the publicity images that followed.

John Cleese, no doubt, will find the money comes in handy for funding his current divorce settlement, while the other surviving members – Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, along with that lady Python Carole Cleveland – probably have one eye on bank rolling their later years.

With 60s icon Bob Dylan finally in Blackpool for his three Opera House performances that end tomorrow night, what is to prevent the Pythons from boosting up their pension funds too?

I’ve been a big fan from the beginning, at one time probably bordering on obsession. But I was always in very good company in the Common Room on Monday morning. Long before the days of video recorders a group of us lower sixth formers relived whole sketches from memory from the previous night’s screening.

Even before that first episode in October 1969, a few of us were familiar with the cast, having followed avidly the seemingly-anarchic teatime children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set and the equally-irreverent late-night At Last The 1948 Show.

The former counted future Monty men Palin, Jones, Idle and animator Gilliam among a team that also took in David Jason, with off-beat musical items courtesy of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

The latter boasted Cleese and the late Graham Chapman, in the company of (future Goodie) Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman and the “lovely” Aimi MacDonald.

And with that kind of pedigree the mating could only be a good thing. So much so that some sketches from both series were late re-worked into Python episodes.

Will I be going to the July 2014 “Circus” show at London’s 02 Arena next July, assuming I would be lucky enough to beat the touts when the tickets go on sale on Monday?

No, I’ll wait for the DVD, as my one experience of that mammoth hangar suggests the entertainment might resemble the march of the tiny pinheads unless you follow the action on a giant screen.

I count myself lucky at having caught one of the rare live appearances by Monty Python in 1974.

Back then The Gazette had a social “club”, going under the inspired name of Headliners, and staff, family and friends travelled far and (perhaps not so) wide to see concerts.

One such coach trip was to Southport Theatre and it did not disappoint. Just like in those schooldays, whole rows – ourselves included – recited line after line as the small screen sketches came to life in front of us.

Dead parrots, slapped fish, and confused cats were all served up on a stage close enough to be seen, and, for the record, this time around we all actually expected the Spanish Inquisition.

We sang the Spam Song and the Lumberjack Song and while Rocky Horror fans might think they started the “dressing up” trend, some Python followers sported Fred Gumby knotted handkerchiefs, while others literally strutted to their seats in the style of John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

Remember the Yorkshireman who lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank?

It must have inspired the design of the show’s programme.

No stapled foolscap brochure, rather a large sheet of brown wrapping paper with all the pages printed on to it and clearly-marked dots and scissor symbols to show you how to cut out and assemble yourself.

Let’s just hope next year’s get together is a worthy companion to the four TV series, those films and even Spamalot.

Meanwhile, I must get round to renewing my subscription to the Royal Society for Putting Things On Top Of Other Things and keep fingers crossed they don’t adjourn the next meeting – in July 2014 – indefinitely...

More rage on the road

I feared I came across like Victor Meldrew last week, ranting on about darkened cyclists and drivers who dazzle with illegal use of low level front fog lamps.

But, it seems, I am not alone when regularly exclaiming: “I don’t believe it...”

Ted Walsh emails, re-assuringly: “I totally agree with you. When are police going to start enforcing the law and make cyclists stick to the Highway Code?

“Rarely do you see a cyclist at night with lights on. Cycling on the pavement, scaring pedestrians, no bells. Traffic lights and junctions have no meaning. Thanks for highlighting this Craig, it has made me realise I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

Dean (no surname given) complains about rude drivers sailing past him “without a nod, a smile or any other sign of appreciation or acknowledgement” when he stops or pulls in to let them get through.

Celia Wright asks: “Why do motorcyclists assume they can tear ahead of you or cut in at a few seconds’ notice on a busy road, ignoring speed limits?”

Richard Roots directs his anger at pedestrians “who step out in front of you.” He adds: “When I lowered my window to challenge one old chap he told me cars had brakes and he didn’t.”

Andrew Campbell hates “buses not pulling up fully into marked spaces”. To this I add my grumble that nobody at the Town Hall seems to have considered temporarily moving bus stops on St Annes Road, South Shore, either side of ongoing roadworks at Watson Road bridge.