- 28 Oct 04
For the final installment of London Calling, Barry Glendenning felt it would be appropriate to compose an emotional, heartfelt farewell to his legions of loyal readers. Sadly, he never got around to it and sent us the following copy instead.
Today is a sad day. Well, for me it is. You’ll be thrilled. There comes a time in every columnist’s life when it dawns on them that the well is dry and it’s about time they relinquished the reins so that some other less jaded young buck – Fintan O’Toole or Eoghan Harris – can start banging the world to rights in their stead.
Most of them ignore this impulse and carry on regurgitating the same old same old with monotonous regularity, seemingly oblivious to the fact that gnawing your fist in embarrassment while re-reading a threadbare article you’ve just written and intend to serve up to the paying public is probably as good a sign as any that it’s time to end it all.
For me, this “my work here is done” epiphany occurred about four years ago. Nevertheless, a sense of fierce loyalty to my regular reader (alright ma?) forced me to soldier on - a modest admission, I think you’ll find, that rather puts paid to the scurrilous rumours circulating Dublin media circles that suggested I was merely coasting along in order to maintain the high standard of living sustained by the lucrative annual retainer, large monthly cheque and lavish expense account I receive as a stipend for my fortnightly endeavours.
For over five years now, I’ve been writing London Calling, a column about day-to-day life in England’s capital city that has slavishly devoted itself to such pertinent topics as the travails of the Birr and Offaly hurling teams, trips to the Galway races, the prohibitive price of toasted cheese sandwiches in Zvonimir Boban’s Zagreb bar and grill, the uselessness of the now defunct Sunday Independent 04 Team and the effects of the Irish smoking ban. I’ve also used it as a forum for cheap point-scoring against people I don’t like and wooing women I fancy, which is neither big nor clever, but often stunningly effective.
While pedants could be forgiven for arguing that such activities have no real place in a column that purports to give a fly-on-the-wall account of London life, few have bothered, which is proof if proof was needed that the column they call London Calling has run its course.
Of course no valedictory address would be complete without some pompous, self-indulgent reminiscing about past glories, which could be a problem as the few I have ended up in a skip with the knackered old computer on which they were recorded for, em, posterity. One that leaps to mind was the occasion I saved an old man’s life which, like my countless other good works for charity, I steadfastly refuse to talk about.
An elderly vagrant, he’d keeled over in the local betting shop, walloped his head off the floor with an almighty crack and turned a frosty shade of blue. A quick check of his pulse confirmed what I already suspected: I’m completely shit at checking people’s pulses.
Luckily, another punter was on hand armed with a basic knowledge of first aid. He established that the old man was indeed dead, so we set about resuscitating him. Amazingly, it worked and upon their arrival, the ambulance crew told us we’d saved a man’s life. That was a few years ago, but I still see that old boy from time to time. Whether he’s pan-handling for spare change outside the off licence, sifting through the bins outside the Indian takeaway or simply standing at the entrance to the Tube station shouting abuse at passers-by, I can’t help but bask in the knowledge that, without my timely intervention, he’d have long since shuffled off this mortal coil. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but no matter how unfocussed and random his public ranting and raving appears to be, he always seems to fix me with a particularly evil stare before bellowing “Cunt!” at the top of his voice.
I remember writing at the time of this particular incident that it was Sods Law that on the one occasion I got to save somebody’s life, it happened to be in a squalid betting shop on a weekday morning with very few people around. In a perfect world, I’d have performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on Heidi Klum at peak serving time in The Ivy restaurant to tumultuous applause from the onlooking celebrity hordes. (Sadly, on the one occasion I lived out that particular fantasy I ended up being arrested, as she wasn’t actually choking.)
Unfortunately, I tend not to hang around places like The Ivy, I don’t drink in trendy London bars, I rarely go to the theatre, I’ve never been to a West End musical, the only journalistic lig I’ve attended in the past five years was a rugby match in France and, apart from the occasional blow-out once every couple of months, my clubbing days are long behind me. In short, I’m a completely boring bastard who’s content to let most of what others would consider the only benefits of living in one of the most exciting cities in the world bypass him completely. That seems as good a reason as any to make this column the last one in the London Calling series.
And while it would be nice, at this point, to close the show with some fireworks and a poignant collage of clips from London Callings passim set to nice music, that smacks of rampant egotism and doesn’t really work on the printed page. Instead, I think I’ll go out on one of my favourite quotes, which is the epitaph chiselled into the headstone of my hero, the late Bill Hicks: “I left in love, in laughter and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.”
That loud “Pop!” you just heard, by the way, was the sound of your humble servant disappearing up his own arse.