The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy – Bottesford’s Secret…

Situated close to the route of the Grantham Canal, the village of Bottesford in Leicestershire is one of the larger conurbations in the vicinity of the old waterway with its population of 3000. When I think of Bottesford two things come to mind, (well three to be more accurate). St. Mary’s Church with its magnificent 200ft high spire, visible for many a mile and also for the village’s connection with the legendary comedy pairing, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Some years ago, a lady named Olga Healey ran a public house in Bottesford named The Bull Inn. Nothing unusual there you might say? Well this lady was actually the great comedian, Stan Laurel’s sister and The Bull Inn has become something of a shrine to the great comedy couple, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

The Bull Inn’s lounge was closed when I last called, being a quiet Monday night, but on request, the landlady, Linda, kindly opened up for me a locked lounge that was sat in darkness, so that I might view some of the historic photographs and newspaper clippings adorning the walls. As she switched the lights on, the fantastic images of the famous pair came to life surrounding me in the history of the pair. Notably there was an official copy of Stan’s birth certificate. Interestingly too, Stan’s father’s occupation was shown as ‘Comedian’.

There was much mention of their well-reported stay at the pub in 1953 when the pair performed at the Empire Theatre in Nottingham. Not many knew at the time that they would also visit The Bull Inn variously on many other occasions privately. Stan and Ollie at one point even owned a home nearby in the Vale of Belvoir village of Redmile which lies adjacent the Grantham Canal.

It was lovely to see the various photographs and memorabilia of Stan and Ollie raising a pint of ‘Bull’s best’. One can only imagine how quaint and lovely the scene must have felt for them on their travels from their homes in the United States.

When I visited The Bull Inn, the landlady mentioned that the Stan and Ollie Appreciation Society, ‘The Sons of the Desert’ were to hold their annual meet there on the coming Saturday. The old films will be projected up in the lounge and some have even been known to come along dressed as Stan and Ollie! A fitting tribute to their genius.


“We haven’t eaten for three days – yesterday, today and tomorrow”

Stan Laurel


November 25, 2007 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , , , | 8 Comments

My Vancouver

Vancouver is one of my very favourite places in the world. Certainly,the nicest new-world city of my experience.It’s no coincidence that the city finds itself regularly voted among the most attractive cities in the globe. With its enviable situation by the ocean and mountainous backdrop, it’s striking appearance is easily recognised the world over.

From the delightful Granville Island, along Robson Street to the jewel in Vancouver’s crown, Stanley Park, it’s a truly spectacular city. Here are few corners of it that have found favour with me on my visits.

Somewhere to stay… Allow me to let you into one of the cities best-kept little secrets, The Sylvia Hotel on English Bay. Something of an institution in the city, the Sylvia is by no means the most luxurious or well fitted of hotels, particularly by North American standards but its great advantage is in its location. Sat a few yards away from the waters of English Bay and adjacent the magnificent Stanley Park, Robson Street. Downtown is but a short walk away too. Directly across a quiet road outside the hotel are lawns and the beach. The nearby seawall is ideal for strolling, cycling, rollerblading etc. Especially that holiday morning constitutional which is great for people watching The hotel has an attractive lounge with large windows, ideal for enjoying a ‘sundowner’, watching the sun set over the water. Prices at the Sylvia are always competitive, particularly for a downtown location.


The Sylvia Hotel

English Bay

Somewhere to eat…

The Boathouse Restaurant 8331 River Road 604-273-7014 (seafood) A series of five restaurants and it’s the Richmond version near Vancouver International Airport that I refer to here. The choice in this predominantly seafood restaurant is immense and after several visits I couldn’t fault anything I tried. The atmosphere is lively though there are plenty of quieter areas to get away from the main crowd. An ideal choice when flying into Vancouver and wanting some great food sooner rather than later after your journey.

The Boathouse

Tojo’s Restaurant 202 – 777 W. Broadway, Vancouver (604) 872-8050/51 (Japanese) In something of an unassuming location tucked away in a second floor office building on a commercial street in Vancouver, Tojo’s offers great views over the city from it’s vantage point on W. Broadway.

Perhaps the first thing one notices is the huge collection of signed photographs of well-known visitors, the restaurant attracts adorning the walls. Tojo’s is something of an institution and this reflected in it’s clientele. The food is fabulous – this really is the place to try something different. In some reviews I’ve heard of a rather ‘businesslike’ attitude from the staff but this was not my experience. If you ever get to try Japanese food just the once try it here, you’ll be hooked forever!


Seasons in the Park Hilltop Bistro, Queen Elizabeth Park

A really classy and genteel place to eat yet not in the least uncomfortable or starchy in its atmosphere. Huge windows offer a memorable panoramic view over the city of Vancouver. The restaurant sits in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park which features grounds crafted and landscaped from former quarries. The park is a triumph and so is the restaurant. Slightly expensive by Canadian prices but perhaps still less than one would pay in the UK for comparative fare and surroundings.

The bistro is known for the summit dinner held there by Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, their signed thank you letters for the restaurants hospitality are displayed proudly on the wall. A truly memorable visit for the Vancouver visitor.

View from the Seasons Hilltop Bistro

November 23, 2007 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 4 Comments

An Edinburgh Birthday Tale

A landmark birthday then (twenty-nine again) and it was decided at a late stage that this should entail a sojourn up north back to the homeland. Where better to spend a weekend without spending the equivalent of the national debt on enjoying oneself with a little mild hedonism for a couple of days?

Four of us ‘to go’ then. beginning at the testing time of Friday at five-ish on the M1 motorway. At least I think it was the M1 as it was completely obscured by a mocking, snaking train of stationary rear view lights as far as the eye could ascertain. Oh the joy, and a quickly disappearing vision of some semblance of a very welcome evening spent in the social coil of Edinburgh.

No matter.

I’ve actually never struggled to leave Nottinghamshire as much as I did last Friday night. After fully two and a half hours we were merely sampling the delights of Blythe services around 30 miles north. What fun circumnavigating those plastic cones in a darkened services car park though. An unmissable experience. Continue reading

November 21, 2007 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 2 Comments

Nottingham on Ice!

Skating away – on the thin ice of a new day! At last, Nottingham is to have it’s very own outdoor ice rink over a period of seven weeks in the Market Square commencing November 21st. It’s a first for the city borrowing from the success of other cities such as Edinburgh’s New Year ‘Winter Wonderland’ in Princes Street Gardens, a similar construction around Clifford’s Tower in York and several others around the country.

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November 15, 2007 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | Leave a comment

Nottingham Panthers: Drouin Skates Out

A first hockey post from me then. It’s taken a while, I’m not sure why.
News came to me about the sacking of star winger. Pierre-Claude Drouin, the classy French-Canadian veteran currently icing for the Nottingham Panthers.

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November 8, 2007 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

Fireworks: The Fun starts at Eight O’Clock

I’d always wanted to know when that would be..when the ‘fun starts’? Not just today on an evening when lots of people had chosen to have their Guy Fawkes night celebrations but just in life generally. It’s a question that has flummoxed me intermittently for many years, but enough of my flippancy. To explain, a friend had informed me that our chosen destination for the night, The Black Lion pub at Radcliffe on Trent, Nottinghamshire. was to have its annual fireworks display and bonfire night this very night and that she had been reliably informed that ‘the fun starts at eight o’clock’.

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | Leave a comment