The Two Fingers To 50 Tour: New York

Well, I said I was Leaving The Country (see my last blog “Does Your Client Plead Guilty, Very Guilty Or Extremely Guilty?”). So I did.

Having been made to observe another step along the road to the systematic destruction of criminal justice in the UK, I officially embarked on the Two Fingers To 50 Tour. The fact that I have lumbered to my half century provided a perfect excuse to escape home, work and any idea that reaching 50 is anything to celebrate. 50, FFS! How the hell did I get here?

Besides, being a criminal barrister has meant that, apart from a couple of stints dog-sitting in Bournemouth, I haven’t actually been on holiday for about 10 years. So now, I appear to have gone on holiday by mistake.

I travelled to the US many times during my wild days at Kerrang! Towers in the 1990s, and therefore had numerous people and places that I need to catch up with. Somehow, I found myself landing in New York with a pile of baggage only a couple of inches shorter than I am, negotiating the train from NY Newark airport and pitching up in the freezing cold of Manhattan.


I managed to explore Manhattan for a couple of days without (a) bankrupting myself and (b) getting run over. The looks I received from Manhattanites when I asked for directions and stated my intention of walking 40 blocks to find a particular vintage clothing shop made me wonder if I really had turned into some sort of uber Miss Marple without noticing.

Manhattan is hectic and exciting, though in parts not a particularly attractive place. It’s also been completely taken over by Starbucks since I was last there, which is not thrilling for us tourists, except that you can use their free wifi every time you order a cup of tea. I have used hours of this on my trip so far, which I figure is some small payback for them not paying all those taxes which we need for our public services.

Still, amidst the corporate craziness there are still a few classic cheap diners remaining (on 3rd Avenue, above left). And New York definitely knows how to do architecture (Grand Central Station, second left, and view down Lexington Avenue, second right). As for Bloomingdales (far right), it’s like Selfridges crossed with Grace Brothers, and I could just about afford to buy a pair of tights.

Funnily enough, I’d just come out of Bloomingdales when my old Kerrang! mucker Dave Everley messaged me to break the news that the BBC are apparently planning to remake my all-time favourite comedy show, Are You Being Served?. (See one of the media reports about this here.) This is a prospect that I find appalling and outrageous on a number of levels.

Those who know me well are familiar with my obsession with this programme. I know pretty much every line of every episode, and have seen them all (and the film, where the staff go on holiday to the Costa Plonka to do it ‘Continental Style’) hundreds of times. My nickname in my K! days and ever since has been Slocombe for very obvious reasons. I dream of delivering a closing speech one day in which I can reference as many AYBS characters as possible in less than 30 minutes. I long for the day when I am old enough to tint my hair purple and talk about “giving my pussy an airing” in public without getting arrested.


When applying for pupillages, I spectacularly failed to get into one particularly posh Chambers after they asked me which was my favourite item from my TV memorabilia collection (as per my CV). I responded, obviously, that it was my VHS box set tin of all the episodes of AYBS, as it came with a free purple furry Mrs Slocombe’s pussy hand puppet. (I don’t think I’d have fitted in there anyway…)

So the idea that the BBC might desecrate this icon of telly with some updated, sanitised, PC version of the Grace Brothers experience had me reaching for the smelling salts. How the actual feck are they thinking they can reproduce the genius of this pantheon of campery in this day and age? You can’t tell me that the powers that be at the BBC are going to allow pussy jokes and references to gentlemen’s clothing “riding up with wear”  at 7pm on a weeknight without COMPLETELY MESSING IT UP?

Nothing, NOTHING, could be as magnificently, gut-achingly hilarious as the antics of the classic lineup of Mrs Slocombe, Mr Humphries, Mr Granger, Mr Lucas, Captain Peacock, Mr Rumbold, Miss Brahms, Mr Harman and Harold Bennett as Young Mr Grace. What the actual feck are the BBC thinking?! They should just repeat the originals and show the kids of today about what’s properly funny.

So, this had nothing to do with New York, but it almost made me want to rip up my return ticket. FFS, what’s the world coming to?

With that on my mind, I found myself heading for Penn Station in 10 below zero, my face frozen like I’d had a week of botox (like most of Manhattan, from what I saw), where I waited for the Lake Shore 49 sleeper train bound for Chicago. Surely nothing else could go wrong?…

lake shore 49


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