Milligan: His Part In My Downfall!

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“About bloody time!”

These were the opening words of Spike Milligan’s acceptance speech at the British Comedy Awards in 1994.

I was born too late to be a Goons fan and I was too young to appreciate Spike’s bizarre TV series “Q5” and “Q6”, but I was bang slap in the middle of literary puberty when I discovered the first volume of Spike’s war memoirs. It was love at first read and led to a long lasting relationship. I have volumes of Spike’s poetry, plays, scripts, anthologies, all peppered with his very silly and delightful drawings.

When I first read “Hitler: My Part in his Downfall” I was a spotty, woolly-haired 16 year old, in love for the first time.

Flashback to 1974 – a hot summer’s afternoon in the Bayswater end of Hyde Park. I was lying on the grass, my girlfriend beside me. We’d been reading bits of Spike’s book to each other, but the sultry London sun had got the better of us. We lay back side-by-side in the shade of an oak tree. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sunlight on my eyelids as it flickered through the leaves of the tree. In the background I could hear the constant, reassuring hum of traffic on the Bayswater Road. Bliss.

All of a sudden the sunlight was blocked out and I felt something warm and wet splash onto my face. I opened my eyes and saw a dog’s leg cocked right over my face. The last few dribbles of pee dropped onto my chin.

“Hey!!” I yelled. The dog, which had now finished peeing on my face, scampered off with innocent abandon.

Beside myself with furious indignation, my face soaked in warm dog pee, I leapt to my feet and gave chase to the hapless mutt, shaking my fist and shouting curses.

My girlfriend, jolted awake by my shouts, sat up. She saw me galumphing after the dog, my fist shaking. She burst out laughing. This was the final straw. As if being peed on by a dog wasn’t enough, I was now being laughed at by the love of my life. I stopped in mid stride, temporarily distracted from the chase, but my anger-driven momentum caused me to continue in a forward direction. I tripped over my own feet and fell sprawling on the grass.

It took a while for me to calm down. Later, back at my girlfriend’s parents’ flat, we both laughed about it.

I’m sure the whole incident would have made Spike laugh too. The irony was that Spike actually lived at Orme Court, less than shouting distance from the patch of grass in Hyde Park where my “Furious Incident of the Dog in the Daytime” took place. So, if he’d just MAYBE happened to have been looking out of his window, he might MAYBE just have happened to witness the calamity? Or am I MAYBE stretching it a bit here?

Whatever, I’m indebted to Spike for making a huge contribution to the development of my funny bone and it would be nice to think that I could have paid him back in some way. God bless you, Spike!

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