Monday, 30 January 2017

York 2017 - Singing In Tune After Waiting Around Pointlessly On Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate

If you trawl back through the archives of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard (which I just have to be able to bring you this sentence) you will find an account of our last trip to York which was in the summer 0f 2010. Or rather, three accounts. One for each day that we spent there. Actually, let me save you some time. They can be found here, here and here. Almost seven years later we decided to go back there on the occasion of our 18th anniversary. That is to say we have been together for 18 years. We are not married. How are we going to afford weekends away in York if we get married?

We travelled over on Friday morning having booked to go on a walking tour of the city. Footprints walking tours don’t charge you for their services, but they talk a lot about tipping and how it is up to you to decide how much you think the tour is worth. Which isn’t an awful lot as we will see later but first let me tell you a little bit about the hotel.

We stayed in a Best Western called the Monk Bar Hotel. For me this evoked amusing memories of a contestant on University Challenge called Monkman who is fast becoming a cult figure. If you pay a visit to University Challenge’s Twitter feed you will see that their avatar is an image of the intense, slightly scary looking Monkman who represents one of the Cambridge colleges. He’s amusing due to his appearance, his intensity and the absolute sense of betrayal that he feels every time he gets a question wrong. As if he knows better and Jeremy Paxman is just taking the piss.

Presumably the Monk Bar hotel is so named not after the fierce television quiz star but after the area in which it is situated. Everything in that area seems to be known as the Something Something at Monk Bar or the Monk Bar Something. The disabled access room we were allocated (there may be more than one but don’t bet anything valuable on it) was set back away from the main hotel in a different building. Like an outhouse or the outside loo that used to sit in the garden at my nan’s house. Only bigger. And colder as we would find out when we returned from the walking tour to have a rest and get ready to hit the boozers. It also has no parking, something we didn’t find out until we had parked in what looked suspiciously like a car park at the back of the hotel. We were told we’d have to move the car to a car park just around the corner which Emma did, but if you are a wheelchair user driving there on your own then you will benefit from knowing that we had this problem. It will mean that you won’t have to make the mistake that we did before lugging your fat arse and your chair back into your car in order to move the car about 50 yards to a different car park and then have to push all the way back to the hotel to check in.

With an hour or so to go before the walk we went next door for lunch at the Yorkshire Bar & Grill. It actually joins on to the hotel but, this being us, we hadn’t realised this and so went outside to come back in again. Like that clip from The Simpsons of Abraham Simpson walking into his house, taking his hat off, turning around, putting his hat back on and then walking outside again. All while cheerily whistling along to himself. Twelve quid got us two meals (but not the drinks, they are extra) and it was all very nice. We were pretty much the only people in there at 12.30pm on a Friday so it was nice and peaceful too. Very different from Wetherspoons which I love but where you can't seem to get away from the inane chatter of Other People, many of whom try to put you off your breakfast by drinking pints of bitter at 9.00 on a Sunday morning.

We met for the walk on Stonegate, one of seemingly thousands of streets in York which has a name ending in Gate. As well as Stonegate there's Colliergate, Davygate, Coppergate, Deangate, Goodramgate, Fishergate, High and Low Petergate and the brilliantly named Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate among others. Everything short of Watergate and Pizzagate. Our guide was Matt, a young looking and incredibly posh-sounding chap who it turned out was studying at York University. Well that explained the well spoken accent. Everyone else here sounded like Keith Lemon. Matt was slightly scatty I think. The website for Footprints says that you have to book on to the tour either by phone or online, so he has an idea of who will be turning up before we start. After introducing himself he told us that it would be me and Emma and a school party! Just as I started to wonder how I would cope with 30 screaming children running off in different directions and asking 'why are you in that?' the so-called school party arrived. Fortunately, they were all well into their adulthood. What is more, none of them even worked in a school. Matt had no clue where he had got the idea from that they were a school party but I couldn't help but feel a wave of relief that we now wouldn't have to spend part of the tour looking for little Johnny who had broken away from the group and could be in any one of the 276 Gates or tea-rooms that line the city.

Here's another access bit. York is difficult to get around if you have a wheelchair. The first example of this was at Barley Hall, built nearly 700 years ago by monks (monk men?) with seemingly nothing better to do other than pray to their false God. Yet disappointingly, the hall we were actually looking at by this point has only been there for around 30 years after it was rebuilt in the 1980's following that prolific scourge of all things historic, decaying structures. You thought I was going to end that sentence with...that prolific scourge of all things historic, disabled people, didn't you? Go on, admit it. It's ok. Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard is exactly the sort of place where you would find that kind of offensive glibness. If you are a wheelchair user then you will be familiar with the concept that some buildings are just so historically important that they cannot be altered in any way to allow the likes of you inside but it does happen more often than you would think. But mostly buildings are altered in historical cities either because they are becoming unsafe due to structural damage or because they have burned down.

Back at the ranch, the point I was making is that you will have trouble getting around this area due to the uneven paving and the cobbles which are pretty much a feature of the whole of York. Matt told me that his brother is in a wheelchair (at least he didn't say he has a brother who is 'like me' because I can almost guarantee you that he isn't) and that he has trouble with cobbles. I replied that I do too, and that it wouldn't be the first time I have come a cropper if I should hit one or a crack in the pavement and end up sniffing the dirt. Fortunately I managed to stay in my chair throughout which, though disappointing for the humour content of this column, is a good thing for me.

Now Matt had explained to us before the tour started that there was a part of the tour that is inaccessible. This is not uncommon, especially in cities so rich with history and...well....cobbles. Fear not though, he assured us, as we could just take an alternate route while the others climbed the steps to walk along what remains of the city walls. Again this is something we have experienced before and usually takes no more than a few minutes out of the tour for before we meet up again with the group fairly quickly. Not this time. Matt advised us to head to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate via the arch close to where the city walls begin where he and the group would re-join us for the rest of the tour. It took about 10 minutes to get to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate and we arrived to find that the rest of the group were conspicuous by their absence. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Like the old Guinness advert. We waited there for another 15 minutes on top of the 10 it had already taken us to get there. So that is 25 minutes of a two-hour tour (which is actually only about 1 hour and 45 minutes anyway despite what the website tells you) that you won't be experiencing if you happen to be a wheelchair user. To my knowledge there is nothing on the website about this and actually there is no information whatsoever there about wheelchair accessibility or any other kind of accessibility needs you might have. So it's not great form, really. More than once while we waited we discussed the possibility of giving up on them and going into The Terrace, a pub right across the road from where we were waiting. York apparently has 365 pubs within its city walls and we had only been in one of them to that point, and that was only for lunch. We needed to make a start. And it was just there, staring at us and softly whispering 'come in, have a pint and forget about Matt's loopy Michael McIntyre schtick.'

But we didn't. Eventually Matt and the group turned up all apologies and have-you-been-waiting-longs. The wait wasn't really worth it. Before the rude interruption we had been walking for about an hour so I fully expected another half an hour at least, even allowing for the time we had missed. But that didn't happen. There were only two more stops on Matt's tour, the most memorable story of which had been the one of how catholic women were pressed to death hundreds of years ago if they were caught practising their religion. This meant basically being laid flat out and having a variety of heavy objects piled on to you until your spine literally snapped. Now everyone who has ever seen this column knows I care little for religion but this seems just a tad harsh just for being misguided enough to practice Catholicism. And we worry about Donald Trump. The final stop was Clifford's Tower, sometimes referred to as York Castle. There is a museum right by there but having done it before during our 2010 visit we don't bother again. However, you can read all about that in the blogs I linked to earlier if you so wish.

And so it came to the thorny issue of the tip for the walk. How much was it worth? We forgot to go to the cash machine and so only had a tenner between us anyway, but we actually debated whether or not we should give all of that to Matt following the Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate debacle. Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate-Gate, if you will. In the end the wastefulness that I inherit from my mother's side of the family won out and I just gave a yeah-whatever shrug when we were talking about it. We ended up giving him the tenner. That's only five pounds each after all and there were some worthwhile moments on the tour. Yet anyone who reads this column for advice on access issues in all of the strange places I visit should know that I would probably advise you to look elsewhere for your guided tour of York. Most of them will probably include some sort of alternate route to the part where you walk along the city walls but I wouldn't mind betting that most of them could do better than to have you waiting 25 minutes for them while you contemplate whether you might just be better off getting drunk.

Which, predictably, is exactly what we do on Friday evening;

Keystones Scream

As I mentioned York allegedly has 365 pubs within the city walls and we set out with the intention of seeing as many of them as we could over the two nights of our stay. The first of these was just around the corner, literally about a minute's walk from the Monk Bar Hotel. It's called Keystones Scream, which is an interesting moniker if nothing else. Unfortunately its name is just about the best thing about it. It was standard student fair, which would have been my absolute utopia when Emma and I met and for a few years afterwards, but now seems somehow inappropriate. We found a place to sit, a sofa situated in front of a large screen showing the Derby v Leicester FA Cup tie in which even I had absolutely no interest. Behind us the students were playing pool, drinking heavily, chatting loudly and generally being students. Not only that, but Emma said that the sofa she was sat on is what my scouse friends would call 'minty'. What she actually said (because she wouldn't actually say minty, it would sound ridiculous) is that it feels like someone has pissed on the sofa. Not recently. It wasn't wet. But it was tatty and stained. I stayed in my chair but I have to be honest and say that just looking at it did remind me of a brown and white sofa that my mum threw out about 100 years ago. From the outside, it looks a little like this. But really, with 365 to choose from you should probably save yourself the bother of going in;

I don't mean to pick on students. As we know I was one once, and what great times they were. In fact, being in Keystones Scream with all those long-haired idealists brought back great memories. As unattractive as Keystones Scream is it has nothing on some of the absolute shitholes we used to frequent back in my student days in Barnsley. Browns was a particularly gruesome venue but I absolutely loved it. They sold shots of whisky with a mixer for 50p. You don't need palatial surroundings to enjoy that. There were others. We used to flock to The Pheasant which was a short walk from the halls of residence where we all lived for the simple and only reason that it was a short walk from the halls of residence where we all lived. It was an absolute and total dive without a single redeeming feature. Same goes for The Firkin, a loathesome place but a place which could be relied upon to show live football and serve drinks to students at silly prices. It would all end in Hedonism nightclub, a place which was both dingy and smoky (this was before the ban) but which for young people with no responsibilities absolutely and completely lived up to its name. The things that went on. If anyone heard 'Sit Down' by James in any of the pubs I frequent now, and actually sat down next to me as people were fond of doing in Hendonism, I would punch them squarely in the face. How times change.

The Royal Oak

Remember that plan to visit as many pubs as we could in York? This was where it all started to go wrong, but for the right reasons. The Royal Oak is a relatively small place, and when it is busy it obviously seems even smaller. We had to fight our way to the only empty table in the place. It was empty for a reason. Just next to it, on the sofa literally about two feet from where we sat down, a man was setting up his keyboard. I took the opportunity to make a cheap joke about organs on Facebook (standard) and waited for what I thought would be an inevitable deafening from the man once he started playing. We still expected at this point to have one beer and move on. Normally when someone sets up musical equipment close to where you are sat in a pub it means the end of any possibility of conversation between you and whoever you are there with. But then the man, whose name was Adam, started playing and pleasantly surprised us with both his musical talent and his ability to keep the noise down to a level that it was possible to not only withstand but also to hear other sounds. He never touched the keyboard as it turned out. He played an acoustic guitar, all of which was right up my street. I was singing along to The Beatles, Oasis, Crowded House, Mumford & Sons, Jamie Lawson and even a bit of Ralph McTell!

So we had begun to enjoy ourselves to the point where we decided to stay for a few more, at least until Adam finished playing. Not only was the music good and the atmosphere pleasant, there was only an accessible toilet! Oh what joy was this? It meant fighting my way back through the huddled masses enjoying Adam's little sing-along but this was a small chore considering the number of pubs I have been in where wheelchair users can't even get through the door of a toilet. Strictly one and move on territory and even then only if you haven't been drinking heavily since your last visit to the bathroom. Having got through the crowd I had the usual problem of having to ask Miss behind the bar for the key (we had somehow neglected to remember the radar key - again) and then I had to ask her to move a number of sandwich boards which had been stored inside the disabled toilet. This again is a common practice in pubs where there are facilities. It's total lip-service to comply with the law. Install a disabled toilet and use it as a store room. Don't worry, nobody using a wheelchair will actually come in. Well, sometimes they do.

My singing had obviously been noticed by Adam. He told me I was 'in tune' which ranks among the higher compliments I have ever received for my vocal exploits. For this reason, for Adam's entertaining segment and for its commitment to actually bothering to have a disabled toilet The Royal Oak had instantly installed itself as my favourite pub in York to that point. It looks a little something like this;

The Cross Keys

Four pubs out of 365 is not a particularly good effort, I know. But where is the logic in leaving a pub if you are having as good a time as we were in The Royal Oak? You could go somewhere else but you would be doing it for the sake of it and there is a high risk that you wouldn't enjoy it so much. And an even higher risk that wherever you do go won't have a disabled toilet and you will either piss your pants or else spend your time there performing the I Need A Wee Dance that people with full control over their bladder function are so fond of. In any case for every Royal Oak there is bound to be two or three Keystone Screams. So by the time we left The Royal Oak it was well after 11.00. Time for another before everywhere started chucking out. The next one we came to was The Cross Keys which sits at the corner of Goodramgate just in front of York Minster. It's very scenic from outside, but from the inside it is fairly bog-standard pub gear. It started to empty out not long after we arrived which may or may not be a coincidence so we just enjoyed the beer and the peace before ending Friday back at the hotel bar. It was pretty much the only place still prepared to serve us.

Here's a shot of the Cross Keys to end on. I have decided to split the weekend into two entries because this has gone on far longer than I had expected. I hope you will join me for part two....

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Not Being George

First of all I have to again apologise for the lack of material on these pages. What time I have had for writing has been spent putting together a series of previews of the new Super League season which starts in early February. You may have seen a few of these springing up on Facebook. To be honest I didn't really intend to publish them on Facebook as they are pretty niche. They're far more popular on Twitter where most people who follow me do so because of my rugby league writings. Most of them don't even know me. But that's no barrier to us being friends. The reason these pieces appeared on Facebook had more to do with my inability to use Buffer correctly. I'm sorry Steve. You taught me far, far better than that.

I went for a Wetherspoons breakfast at the weekend. To my mind this is one of the greatest pleasures in life, but that could just be a reflection of the woeful tragedy that my life has become. But for less than £4 I get a wonderfully unhealthy meal that means I then have no need for food for about seven hours. What is not to like about that? The reason I tell you about my visit to Wetherspoons this particular weekend is that it provided the latest example of my being mistaken for someone else. Oddly, I'm always being recognised by people who don't actually recognise me. It's like being a celebrity with none of the perks. Only the regular hassle they must endure from the general public on a daily basis. Like being Robbie Williams without the sex and drugs.

So as we entered Wetherspoons a man was stood outside smoking a cigarette. He looked at me with a smile and said 'alright, George?'

George? This was a new one. Usually when this happens I'm Lee, Paul or Phil. That's because these are the names of wheelchair users who are friends of mine (the confusion on some faces when they see us together) and who might reasonably rock up at Wetherspoons in St Helens on a Sunday morning. However, not to state the obvious but none of these men look anything like me. They just happen to use wheelchairs which is enough to confuse certain members of the idiot population. After all we're all the same from the wheels up, right? The differences between us are not that difficult to spot but just to recap. All of Lee, Paul and Phil have hair. Lee is eight years younger than me. Paul is five years younger and half my weight. Phil is around 10 years older than me. So we're all different ages, sizes and only I have no hair. And get this. Lee has ONE leg!! ONE FUCKING LEG!! You idiot population. You see a wheelchair and you lose the ability to count legs!

As I passed the man on the way in he made a remark about how I must have been warm with such a big coat on. When he did he again called me George so I thought I'd try again to protest my innocence against the charge of being George. I told him I didn't know who George was but that I felt this cold January day warranted the use of the big coat. Or words to that effect. It didn't convince him. When Emma went up to the bar to order our breakfasts (I could go but it would involve the use of a lift which hardly ever works, often needs operating by staff and would probably evoke memories of that episode of Phoenix Nights where Brian Potter takes his new girlfriend upstairs) she overheard the man telling the friends he was there with that he had just seen George! What the Hell kind of wft-ery is this? Who is George?

To be fair to the man since I don't know George it may well be that he is my doppleganger. There's a fair chance he has no hair and two admittedly useless legs, at least. I hope for his sake that he isn't a dead ringer for me with the added complication of having my disability. Looking like me and having my disability is no fun, I can assure you. Yet the fact that it is possible that George is burdened in this fashion goes some way to explaining why I don't believe in God. Why would he do that to two people? And make them both live in St Helens? Preposterous. If this has happened then it is nothing other than a tragic accident of nature. I suspect and actually prefer to think that it has not happened quite like that. Somehow I prefer to believe in society's staggering ignorance than in the idea that there is anyone else out there who has to put up with being me.

Later that day, having posted a much more brief version of this misunderstanding on Facebook I came across a video there of a wheelchair user swinging and doing pull-ups from a set of high bars and walking along on his hands, all while still strapped to his wheelchair. Yes, he did use straps. Contrary to the belief of some intellectually challenged folk we're not surgically or anatomically attached to eight pounds of metal. I don't sleep in my chair nor do I shower or bathe in it. Heck, I don't even watch Homeland in it. I know, who knew? So anyway having seen this video I shared it (another mention for Steve here, thanks for that) and asked the question about why I never get mistaken for that bloke. I thought that was funnier than the original story of mistaken identity myself but the figures (or likes if you prefer) suggested otherwise. There's no accounting for taste.

Not that taste comes into it if we're all the same as George.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Super League 2017 Preview - Warrington Wolves

The 2016 Super League season was not a classic. Conservatism ruled as clubs climbed over each other to see who could devise the most boring game-plan. It culminated in the most wretched of all conclusions, a Wigan Warriors Grand Final victory. Yet here we are, a month out from the start of the 2017 campaign and we’re all just as excited as ever we were, as if there is any hope that in the intervening months the coaches have all got together over a Christmas sherry and decided to do away with one-out, knees and elbows, third man in dross. Well, it could have happened….

If the excitement level does not change, neither does the structure of my season preview which is below for your delectation. It’s alphabetical so as not to inspire too many angry tweets about why Wigan are last (because Wigan are last….). So sit back with your brew and read on, all the while picturing yourself strolling up to the Totally Wicked Stadium on what is sure to be an icy, wet, horrific night when Saints entertain Leeds in the season opener on February 9. There’s nothing better, is there?


It was so nearly, almost, virtually, closely, well nigh, approaching their year. More or less. As good as. But in the end Warrington Wolves fell short in both major finals in 2016, losing to Hull FC in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in August before going down to Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford. It was Warrington’s third Grand Final defeat in four years.

None of which will curb their optimism going into 2017. There is much for them to be cheerful and confident about after all, even if it has been a winter which threatened to be dominated by the sudden loss of Chris Sandow. While the RFL looked the other way (presumably glancing longingly at the buffet at the latest executive meeting) Sandow joined a growing band of players who saw fit to walk away from Super League clubs this off-season despite remaining under contract. The former Parramatta scrum-half cited family reasons for his need to immediately return to Australia, where he no doubt expected to be picked up by an NRL club fairly swiftly. That he has not done so yet is largely down to a charge of public nuisance hanging over him after he somehow became involved in a street fight in Queensland.

Sandow left with a flea in his ear from Wolves coach Tony Smith, who has closed the door on a return for the increasingly desperate halfback by adding Widnes' Kevin Brown to his ranks. What else are you going to do when you have been wronged by one of your superstar players than pick on another club? Brown joins the Halliwell Jones Stadium club on a two-year deal and looks set to form a tasty halfback partnership with Warrington’s altogether more sensible Aussie Kurt Gidley. The former Newcastle man was a revelation in his first season with the Wolves scoring seven tries and adding 16 assists to his all around excellence in organising and kicking. He and Brown are an ageing but vastly experienced pair who should still have enough in the legs to cause all kinds of pandemonium in opposition defences when they are on their game. When Brown is on the treatment table, as he has been all too often during his stay with Widnes, then Declan Patton provides one of the better cover options at half that Super League has to offer.

The vast majority of the squad which reached both of those major finals in 2016 has been retained by Smith. Mitchell Dodds made only two appearances for Warrington thanks largely to an injury early in the season and has moved back to Australia with Brisbane Broncos, while the once promising James Laithwaite has struggled to recover from an horrific broken leg suffered at Leigh in a Challenge Cup semi-final in June 2015 and will be spending 2017 with the intriguing and arresting new Toronto Wolfpack outfit. Joining him in Canada will be former Saint and treatment room dweller Gary Wheeler, that after just 12 appearances in the primrose and blue. Prop Ben Evans leaves the side of twin brother Rhys to try to help London Broncos back into Super League.

Aside from Brown new faces include former Saints troubled soul Andre Savelio. The 21 year-old developed a full blown ski jump lip in his last year at Langtree Park yet the decision to allow him to join a main title rival for a bag of grapes and a fruit shoot remains baffling. Never mind, we’ve got Matty Smith back. What? Oh. Helping Savelio in the pack will be Mike Cooper who returns to the Wolves after stint with St George-Illawarra during which he impressed enough to make it into Wayne Bennett’s England team. He will add quality to a front row which already includes the best prop in Super League in the outstanding Chris Hill as well as 2014 Man Of Steel and dummy half nuisance on fast forward Daryl Clark and self-proclaimed enforcer and occasional pundit Ashton Sims. Matty Blythe follows Cooper back to Warrington after spending the last four seasons with the club mandatorily prefixed with the word ‘beleagured’ the Bradford Bulls. Blythe will add cover in both the centres where Ryan Atkins continues to get away with being deceitful and average, and in the altogether stronger second row which is currently shorn of Ben Currie. Twenty-two year-old Currie is one of the best prospects in the English game but faces a lengthy spell on the side-lines after suffering a torn ACL in late September. Still, Smith can call upon Jack Hughes, Ben Westerman, George King, Joe Philbin Sam Wilde and Savelio in that position before he has to shout Blythe’s number.

Warrington’s three-quarter line may not have had any real improvements in the off-season in terms of recruitment but in Tom Lineham, Kevin Penny, Evans, Atkins and Stefan Ratchford there is plenty of pace to trouble an underwhelming list of opponents. Ratchford can also fill in at fullback along with former Wigan man and Scotland international Matty Russell. Between them the pair scored 17 tries last term and contributed a further 14 assists as Smith remained one of the few coaches feeling the need to keep the concept of open rugby league alive. In all Wire scored 123 tries in 2016, seven more than their nearest challengers in that category, while the 858 points they racked up over the course of the regular season and the Super 8s was also a league high. This was helped by an offload count of 288 which was bettered only by a quite suicidal Leeds Rhinos outfit as Smith continued to make his side hugely watchable if laughably brittle on the big days. Defensively they were also top dogs statistically, conceding 553 points (excluding the playoffs) and were the only side to miss fewer than 500 tackles.

So can they, will they go one step further in 2017 and finally make it their year? There is enough in their squad to suggest that they will and with so many options in the halves (heck, we haven’t even mentioned Ratchford’s ability to fill in there) they look set to be among the more creative sides again this year. Yet they are nothing if not dogged in their determination to find ways not to win the big one, so don't be surprised if it is another season of nearly, almost, virtually, closely, well nigh approaching glory for the Cheshire side.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Choking Sam Allardyce In A Chain Bikini

Happy New Year then. I feel abysmal so the first Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard of 2017 is a little more brief than some of its predecessors. For those of you not familiar with my Facebook account I should explain that last night, New Year's Eve, I fell asleep on the couch at some previously unknowable hour of the morning. When I woke up it was light outside but still very quiet in the house. None of Emma, Susan or Roland were up so I thought all things considered I'd better go to bed. I got to the bedroom to find two things of note. Firstly, Moewinckel was climbing all over a blissfully oblivious Emma, which is what he does when he wants his breakfast. Secondly, the clock beside the bed showed that it was 8.30am!! No wonder he wanted his breakfast. It was an hour late and I was only just going to bed!

It was all caused by a whirlwind visit from Helen and Alex. Had it not been for that I would have been in bed just after 2.00. We'd only been in the Springy where nothing unusual or goutrageous took place. Even the karaoke was standard. Bang average. So the upshot of all this was that I didn't get back out of bed until around 12.30pm. I haven't stayed in bed till that time since I was about 14 years old. At that age your dad would tell you that the day had gone and you'd be left scratching your head wondering how that could be a bad thing. Or he'd say the day was wasted while you struggled to conceive of a way that it could have been better spent that didn't involve Kylie Minogue.

But now of course I am old enough to understand that time is precious. Never was this more boldly illustrated than in the space of two chilling days across the season of forced fun when 2016, that crazed celebrity killer, took both George Michael and Carrie Fisher. I get that referring to 2016 as the worst year ever as some do represents a gargantuan lack of perspective. Yet did it really have to rob us so many icons? Following David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali and Ronnie Corbett were these two treasures. You can say what you like about what George got up to in public toilets it will not change my view that he was one of the finest vocal talents the UK has ever produced. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never tried blasting out Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which of course I haven't because I only ever do the Elton John bit.

As for Carrie Fisher well.....put simply she defined the childhood of millions. She apparently wrote books on how to deal with mental health problems as well as the odd screenplay alongside her acting. But Christ's bowels....she was Princess Leia. I'm as partial as the next man to Natalie Portman, Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones provided the next man isn't George Michael, but none of them come close to Fisher's role as the original and best female Star Wars hero. And yes, Disney will no doubt try to convince us that Rey makes far more use of her Jedi powers in episodes yet to come. But I bet they won't free themselves from slavery by choking Sam Allardyce while wearing an iconic chain bikini. That's Leia wearing the bikini. Sammy The Hutt in such revealing garb would be absolutely revolting. Fisher on the other hand is quite literally unforgettable.

Apparently she had finished work on Episode 8 before her untimely death which means there'll be no need for the kind of CGI jiggery and indeed pokery that goes on in Rogue One. But I wonder, as I'm sure most Star Wars fans will, what their plans are for Leia in Episode IX. They have the technology to include a character with a very significant role without the need for the actor who played the character to continue taking in oxygen. Yet some take the view that too much CGI is irritating and so it may well be that they'll have to write Fisher out of the story.

And then we may all have to endure Princess Leia's death all over again.