Say What You Like About Joseph Stalin, At Least He Made The Underground Trains Run On Time

It was quiet here last week because I had a lot of things on—to the extent that I had to stop off at the 24-hour Tesco superstore in the small hours of Saturday on the way back from singing at a gig to do my week’s shopping. I’ve read some extreme tales about the goings on in all-night supermarkets, so my pushing a trolley around in dress shirt, silver tie, and stripey loon pants didn’t raise any eyebrows, though a giggling shop assistant did wave a packet of “cock flavoured soup” at me and read out the bit on the back warning that the contents “may contain fish essences” with the words: “That’s made my night, that has.”

Anyway, over the quieter remains of my weekend, I finally got to see the second episode of House of Saddam via the BBC’s iPlayer. If you’ve ever watched the Armstrong and Miller comedy sketch show, you’ve probably caught at least one example of a particular riff they do in which an authority figure addresses a gathering of subordinates or clients in a cheery, encouraging, friendly way—then, after they have left the room, walks across to an intercom and spits a single order in a Bond villain accent: “KILL THEM!”. For example, a record executive jokily congratulates a teen band on their new deal, warns them of the hard work ahead of them in recording their album, shakes them all by the hand, and sends them from his office for champagne at their hotel—before condemning them all to death; in another, a department store Santa Claus orders the execution of a smiling mother-and-daughter in the same way. That’s pretty much what the TV dramatization of the Saddam Hussein story is like all the way through—except it’s not funny. (I’ve not noticed any kite-flying children yet either.)

On the subject of murderous dictators, while I was waiting at a London Underground station earlier in the week, I noticed this poster:

Stalinist London Transport Museum poster

The text reads:
“In the 1930s London Underground advised on the design of Stalin’s Moscow Metro, which is why the magnificent barrel-vaulted halls of Gants Hill station echo its Russian counterparts. Discover more comrades at the new Museum.”

Julian, Ben! Great work on the posters for the transport museum. Looking forward to seeing you both at the reception for the opening of the new exhibition. Thanks again for all your help with the image revamp. Do I remember some of that look from those posters you used to have on your walls in your rooms at Wadham, you scamps? That jolly old Uncle Joe with his comedy ‘tache: liked a bit of that magnificent barrel-vaulted architecture didn’t he, eh? Talent imitates, genius steals, eh? Great job. See you Thursday evening!

[escorts Julian and Ben out, closes glass door of office, and walks over to intercom]



  1. Posted 13Aug08 at 06:57 | Permalink

    Oh, I’m glad you’ve commented on this. I saw this when I was in London in June, only the one I saw had some additional boast about how Stalin asked some individual for help and then awarded him the Order of Lenin, or somesuch. I was less than impressed.

  2. Posted 13Aug08 at 15:11 | Permalink

    No, send them to Magadan for 25 years without the right to correspondence or visits.

    Then kill them.

  3. Posted 14Aug08 at 07:01 | Permalink

    No, send them to Magadan for 25 years without the right to correspondence or visits.

    Or Sakhalin, anywhere north of Poronaisk will do.

  4. Posted 14Aug08 at 09:10 | Permalink

    I hear the local organic moss is totally scrummy and to-die-for. Literally.

  5. Posted 15Aug08 at 03:52 | Permalink

    There are myriad ways of dying on Sakhalin: drinking yourself to death, car crashes, being eaten by a bear, drinking yourself to death and drinking yourself to death to name just 5. I’ve never heard of anyone die having eaten moss, though. Unless the moss happened to be attached to a berry bush from which a bear was eating breakfast.

  6. Posted 18Aug08 at 09:41 | Permalink

    I retract my unwarranted slur on the vegetation of Russia’s best dangly island. The thought of Islington Tristrams wasting away on a diet of it remains appealing, though.

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