Fourtharch 2019 Newsletter
By Barrie the Beaver
It’s tough being a comedian, especially when you’re a beaver! And political correctness didn’t help, hitting me hard in the 1970’s when suddenly you couldn’t do gags about coyotes anymore that was basically my whole act. I couldn’t find work at all the 1980s what with the new alternative comedians taking centre stage at a time when beaver stand-ups were seen as something from the previous century. But then towards the 1990s my agent picked me up some work in Hollywood and I was asked to play myself in one of the Naked Gun movies. It was a non-speaking part and all I had to do was strike a pose and stand completely still, just like the dames I used to hang around with in the 1960s who appeared on stage with no clothes at the Windmill theatre during the war. My character in the film was referred to by the Naked Gun star as a “Nice Beaver”. I tried to change the script to “Fabulous Beaver” that I felt more befitting my character but I should have remembered the advice given to me by Chuck Heston years ago who told me to simply turn up at the studios on time and stand where ever the director tells you to stand.
Even though the “Nice Beaver” scene was cut out of the film in Canada proving me correct, I can still hear the words “You’ll never work in this town again” ringing in my ears to this very day. My career in Hollywood was over just as quickly as it had begun, meanwhile back in the UK the renewed interest in old comedians such as Bob Monkhouse through the 1990s resulted in your favourite beaver getting picked up by a young producer who wasn’t even born when I was doing all that coyote stuff. The production team were looking for a new double act for kiddies morning television and it wasn’t long before I was paired up with child actor and Home Alone UK star Mogi to become Barrie & Mogi – Britain’s top children’s light entertainers.
The pairing of a long forgotten beaver stand-up from the 1970s and the child actor who was left home alone not by mistake but on purpose in the UK film was a magical combination… until of course the kid started growing facial hair and began getting ambitious and demanded top billing. He wanted to change Barrie & Mogi to Mogi & Barrie, something just about as daft as changing a well-established brand name like M&S to S&M. Similar to many other double acts and comedy partnerships over the years the press picked up and ran with the rumour that the Beaver and the Kid were not getting on and that our cuddly fluffy on-screen relationship was a front hiding the fact that we were consistently rowing and not speaking to each other once the cameras were turned off. Then someone or a certain child actor approaching puberty planted a dead coyote in my swimming pool after one of my house parties and my career was suddenly as dead as that pesky north American critter
After falling off the wagon and hitting recreational berries and mushroom for a while I decided to return to Canada and found work demonstrating dam building at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto when who should walk in this January but Emily who happened to be planning this year’s Canadian themed Fourtharch weekend and she kindly asked me to be the mascot. I jumped at the chance but it was only after flying back to the UK courtesy of BeaverAir that I discovered Emily had also invited the kid hoping to revive the Barrie and Mogi show that she so loved tuning into on Saturday morning Canadian Television. I decided to play alone because this was the perfect opportunity to take revenge on my former show biz partner, not only for that dead coyote stunt that trashed my career but also for stealing most of my gags.
The Fourtharch Weekend 2019 – London
It has become the tradition to begin all Fourtharch tours at Heath High level in Cardiff but there was no way in the world that any beaver was going to get up those steps to the station platform. The kid organised a BeaverCab to pick me up along with Great Paul, project manager Emily and husband Chris to travel to Cardiff General station for the journey to London on the Great Beaver Express. We were just like the Famous Five away on a new adventure with your friendly neighbourhood beaver standing in for Timmy the dog. We had already received apologies from Steve and Rhys who unfortunately were not going to be able to make it this time but then we got more disappointing news from Norfolk with a message from Paul Ebbens informing us that he was feeling a little unwell and would also have to cancel. This adding even further disappointment for the Great Paul in particular because he had been assigned to a 3-person kayak crew for the Saturday morning that included the Ebbens leaving him well and truly up the creek without a spare paddler [Editor’s Note: Is it any wonder your act failed with jokes like that]
Arriving at Paddington on time we said our goodbyes to a Canadian Mountie we had bumped into on the train who looked terribly familiar and then we took the Beaver Tube to Strafford and our hotel the Holiday Inn Proper Breakfast. We were met by Richard and we were too early to check in so we left our luggage and got straight back on the Beaver Tube to officially begin Fourtharch 11, 2019. Our first pub on Emily’s carefully planned list of very interesting hostelries was the Ship Inn Hackney where lunch was scheduled for 1 pm and for the first time the Great Paul joined us to eat during the day and told me that his vegetarian wrap was the most creative presentation of the idea since he dined at the Great Exhibition, whatever that was. The waitress was a good kid and worked the tables really well, she kept cheerful but there was a sadness about her and she reminded me of my days gigging around British Columbia in all those lumberjack social clubs – keep it up girl because when that break comes it would have been worth all that hard ground work. [Editor’s Note: What on earth is this beaver talking about?]
The Ship was the perfect start of a whole list of “perfect pubs” chosen by Project Manager Emily so I was confused by the smirk on Mogi’s face as we entered our second port-of-call just a few doors down called the Cock. Then I realised it must be that human sense of humour that we Canadian beavers have never quite understood. The Cock is described as a shabby-chic pub and is an outlet for the Howling Hops microbrewery and the brewery that we would be visiting on the Saturday. I felt really at home in the Cock mainly because the interior had not changed since the 1970s at the time when I was beginning my career as a stand-up, I gnawed on the original wooden benches while the others talked about the new Fourtharch weekend kitty program. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that the kid had left Emily’s new kitty purse back in Cardiff that she had bought especially in celebration of the new no-money Fourtharch weekend kitty system.
Richard would leave us here for the rest of the afternoon to head off on a Dave’s Alternative Weekend 40th Birthday Party
We gave our next scheduled pub the Pembury Tavern a body swerve mainly because and rather unusually for London the place did not open for business until 4-o-clock. However we would discover the reason why when we returned a little later to find the place rammed with Friday evening office workers kicking off the weekend and in serious danger of drinking the place dry. What with the weather beginning to look a little inclement, it was rather serendipitous of Emily to schedule our next two ports of call right next door to each other underneath the railway arches in Bohemia place and it is no thanks to Flanagan And Allen [one for the older listeners] that we now associate businesses under Railway arches not with storage facilities and auto repair shops but pubs and micro-breweries such as the fabulous run along the arches in South London better known as the Bermondsey Beer Mile [fourtharch7]
We had one in the creatively named Experiment where the kid saw an opportunity to re-enact his one and only ever funny gag – yes, you guessed it the pallet routine. So to move things on and just before the rain was about to bucket down we walked a few feet next door to the Hackney Church Brew Company and as we enjoyed our beer in the warm watching the maelstrom outside a mysterious silhouetted figure suddenly appeared at the doorway of the exterior arch glass wall. It was Dave who had found us by following Emily’s schedule, we were all very pleased to see Dave and especially Great Paul who having earlier lost his spare paddler Paul Ebbens could now relax as stern paddler Dave was now firmly in place. All Dave needed now to be nice and ready for the Saturday morning’s kayaking was a good night’s sleep – what could possibly go wrong [Editor’s Note: OK, so what did go wrong?]
It was way past 4-o-clock now and with the rain easing we decided to make our way back to the Pembury Tavern for some serious bar billiards. En route there we came across a wonderful old theatre façade with a large pink neon sign reading ‘Empire’ and in in a kind of spontaneous word association test we all exclaimed at the same time “The Hackney Empire” expressed with the same affection as that for a favourite old aunt [especially one with lots of money]. I never played the place myself but of course the world’s most famous unfunny comedian Charlie Chaplin did but I won’t hold a grudge because any theatre that has a letter out on its neon sign that the Empire did that Friday evening is always a sign [see what I did there?] of an easy to work, warm and friendly audience.
Fourtharch original and logistics supremo Gez appeared out of the lift as we were checking in to our rooms on the Holiday Inn third floor reception area and we were later pleasantly surprised to be joined by Rhys at Tap East in the nearby Westfield shopping centre. Rhys who had previously sent his apologies swung by to wish us all well for an enjoyable weekend and it was good to sit down with a fellow stand-up and feeling a little high after over indulging on the local berries I stood on the bar and reprised my 1970s coyote routine. Rhys paid me a most wonderful compliment by comparing me to Bernard Manning … or at least I think it was a compliment.
Our evening meal at the nearby Cow restaurant was next and for the life of me I just cannot remember what happened from here on in [Editor’s Note: does your memory loss Barrie have anything to do with the fact that Great Paul retired after Tap East?]
Day 2 Saturday
Just like the Famous Five we all shouted “Yippy” this morning for Emily had booked us into the Holiday Inn Proper Breakfast avoiding the Holiday Inn Not-so-nice-a-Breakfast as it is politely referred to in Canada for as you know just like Gez we Canadians do not swear. There was a double helping of excitement in the air this morning because we were not only off for a spot of kayaking on the local river Lea but we were also going to be joined there by two more Fourtharch members Matt and Chris of Yorkshire. So with a full day ahead I asked the nice people at the Holiday Inn to prepare packed lunches comprising of jam sandwiches, orange squash and an apple or banana if preferred [Editor’s Note: OK, time to cut the Famous Five stuff Barrie because we all know that lunch on the Saturday was not going to be jam sandwiches and bananas if preferred but large jugs of beer at the Crate in Hackney Wick]
After a hearty breakfast we began to make our way through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park towards the river however on route some of the boys [No more Famous Five stuff Barrie] ………..
Some of the non-specific persons who identify as men were distracted by a climbing wall that presented quite a challenge for members brave enough to attempt to pull themselves right up to the top. So the decision was made to return to the North face of the Eiger later for a second attempt because Matt and Chris of Yorkshire were now in place at the Milk float at Hackney Wick. After meeting and greeting we were soon kitted out with buoyancy aids and paddles and given a quick lesson in canoeing plus a chat about safety on the river and the ears of the Canadians in the group certainly pricked up when our instructor covered the rules for as you know there is nothing more than a Canadian loves better than rules – apart from obeying them of course.
We had two three-man kayaks and two two-man kayaks with Great Paul originally assigned to a 3-man with Dave & the Ebbens leaving him with one half of what sounded like a Country & Western act, the second three man crew was Richard, Gez and Mogi followed by Emily, Chris plus your beaver that counts as a three person-crew and finally following up the rear and last to get into the water was the second 2-man crew comprising of Matt and Chris of Yorkshire.
They were off and everyone seemed to be obeying the one rule of the road to move to the side of the river when approached by a power driven vessel and avoid the wildlife of course. Straight away we began to enjoy messing about on the river and just for a joke as Team Emily cut across to the bow of Dave and Great Paul someone shouted “Ramming speed Dave” convincing Richard coming up from the rear, who knows nothing about sport, that this was in fact the whole point of the game and as stern paddler decided to go for it.
For those not in the know, the Fourtharch runs an annual sporting tournament not to showcase excellence in any particular field but to crown a champion whose knowledge of sport is an absolute zero. There are many contenders but Richard has been the winner since the competition began in 2008. The man is still very much at the top of his game and it is a joy to discover the new and never ending areas of sport that he knows nothing about. On the Sunday morning while actual sports fan members were away on a Dave’s Alternative Weekend watching the Rugby World cup game from Japan between Wales and Australia in the Bat & Ball bar under the Holiday Inn. Richard was holed up alone in his hotel room and looking towards a post-match muster time simply added the first halve of a rugby game together with the second halve and coming up with 80 minutes proposed a meet-up time of 09.55 after a game that kicked off at 08.45 – the man is unbeatable. Meanwhile back on the river Great Paul was missing the Ebbens even more for he could have at least blown his guard’s whistle and waved his flag at Richard and maybe rear paddler Dave could have doubled up as a rear gunner and opened fire.
The Brewery Tour
After refreshments on board the Milk Float (no rear gunner) we had only a short distance to walk to the Crate for lunch and our micro-brewery tour. You may recall that members at the end of last year’s brewery tour were treated to a very impressive rack and this year would be no different as tongues were literally hanging out at the sight of tour guide Veronica’s large jugs… filled to the brim with beer that she amply carried around with her on the tour to make sure that our glasses were well topped up with more than a good handful. Veronica did her best to help us along with sampling her wares as she sported a very impressive knowledge of beer history through the ages. Poor Matt’s eyes nearly popped out when Veronica revealed her capacity for beer suggesting that she could put away 25 pints even on a bad night – Great Paul simply wondered where on earth the young girl put it all [Editor’s Note: I see that the double entendre has finally reached the Canadian Beaver world Barrie?]
Fortunately, we had our table booked for lunch at the very busy Crate and had lunch of pizza with more jugs [of beer] and then the scheduled AGM at Howling Hops.
We decided to sit outside to hold the AGM and as usual the Great Paul began his wonderful speech with aplomb [Editor’s Note: Who is actually writing this?]. The chairman focused on the growth in popularity of the business of British beer around the world with well-established breweries such as Greene King falling into Chinese ownership this year and Fullers being taken over by the Japanes. However the chairman saw great opportunities for the Fourtharch in the far east with young Chinese and Japanese beer drinkers who would be more likely to engage with the Fourtharch mission maybe even turning the business cards into the latest collecting craze and finding themselves swapping a Rhys and a Chris of Yorkshire for a rarely seen Gez.
Emily was given a round of applause for all her hard work as Project Manager 2019 and for an extra tour she organised earlier in the year of the Tiny Rebel brewery in Newport that included in the group possible new Fourtharch recruits Chris and Ann. Although Matt’s official Fourtharch video production still remains a little behind schedule he was congratulated for his organisation and creation of the Bluntisham beer festival in his home village in Cambridgeshire back in May. The event was such a triumph and so well attended that it actually ran out of beer! With Chris of Yorkshire and wife Emma organising an equally successful festival in their village Hanborough in 2017 it is becoming very fashionable within the Fourtharch to have a beer festival under your belt and may even become a requirement for membership in the future.
Chris of Yorkshire was presented with his bottle and Dave was given [if we had it yet] an award for best actor in a Fourtharch video for his interpretation of Biff Tannen in last year’s production.
After Finance Director Richard read the accounts, the kid who for some bizarre reason is the Fourtharch Equalities and Diversity officer began with an update announcing that he had promoted himself from Equalities and Diversity Tsar to the Equalities and Diversity Führer – well you have been warned guys. The Führer as he now likes to be known then proceeded to bring out his box of ticks this time with a rainbow flag blu-tacked to the top confusing members into thinking that we were about to finally place a tick in an LGBT box. However the rainbow was in fact placed on the tick box as a tribute to Bungle and Zippy who sadly were not going to be able to join us as promised having still not recovered from the recent passing of Geoffrey.
And finally if you could all image a drum roll we had the announcement from Chris, husband of Emily, who as our project manager 2020 rather cleverly kept the other envelope from Emily’s multiple choice announcement from last year and after passing it around for us all to check that the seal had not been tampered with then proceeded to open the envelope to reveal next year’s venue that will be Reading.
With all AGM business complete and next year’s venue announced everyone could now relax and look towards our evening date at the featured pub, the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden. Before the Maple Leaf, Emily had scheduled some extra treats that included the Ship in Gate Street, a haunt of Matt and Richard when they are in town and then I think the Great Paul’s favourite the Princess Louise in Holborn a wonderfully preserved Victorian pub with a series of wood panelled booths around an island bar with even the men’s urinals given special attention and listed along with the rest of the building.
Emily saved the best till last as we finally arrived at the Maple Leaf and our featured pub 2019. The theme inside was all things Canadian that obviously goes down well with Londoners because the place was packed full and what a treat for the sports fans as well with TV screens showing a range of live sporting events – to think back in Quebec in the 70s we only ever had birling as a pub spectator sport. [Editor’s Note: Don’t tell me Barrie, you cannot remember anything more after the Maple Leaf at the point when Great Paul headed back to the hotel on the Central Line as there is no such thing a Beaver Central Line] That’s where you are wrong Mr Editor because I headed off with Dave who actually went on a Dave’s Alternative Weekend Casino package and we both came out winners – I don’t normally like to boast you know.
Day 3 Sunday
As already mentioned Welsh Fourtharch rugby fans were up early this morning for a Dave’s Alternative Weekend Sports package to muster after the final whistle [that’s 10.30 Richard] with the rest of the group back upstairs where Emily presented bottles of beer she very kindly brought back from London the previous evening to those members who had turned in early – and Great Paul was very very grateful.
The Sunday morning on a Fourtharch weekend is usually a free-for-all with members asked to suggest sights to see or a task to perform however Emily had this base well covered in the planning stages with a scheduled visit to the Brunel museum in Rotherhithe followed by lunch just across the Thames at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping. We sadly said our goodbyes to Gez and Dave but would meet up later with Chris of Yorkshire, Matt and Richard at the Prospect as they headed off on a Dave’s Alternative Weekend Religious package.
The Brunel Museum is housed in the Brunel Engine House, Rotherhithe designed by Marc Brunel father of the more famous Isambard and was part of the infrastructure of the Thames Tunnel and as Emily, husband Chris, Mogi and Great Paul wondered around I was reminded of my own engineering ancestor Barrie Brunel who was big in dams – he used to holler the word every time he hit his paw with a hammer. There was a short film covering the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Great Paul jumped with joy when the great man’s railway bridge in Maidenhead was featured in the film and stood up to exclaim “I am going to stop off and take a closer look at that very bridge on Monday” [Editor’s Note: Is that his latest chat- up line?]
We could actually see the Prospect of Whitby and our destination for lunch across the other side of the Thames from just outside the Brunel museum and as if that was not a thrill enough we would arrive there travelling through Brunel’s Thames tunnel now part of the underground network with a quick stop at Canada Water underground station to take a selfie for the folks back home.
We found Richard, Matt and Chris of Yorkshire already waiting for us in the Prospect beer garden that looked out directly onto the Thames and as we watched the high-speed sight-seeing catamarans go by we really thought that their wake would lap over the beer-garden wall but it never did keeping us safe that is more than can be said for the poor souls who appeared before ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys who made the pub his hostelry of choice in the 17th century complete with gallows and noose by the Thameside window. Chris of Yorkshire discovered that Judge Jeffreys was a Welshman while maybe harbouring a secret wish that he could have been a Yorkshireman. The Prospect had all the ingredients and more for the perfect Fourtharch Sunday pub, formerly known as the Devil’s Tavern it sits on the site of the oldest riverside tavern dating back to 1520. The pub could count visits from some very glamourous customers that included Princess Margaret and Judy Garland, there was a famous armed robbery in the 1950s and it was also a location for the TV show Only Fools and Horses. As the rain began to fall we moved inside to find a packed pub and poor Richard was forced to move from one reserved table to another in order to attempt to finish his meal, we eventually stood out on the first floor balcony and looked down on the replica of Judge Jeffries gallows, this was a perfect Fourtharch Sunday pub – vibrant, busy and full of life but don’t tell Judge Jeffreys that.
Sadly it was now time to say goodbye to Richard, Matt and Chris of Yorkshire and the Cardiff group then travelled west to Paddington. We had to give Emily a prod to change trains at Baker Street and who can blame her for this was her first opportunity to relax after all her hard work organising the very now and officially successful Fourtharch 11, 2019. The kid made a final attempt to score points by claiming not to know anything about Gerry Rafferty who wrote a pop song named after the tube station and finally as the Cardiff train pulled out of Paddington I thought of the famous bear who only has a railway station named after him while your friendly neighbourhood beaver has whole Canadian city.
[Editor’s Note: Taking bookings now for Dave’s Alternative Weekend September 2020 in and around the Reading area]