Military, obits, true crime

Rest in peace, Colin Powell…

Yesterday, the news reported that General Colin Powell died at age 84. He’d been suffering from multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s Disease, and then he got COVID-19, even though he was fully vaccinated. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the body’s immune response by making plasma cells go haywire. So even though General Powell was vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease process made the vaccine less effective for him. Add in the Parkinson’s Disease and his advanced age, and it makes sense that he passed.

I’ve seen a number of people lamenting that Colin Powell died, with some blaming unvaccinated people. While I think any regular reader of this blog knows that I am for the vaccines, I don’t think it’s productive to blame the unvaccinated. The truth is, he was battling some serious illnesses even before COVID-19 struck. He was also 84 years old. Even if COVID never existed, his time was probably drawing short. I just hope his passing was peaceful.

General Powell lived a full lifespan, and he made great use of his time. Besides being a highly respected Army officer, Powell was also the United States’ first Black Secretary of State. And he had a long, loving, and enduring marriage to his wife, Alma, as well as loving relationships with his children, grandchildren, and friends. Personally, I think he was a great man, but even great men have to die someday. It’s just life.

Hearing about General Powell’s death reminded me of a very old friend of mine who died at age 21. Her name was Lisa Bryant, and at the time of her death, it had been years since our last visit. Lisa and I both lived on Mildenhall Air Force Base in Suffolk, England, back in the late 1970s. My dad was the base engineer there, and her dad was an Army officer who had gotten a special assignment at Mildenhall (or maybe Lakenheath– I’m not sure). Lisa had an older brother who was my sister’s age.

The Bryants were a Black family, but other than that, they weren’t all that different… or, at least it hadn’t seemed so to me at the time. I just remember that Lisa and I used to play together and attended the neighborhood birthday parties. Somewhere in my storage back in Texas, I have pictures from my fifth birthday party, and Lisa is there.

When our fathers were transferred, our families both moved to Fairfax County in Virginia. I remember going to Lisa’s house for another birthday party in Virginia. After that, we lost touch, mainly because my parents only lasted two years in Fairfax before they decided to move to Gloucester County and open their own business.

I never saw Lisa again, but if we had stayed in Fairfax, I would have definitely known who she was and probably would have known her well. She graduated from James W. Robinson Secondary School, the same school where one of my sisters and two of my cousins got their high school diplomas. My aunt also taught math there for years. Lisa was a big woman on campus in high school, having been homecoming queen for the class of ’89 and making top grades. Although we were born in the same year, she was a year ahead of me in school. If we had stayed in Fairfax, I would have gone to the same high school.

After she graduated high school, Lisa went to Princeton University. She was there on a ROTC scholarship, so she was required to fulfill a commitment to the Army post graduation. Lisa did big things at Princeton, too. She recruited students from the Washington, DC area and founded the cheerleading team. She graduated summa cum laude, and joined Delta Sigma Theta sorority. From what I read at the time of her death, Lisa meant to do her time in the Army and leave the service for a civilian career. She had big plans for her life. Sadly, she never had the chance.

Colin Powell was a close friend of Lisa’s father’s. They knew each other from their Army days. I remember reading that Powell had attended her wake, and his wife, Alma, went to Lisa’s closed casket funeral. The reason her casket was closed was because Lisa was murdered at Fort Bragg. She had gone there for a brief training course before she was to move to Germany for her first assignment. On the evening of July 9th, 1993, she had gone to a bar that was adjacent to her dormitory. That’s where she met Ervin Graves, who was a staff sergeant and ROTC instructor.

Graves had reportedly asked Lisa to dance with him. She said no, which was entirely appropriate. Not only was she an officer, while Graves was a non-commissioned officer, but she also had a boyfriend. Graves was also a married man. When Graves persisted in trying to get Lisa to dance with him, she decided to go back to her dorm. Graves was staying in the same dorm.

Lisa called her boyfriend, who was in California. She’d used the pay phone, because she didn’t want to bother her roommate. While she was on the phone, Graves attacked her, marching her to his dorm room where he meant to rape her. She managed to break away from him as he was attempting to restrain her. He responded by shooting her four times in the face with a 357 Magnum he inexplicably had with him in the dorm. She died in the hallway of her dormitory, right in front of the door to Graves’ dorm room.

Prior to the murder, Ervin Graves had been an exemplary soldier. He’d been a member of the Old Guard, where he had participated in presidential inaugurations, led parades, and been part of many ceremonies, both solemn and festive. His family was reportedly shocked that he was accused of a crime. His wife and sons were devastated. And Lisa’s family, especially her parents, were also extremely devastated. It had been many years since I had last seen Lisa, but even I was totally shocked when I heard about her death. She was a woman who was going to go places.

My mom called me at college to tell me about Lisa’s murder. I didn’t find out about it until a couple of months after it happened. People Magazine, which I used to read religiously, ran a story about Lisa. I remember later reading that Colin Powell and his wife were there to comfort the Bryants in their time of need. That always stuck with me, especially since Powell was such a powerful and famous man. But before he was an important man, he was also primarily a soldier, and when one of his brothers needed him, he was there.

In an article I read about Colin Powell’s death, Washington Post reporter, editor, and author, Bob Woodward, wrote that he’d spoken to General Powell in July. Powell reportedly said, “Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m [84] years old,” said Powell, who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”

Even up to the end of his life, Powell remained personable and friendly to Bob Woodward, even though his wife didn’t like him speaking to Woodward. He offered his thoughts on President Biden’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Powell wisely noted that we had to get out of Afghanistan eventually, and that with the massive drawdown of troops in recent years, it needed to be done expeditiously.

When Woodward asked who was the greatest man, woman, or person Powell had ever known, his response was immediate. He said, “It’s Alma Powell. She was with me the whole time. We’ve been married 58 years. And she put up with a lot. She took care of the kids when I was, you know, running around. And she was always there for me and she’d tell me, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ She was usually right.”

I know not everyone approved or appreciated Colin Powell’s politics or even his leadership, but I think of him as one of the good ones… While he had been a Republican throughout his career, he was not a Trump style Republican. He didn’t approve of Trump’s tactics. And when Woodward told Powell that one of his journalism students had asked, “What does the truth accomplish?”, Powell’s response was:

“This is scary… You just scared the hell out of me if this is what our kids are saying and thinking. Where are they getting it from? Media?”

I tend to agree with Powell. It IS scary that so many people are willing to overlook the importance of the truth, or the need to have good and decent– humane– people in power. Colin Powell was basically an honest man with integrity and strength, and he deeply loved and was loved by many. My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife, Alma, as they mourn their great loss. I’m sure the Bryant family is mourning, too… but maybe if there is a place after life, General Powell is with Lisa now.

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book reviews, LDS, true crime

Repost: Joyce McKinney and her unwilling LDS sex slave…

This is a repost of a review I wrote for Epinions.com on Anthony Delano’s book, Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon. This review was written on January 15, 2010, and appears here as/is.

This book review has the distinction of once earning me $54 in one month.  $54 from Epinions on a book review is amazing, especially when it was earned in one month.  Book reviews didn’t typically make a lot of money on Epinions.  Anyway, it was my most popular book review… it was probably my most popular review, period.  So I have to repost it.  

Back in 2008, a weird news story was circulating about an American woman who had gone to Seoul, South Korea and had her pet pit bull, Booger, cloned. South Korean scientists took a piece of Booger’s ear and turned it into five cloned puppies. Booger’s owner, who was calling herself Bernann McKinney, was strangely familiar to a lot of people in Great Britain. British author, Anthony Delano writes in his 2009 book Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon that McKinney was a bit frumpy and middle-aged, but the face was unmistakable.

It turns out that Bernann McKinney, owner of the cloned pit bull, was actually Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen and notorious perpetrator of a sex crime that occurred in England in 1977. There was a time when Joyce McKinney was big news in Great Britain; she had been accused of kidnapping a Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson, chaining him to a bed, and raping him. McKinney and her male accomplice, Keith May, jumped bail before they were tried and went back to America, where McKinney has continued to live an odd life.

As it so happens, I was actually living in England in 1977, though at that time I was too young to know or care about this case. I found out about Joyce McKinney by reading a messageboard for former Mormons. It seems that the story of Joyce McKinney and Kirk Anderson had become missionary lore among Mormons. A regular poster on the messageboard brought up McKinney’s story along with a link. I found out about Delano’s book by following the link to a news article about the case.

Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon was priced at $17 and appeared to be published by a small time outfit. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the story for many different reasons and that is what led me to purchase this book, which, I will admit, has sort of a tabloid feel to it.

A brief rundown of what happened

Joyce McKinney, who was called Joy back in the 1970s, had grown up in Avery County, North Carolina. She was an attractive natural blonde with a thick southern accent, big boobs, and a flair for drama. Indeed, before she got involved with a Mormon missionary, she had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater.

Joy converted to Mormonism after living with a Mormon family and observing how close and loving the family was. She had lacked that connection as a child and thought that becoming a Mormon would allow her to achieve that same closeness with other people. After Joy converted to Mormonism, she moved to Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) and study for her doctorate in theater. It was at BYU that 27 year old Joy met 19 year old Kirk Anderson.

While they were in Utah, Joy and Kirk apparently had a “fling” that included sexual intercourse. Kirk felt guilty about the premarital sex and confessed to his bishop. The bishop’s solution was to get Kirk sent off on a mission for the church. Kirk was originally bound for California, but in light of his problem with Joy, the church sent him to Britain instead.

Joy was obsessed with Kirk. Evidently, he was the one man who wasn’t willing to have sex with her. Oh, I’m sure there were other men out there who wouldn’t bed Joy, but apparently in her mind, Kirk was the one man she couldn’t have. So Joy resolved to fly to England and make Kirk marry her. She found a willing accomplice in Keith May, a man who had answered an ad she had placed for a “free trip to Europe”. They went to the little town where Kirk was doing his missionary work and, using a fake gun, managed to kidnap him and take him to a secluded cottage.

Joy McKinney and Keith May chained Kirk to a bed and held him hostage. Joy made him wear silk pajamas and then tore them off his body. She played sexy music, wore negligees, plied Kirk with liquor, and sexually assaulted him in an attempt to get pregnant. When Joy and her accomplice loosened the chains on Kirk Anderson after he had agreed to marry her, he escaped. Joyce McKinney and Keith May were later arrested, but when they got out of jail on bail, they fled back to the United States, where McKinney has had a few more scrapes with the law. She was later found in Atlanta, Georgia, but Britain declined to extradite her.  Shockingly, she was never punished for kidnapping and raping Kirk Anderson, though Britain did sentence her to a year in prison in absentia.

My thoughts

Author Anthony Delano presents the story of Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon in a distinctly “cheeky” way, using a writing style that is unmistakably British. I could practically “hear” a clipped British accent as I read this bizarre tale. Besides writing the story of what happened with Joyce McKinney and Kirk Anderson in the 1970s, Delano adds some insight into the workings of the British press and photographers, which had a field day with this story. He also explains a bit about Mormonism and what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe. He includes snippets from books about Mormonism as well as articles about McKinney.

In addition to her obsession with Kirk Anderson, Joyce McKinney was also preoccupied with Wayne Osmond and the Osmond family. Delano actually includes some quotes from Olive Osmond, the late matriarch of the famous Osmond clan. Evidently, Joyce McKinney tried very hard to soil the Osmonds’ squeaky clean reputation. McKinney tried to pass herself off as squeaky clean herself, but thanks to digging done by the press, McKinney was revealed to be anything but a typical Molly Mormon. Delano includes some of these juicy revelations in the book.  Apparently, McKinney now denounces Mormonism and considers it a cult.  Some of her quotes may be very offensive to Mormons.

The whole thing is presented in a very gossipy, tabloid way that I have no doubt will be very titillating and entertaining for some readers. After all, it’s quite a juicy story that had a lot of Britons wagging their tongues back when it was current news. Even today, it’s an amazing story that is almost too weird to be true.  Delano mostly treats McKinney like an oddball character rather than the criminal and liar that she is.  I will admit, though, that many people probably see her that way, rather than someone who ought to be avoided.  She has actually been rewarded for her criminal misdeeds and, in fact, did try to profit from the story back in the 1970s.  What’s more, according to Delano, this case supposedly caused a number of Britons to investigate Mormonism and later become members of the church.

That being said… as titillating and fascinating as this story is, part of me was rather disgusted by it. Let’s face it. There’s a huge double standard when it comes to men and women, particularly regarding sex crimes. Had Joyce McKinney been a man who had kidnapped a sister missionary back in the 1970s, she would have certainly been prosecuted and, if convicted, might even still be in prison. No one with any class would be acting as if this case were a big joke. As it stands now, the seriousness of McKinney’s crime has been reduced to locker room fodder. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kirk Anderson, who had made it very clear that he wasn’t interested in having a sexual relationship with Joyce McKinney. He was a victim of sexual assault and kidnapping, yet people behave as if he should have enjoyed the experience. Few people would have taken that attitude if he were a woman in the same compromising position.

Still…

I do think that Anthony Delano did a good job writing this book, even if it is billed as the “ultimate tabloid story” by Trashfiction. It is well researched and entertaining to read.  Though I feel sort of ashamed for enjoying this book, I think it’s worthwhile reading for those who are interested in this case.  At the very least, Joyce McKinney is a fascinating character, particularly for those who are interested in true crime or psychology.  My money is on her having at least one, possibly two character disorders.

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book reviews

And finally, my review of Hurry Up Nurse: More adventures in the life of a student nurse by Dawn Brookes

I’ve been reading British author Dawn Brookes’ books about her training as a nurse in England, back in the late 70s and early 80s. I have just finished her third and final book on the subject, Hurry Up Nurse: More adventures in the life of a student nurse. Brookes, who “fell” into nursing as an eighteen year old back in 1977, went on to have a successful career. She started out as an “enrolled nurse”, which I understand is no longer a classification used in Britain. She went on to become a registered nurse, then a midwife.

The first book in this series is about Brookes’ initial training in her home town of Leicester. The second book is about her training at the London Chest Hospital. The third book is about her more advanced training in the south of England, where she spent most of her career. It was in the south of England that Brookes became a leader, rather than a staff nurse. Brookes writes that she eventually earned master’s degrees in nursing, but none of her books cover that story, and to be honest, after the third book, I’m not sure I’m that curious anymore.

As it was in her earlier books, Dawn Brookes has a pleasant, amiable tone in her writing as she relates anecdotes about working as a nurse in the 80s. She seems like a very caring, kind, and entertaining person. However, my observations about this third installment of her series about her nurse’s training remain the same as they were in my earlier reviews. Brookes does a lot of skimming over her topics and doesn’t really get too deep into the subject matter. The end result is that I’m not left with much of a lasting impression of what she’s trying to say.

I did learn another British euphemism, though. In one tale, Brookes writes about working with new mothers and their babies and how, back in the 80s, breastfeeding wasn’t necessarily pushed as a good thing. Brookes candidly writes that she kind of liked it when the moms declined to breastfeed; that way, she could feed the babies while mom had a “kip”. I had to look up the word “kip”, as I’d not run across it before. I assumed it means “nap”, which it does. But at least I know for sure.

Just as she did in her other two books, Brookes ended the third installment very abruptly. One minute, I was reading about her being grilled by a nursing instructor who was observing her work. Another, she’s passed, and the book is finished. Actually, this time I was more prepared. When I got to the sentence where she wrote she’d passed the observation, I knew the book would be ending on the next page. Sure enough, it did, but the ending was still sudden and a bit jarring. I think this book would have been better if Brookes had taken a little more time to prepare the reader for the crash ending. I also think that Brookes should consider consolidating the books into one volume and hire an editor. She has a story to tell, but her books don’t flow very easily and I think she adds too much irrelevant information without enough “meat” that would hook a reader who really wants to know about nurse’s training in Britain in the 70s.

Reading these books wasn’t a total waste of time, though. I did learn some new things, and Brookes isn’t a bad writer at all. I just think these books deserve some polish and readers deserve writing that is better edited and more fleshed out. And this last book, while to me somewhat more enjoyable than the second book was, seemed a bit like it was cobbled together, not unlike a second or third sequel for a movie. They’re usually done strictly for money and don’t stand up to the first installment.

Anyway, if you’re interested, the link to buy is below. I’m an Amazon Associate, so if you do purchase through my site, I will get a small commission from Amazon.

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book reviews

A review of Hurry Up Nurse: Memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s

Sometimes, I like to read self published books. I find that they don’t have the same slick editing that comes from a lot of books released by major publishers. Self-published books are sometimes a little bit rougher around the edges, yet more candid. That makes them more interesting. Dawn Brookes, author of Hurry Up Nurse: Memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s. I can tell by the way the book is written, but also by the publisher– Dawn Brookes Publishing. We know what that means, right?

Dawn Brookes is a very British lady who spent 39 years working as a nurse in England. She started in 1977, when she turned up at an interview for nurse’s training in Leicester. The funny thing is, I was actually living in England in 1977. My father was, at that time, the base engineer at Mildenhall Air Force Base, in Suffolk. Dawn Brookes was 18 years old, same age as my eldest sister, Betsy. That little factoid immediately helped me relate to her very colorful stories about what it was like to be trained as a nurse in England during the 70s. She also mentions visiting a couple of places I went to in 2016– Thetford and Watton– both in Norfolk and on the way to Norwich. I went there in 2016 after a Scottish cruise to see Mildenhall and the area where I spent three years of my early childhood. Anyway, enough about me and my British connections.

Dawn Brookes was a typical young lady in England, not knowing much about what she was going to do with her life. As it often happens with young people without a specific direction, Brookes found herself in a set of circumstances that led her to enter the nursing field. Her book, which has since been followed by two sequels I haven’t yet read– and hope are better than the Karate Kid sequels I sat through the other night— is about her training as a nurse in England over forty (!) year ago.

One thing that struck me about Hurry Up Nurse is that the years have really flown by. It doesn’t seem like 1977 was that long ago, but as Brookes writes about her days as a young nurse, I’m reminded of how things have changed. For instance, back in those days, nurses in England wore caps and white uniforms with belts. They even had capes and gloves! Nowadays, nurses dress for comfort and practicality. In the early days of Ms. Brookes’ career, patients were put in huge wards with about forty beds. Now, I’m guessing the wards still exist, but they’re smaller. Ditto for equipment that made nursing less taxing on the nurses’ backs and drugs that are better than what was available in the 70s. Brookes mentions drugs, equipment, and treatments that were used 40 years ago, but really doesn’t give them a thorough discussion. They more or less get mentioned in passing. The same goes for the title, “Hurry Up Nurse”, which gets mentioned several times, but not really explained in a memorable way.

Another thing that struck me about Hurry Up Nurse is how very different some British slang is compared to American slang. For example, a couple of days ago, I posted an excerpt from Ms. Brookes’ book about how she used to enjoy eating “faggots” when she was a girl. “Faggot”, of course, means something entirely different to Americans. In British English, it can refer to a pile of sticks or, as I’ve learned because of this book, a type of sausage made of offal. In America, “faggot” is a derogatory insult to male homosexuals. Dawn Brookes uses a lot of British slang and, sometimes, takes for granted that everyone reading her book is from the United Kingdom. It’s not unreasonable that she would assume that most readers are English, since this is a self-published book. And I’m not sad that I had to look up some of her less familiar terms, since I learned new things. I just want to warn American readers that they may have to do a little extra work to understand everything, even if the book is in English.

Dawn Brookes comes off as friendly and funny, and she did surprisingly well as a nurse and earned several qualifications, even though she seemed to end up in the field by happenstance. However, this book, though entertaining and kind of educational in its own way, isn’t very well organized. The book doesn’t really flow like a story and seems more like a group of anecdotes cobbled together. I mostly enjoyed the anecdotes, but I didn’t really get a sense of the people Ms. Brookes writes about. It’s not like Echo Heron’s marvelous book, Intensive Care, from 1987, which told the story of her training, as well as stories about people she’d worked with, and special patients she knew in a linear fashion. Brookes’ book is not linear and therefore comes off as somewhat less personal. On the other hand, at times I was reminded a little bit of Call the Midwife, and it’s a good thing I’ve seen that show, because Ms. Brookes also includes terminology and job titles that we Americans would mostly never get, like “ward sister”. What the hell is that? I could kind of figure it out because I’ve seen British TV, but other readers might need to do some Googling.

The book ends very abruptly, too. I was in the middle of a good story last night, turned the page, and all of a sudden, it was over. I was actually a little surprised by the sudden stop and went looking for more. Alas, that was it, and I was left a little wanting, as if Dawn Brookes had left me with a cliffhanger.

I liked the book enough that I decided to order the next two parts of her trilogy. I expect they will be more of the same… although if they’re as bad as The Karate Kid part III, I’ll be pissed. I got on a Karate Kid kick because I just watched the second season of Cobra Kai, which also wasn’t as good as the first, and needed to refresh my memory about the Karate Kid films. The second part wasn’t as good as the first, but the third part stunk to high heaven. I doubt the next two Hurry Up Nurse books will be that bad, though. I just hope that Brookes finds an editor… not a slick one, mind you, but one who can make her books flow logically and lyrically, so they’re easier and more fun to read and do less wandering. She has some good stuff here– and I did learn some things by reading– but I’m afraid I’m having trouble remembering anything specific to comment on, other than the fact that I learned a new meaning of the word “faggots”.

I’ll give it 3.5 stars out of 5, and we’ll see what I think of her other two books…

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silliness

Matt Lucas!

When we lived in Germany the first time, I got hooked on the popular British sketch comedy show, Little Britain. I believe I started watching it because it was offered as a free episode on iTunes and I got hooked on the quirky British humor. Little Britain starred Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Matt Lucas is a rotund, openly gay British guy with alopecia. His hairlessness makes it easy for him to dress in drag. A lot of his Little Britain characters were female.

This morning, while I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I happened across this Australian comedy show, Kath & Kim. I stopped on it because I saw Matt Lucas’s face in the still.

I love him… he’s hilarious!

He plays the role of a gossipy British woman to the tee. I think it’s especially funny when he gets irate.

Yes… I identify with this sentiment very much!

In May 2013, Bill and I took a cruise from Rome to Athens. One of our stops was at Capri, a beautiful Italian seaside town. We walked up a hill to get to the town. I was coming down with a nasty cold. When we reached the top, we decided to have lunch at this restaurant that overlooked the sea and the town square. Our waiter was the spitting image of Matt Lucas. He even mentioned it to us, although he was quick to tell us he wasn’t gay. Recently, I wanted to find the name of that restaurant, since I forgot to notice it when we ate there. It was very expensive and we liked the food, although others in the know say it’s an overpriced tourist trap. I knew I’d be able to find the place if I mentioned Matt Lucas. Sure enough, more than a couple of people mentioned the waiter who was a dead ringer for him. The restaurant, by the way, is called Ristorante Isidoro. It gets 3.5 stars.

I just Googled “Capri, Italy, restaurants, Matt Lucas“. Sure enough, the very first result is this one. I’m sure the restaurant enjoys having that waiter on staff. If I recall correctly, his personality was not unlike Matt Lucas’s on Little Britain. I’m actually sitting here dreaming of a trip to Italy or somewhere else warm and interesting. I really need a few days out of here to clear my head. I do love living in Germany, but sometimes the culture can feel a little bit oppressive and heavy.

Incidentally, our new landlord came over last night to talk to Bill. It was like night and day. He was genuinely friendly and wanted to talk about cruises. It’s easy to see that his focus isn’t just about money and he’s very laid back. I think we’ll ultimately be a lot happier with him, even if I do miss having a nice area to walk my dogs. I also think he will treat us fairly. Or, at least I hope he does.

I want to read his book! I like how he parlayed his baldness and weight into a career.

If you haven’t seen Little Britain, you should watch it. Especially if you know anything about British life. I liked it, not just for the humor, but because my earliest memories are of England and watching it reminds me of that time.

Our Elton John tickets are arriving today!
Vicky Pollard was inspired by a little boy!
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