A few weeks ago Nurse Heartthrob blogged about a neighbour rechristening Heartthrob’s bantam cockerels Julian and Sandy. “Julian” and “Sandy” refer to sketch comedy characters from an old BBC radio programme called Round the Horne. That sent me off to Wikipedia and Youtube.

The premise of the skits were that Julian and Sandy are campy gay men, but since homosexuality was illegal at the time, the comedy consisted of slang called “polari” and double-entendre.

Here is a short skit called the “Bona Gift Boutique”:

And if you like that there is a vinyl rip of their comedy album, “The Bona Album of Julian and Sandy”:

After listening to some skits I was somewhat surprised. The comedy is rather camp and somewhat British. Although not side-splittingly hilarious, the skits are not bad, and contain lots of catch-phrases that (like the Three Stooges) get funnier when you re-enact them on the playground than they are on screen. The surprising thing was that although Julian and Sandy are portrayed as very very camp, and they embody several gay stereotypes, they don’t come across as objects of derision. In some ways they remind of of Scott Thompson’s Buddy Cole skits from Kids in the Hall. That is not a ringing endorsement (despite my affection for the Kids in the Hall the Buddy Cole sketches never worked for me), but it makes for a good segue, because both Hugh Paddick (who played Julian) and Kenneth Williams (who played Sandy) were themselves gay.

None of this is really worth blogging about; if you saw Nurse Heartthrob’s blog post you probably looked up Julian and Sandy as well. What struck me was less Youtube and more Wikipedia — in particular, what happened to the actors. Hugh Paddick who played Julian seemed to turn out okay. He found a boyfriend and they stayed together for 30 years.

Kenneth Williams who played his friend Sandy had a different path. On the one hand, he was successful in showbiz, appearing in the Carry On films, and when he died he had hundreds of thousands of pounds to his name. On the other, he was lonely and celibate, felt he never lived up to his potential, and (intentionally or not) overdosed on barbituates at age 62. I guess it is not surprising that this sad life story struck a chord with me, but maybe it should be. I am not in showbiz, I am not funny, I do not have hundreds of thousands of pounds to my name, and barbituates are a lot more trouble to get a hold of than they used to be. Nonetheless, Williams’s life story resonated deeply. Many days I feel that loneliness and sense of failure acutely. What’s the bloody point?

22 thoughts on “Sandy

  1. Hey, bud. I won’t be looking at the you tube stuff because I need subtitles with English programs. I speak American, and English is hard! I am, however, sending you hugs. May I also suggest that you reread that open letter you wrote to me? There is some really good and uplifting stuff in there.


    1. I reread the letter. It is true that we all like you whether you are down or not. On the other hand I should probably disappear; these entries are not good for my ratings.


  2. When I was a kid, CBC ran all the old “Carry On” movies on TV every weekend. I adored Kenneth Williams.

    They say that the best way to offset negative feelings is to do volunteer work helping people who are even worse off. It puts our own problems in perspective, plus does a lot of good in the community. Everyone is worthwhile and has the potential for happiness, my friend.


    1. I am doubly surprised. Firstly I am surprised that the CBC would broadcast such smut on its airwaves. Secondly I am surprised that after consuming such smut you somehow turned out wholesome.

      I plead guilty to all counts of not volunteering enough. Winter is difficult, and my anxieties are making it difficult to volunteer for the tasks I am well-suited for. I will however note that it does not make me feel better to know that others are doing worse; two people I met through previous volunteering are going through difficult times now, and I just feel helpless and sad.


  3. Why is it so important for so many of us to have perceived meaning in our lives? I wish I knew the answer. My 11 year old has been asking me “what is the point” – sometimes with tears in his eyes. The way he describes his life sounds like ground hog day. I often feel like a failure because I fall so short of what I thought I could have been. I work hard on changing my definition of what “success” means. My kids provide me with a lot of motivation. I really hope they are not haunted by mental health or substance abuse issues.

    You are very interesting and insightful. I really hope you stumble across someone in the physical world you can share your inner world with.


    1. If there is no point then why are we struggling through all this? I don’t have any answers for your son. The most compelling reason is circular, and comes from Mark Vonnegut: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

      Might I suggest a strong dose of Christianity? I have heard this works wonders against existential angst, and has no negative side effects whatsoever.


      1. Sad sigh. He does get a strong dose of Christianity. He is also a deep thinking, strong willed, little individual. He also asks “how do you really know there is a God”. He hasn’t been sleeping well for nearly 5 months. Another sad concerned sigh.


          1. He is passionate about the environment and becomes gloomy about the Earth’s future.

            I’m assuming there is a large genetic component of existential angst in this boy.


        1. I share these sad concerned sighs, especially with respect to sleep. Sleeping properly is so important for mental health, independent of whether life has any meaning or not.

          Unsurprisingly, your son’s predicament reminds me of my own. I was also traumatized by environmentalism at a young age, and eventually the dire warnings of “we have to act NOW” followed by our collective inaction has led me to despondency. We kept on not acting and — whoops! — here we are. (Living in drought-prone Australia you and your son may be more acutely aware of climate changes than most.)

          The approach that life is a miracle is pretty solid, but it does not make life meaningful. It is true that if various physical constants were slightly different then matter would not exist as we know it, and it is true that in order for us to be born one sperm out of thousands or millions succeeded in fertilizing an egg, and it is true that millions upon millions of things have to go correctly in order for us to wake up in the morning so we can gripe about how miserable we are. Unfortunately, one might say the same for a nemotode, or a cold bacterium, or a mosquito, and we do not feel that those lives are meaningful.

          (Hrm. That was not much help, huh?)

          Debra’s suggestion above might be worth trying, if you have not done so already. Volunteering in the service of others does not address the long-term questions, but in the short term it alleviates some of the immediate dread. Is your son interested in any kind of service activity?


          1. Thanks Lurx for your empathetic response. It has been bizarrely reassuring having you share my concerns for my 11yo.

            Volunteering is a good idea. Over the long Aussie summer holidays and with starting high school it slipped off our radar. Time to start it up again.
            We live in the catchment area of a river that for many decades was used as a dumping ground and stormwater drain. In more recent times it has been cleaned up and turned more into a healthy ecosystem. My boy is part of an ecclectic team of locals where each member has adopted a different block in the catchment and is responsible for minimising the amount of plastic which flows into the drains then into the local river and then into the Pacific Ocean. His passion against plastic rubbish has rubbed off onto his friends and some of our neighbours. On an ad-hoc basis he joins a team of mostly retirees to remove weeds and plant natives along this river.

            Unlike his brothers he isn’t part of a sporting team nor a band.


  4. Ohhh I’ve heard of Polari. A classmate once did a paper and presentation on it in grad school. We were a group of very queer kids who did not miss a beat when instructing the straights on our ways.
    I watched some of the sketches and yes, there’s a Kids In The Hall deja vu sense in some. And you are right, it’s not self serving or exploitative, which is surprising given the time. Maybe the British were less stupid than Americans at that time?
    As for Williams, who knows what his issues were? Remember it was another time. Internalized homophobia is a terrible monster. He may have exorcized some demos through comedy, but some really stay.
    I have to read you more. I can see you are a complex, interesting man and now I want to know where you come from. I’m sure you have a wealth of experience (good or bad, it’s experience!) and you make me curious.



    1. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain in 1967, which was around the time that Round the Horne was on the air. So it is not entirely surprising that the portrayals were semi-sympathetic.

      Apparently there is a Polari app now, based on some PhD research:

      I always appreciate new readers but prepare to be disappointed.


    1. I am unhappy that despite the thousands of people who ask this question, there appear to be no satisfying answers. Unfortunately as I age and my life gets less and less worth living, having some justification for carrying on becomes more and more acute.

      Admittedly, many people find their life’s meaning by getting married and having children, but as an out-of-practice homosexual such options are not open to me.


  5. “Oh isn’t he bold!”
    You got me hooked. I listened to about half a dozen after I read your post.
    Re, what’s the point? I try not to over analyse. If someone hasn’t come up with an answer to that question yet, there probably isn’t one.


  6. Given it’s Darwin’s birthday, I feel obligated to state that we as a species started evolving millions of years ago. The current social, cultural, technical, and medical ‘improvements’ have given us unreasonable expectations few of us if anyone can live up to. It will take a long time for our million-year old bodies and brains to catch up with the rapid changes humans have experienced in the last 10,000 years. So, my advice is find a comfortable campfire with hairy, ill-dressed companions, roast a nice leg of mammoth, and pick nits! Or some version of that. Oh, and turn of the TV set and stay off of Facebook. Nothing real has ever been shown there.


  7. Re. Polari. Years ago I stumbled upon this YouTube video of an extended conversation in polari. I came out at the end of the era where code words in the US were de rigeur if not necessary for your survival. Somehow I’ve forgotten them all.


  8. Never had good gaydar. At least we didn’t have to worry about emoji! I have no idea what any of the smiley faces really mean.


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