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on December 5, 2011
And what a story it is. For the first time, the Belgian master criminals reveal how they pulled off a series of daring bank raids throughout Europe, using the brilliant disguise of a simple Scottish schoolboy and a slightly creepy parent/guardian/"uncle." The "Krankies,"as they styled themselves, even got themselves onto British television by fooling producers into thinking they were a comedy act, opening the floodgates for similar confidence tricksters like Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, and Freddie Starr, partly accounting for the extraordinarily high suicide rates in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.

The Krankies' amazing story begins in a bordello in Antwerp, where Jannette, or Adelheld as she is christened, is born on a stone kitchen floor underneath a steaming tureen of Mulligatawny soup, her mother Francine dying in childbirth. Father, Christof, is heartbroken, realising now he will never have a son, and so concocts a devilish scheme to create the boy child he has always wanted. Fast forward 20 years and, having forced the girl to sleep in a G-clamp to restrict height to schoolchild level, the couple arrive in Glasgow late on a Friday night speaking only Flemish, and are amazed to find everybody understands every word.

From there, they embark on their shocking crime wave. While their TV appearances send the nation into a deep, if troubled, sleep, the "Krankies," like reverse Father Christmases, relieve the unwary of their valuables, with Christof stuffing his daughter/son/wife down chimney shafts to execute their crimes.

Emboldened by their success, they cross the channel, and Adelheld squeezes into sewers, ventilation shafts, and dozens of other enclosed spaces in Vienna, Sarajevo, Toledo, Spain, and elsewhere, adding to the couple's stash of money and precious jewellery.

In a moving passage in the book, they explain how their crime wave finally came to an end in Tokyo, Japan, where, following their normal modus operandum, they wheedled their way onto television, did their "act," only to find themselves a huge success. Instead of slumbering, Occidental viewers, despite not understanding any of the act and having no knowledge of the concept of a cheeky Scottish schoolboy and his male adult companion, laughed uproariously, applauding wildly, not only ruining the couple's cover, but also convincing them they could actually make it as entertainers.

As we now know, with the benefit of hindsight, they were tragically wrong, and, writing from their current base, at the Bide-a-Wee Guest House in Llandudno (DHSS welcome), they unflinchingly deal with their downfall, in a tear-jerkingly poignant finale.

You would have to have a heart of stone not to read this passage in paroxysms of uncontrollable mirth. Two thumbs up - if you know what I'm saying.
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on July 23, 2012
Eric and Ernie. Mike and Bernie. The list of great British double acts is long and, it would appear, rhyming. And to that list we must surely add Alan and Wee Jimmy. To some, a social services case in waiting, to others, myself included, the great duo of our age. The inspired silliness of an Abbott and Costello to contrast to the Lenny Bruce of our generation, Mr Ben Elton. My memory may be faulty, but a couple of examples should suffice: "Knock,knock" "Who's there?" "Fan" "Fan who?" "Fan Dabi" "Fan Dabi who?" "Fan Dabi Dozi!" and of course "My wife's gone to the West Indies" "Fan Dabi Dozi!" Not much on the printed page perhaps, but in the same way that you only have to look at Bobby Davro to laugh, it was all in Jimmy's face and timing. And smuggled into the soporific Seaside Special this was truly comedy anarchy. Monday morning would always find me in the schoolyard acting out the routines for a delighted audience. Eventually I was told this was no way for a Deputy Head to behave, but by then the job was done. The kids had been inducted into Krankiness, as we aficionados call it. Krankified you might say! And who can forget the great hit single featuring their ubiquitous catchphrase. Only two records have made me laugh as much: "Black Pudding Bertha" by The Goodies and "Vienna" by Ultravox. The great revelation here is of course - spoiler alert! - that in real life Alan was not actually Jimmy's dad. But that does not detract from my happy memories. If anything it simply shows what a fine actor he was. And so,to paraphrase another fine pair from the pantheon, it's five stars from me, and it's five stars from him!
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on December 6, 2011
If you enjoyed the superb Swedish art house vampire film 'Let the Right One In', you should check out the real-life inspiration behind its story. Although this work is at times disturbing one gains a vivid sense of the bond between 'parent' and 'offspring'.
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