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300 Words From London: Hancock's Five Minutes

Another wet day in west London and the spitting image of Tony Hancock.

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by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: May, 2006
the cafe serves greasy weak tea, budget own brand Swiss rolls by the slice and keeps a single communal teaspoon in a glass of dirty yellow water next to the ashtrays
by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: May, 2006
the cafe serves greasy weak tea, budget own brand Swiss rolls by the slice and keeps a single communal teaspoon in a glass of dirty yellow water next to the ashtrays

This year brings the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of the radio show Hancock's Half Hour. This has been seen as reason enough to stage a small Tony Hancock exhibition in the museum in Gunnersbury Park, West London. Whilst the timing seems a little tenuous I am a big enough fan of both morose British comedy and small municipal museums to look upon this as a great morning out.

Due to the fact that I miss the sign to the car park (which I later discover is the world's smallest direction sign written in the palest colour possible) I end up some way away and as soon as I get to that point that means its too far to go back to the car it starts to rain. And then it really starts to rain. I run into the park and try and hide out under some trees but the wind is whipping the water right under there and within a few minutes I am completely soaked through.

The exhibition itself is something of a washout, consisting mainly of photocopied ephemera, reproduction posters and record sleeves. There is a glass cabinet with a rather battered Spitting Image likeness of Hancock alongside a coat and typewriter that may or may not have been owned by the dead comic - the labelling is somewhat ambiguous.

There's a life size model of the celebrated Radio Ham show that had previously been part of the appalling BBC Experience - a wretched waste of time and money that the BBC had touted as a tourist attraction. I had once spent a miserable afternoon guiding a group of children through its moribund exhibits, so seeing the Radio Ham was like seeing an old friend across the room - the kind that makes you want to hide. After five minutes I've looked at everything.

Back in the park and I walk by the boating pond past belligerent Canada geese whose constant crapping has turned the concrete path into a green slime slide. And then into the caf?© which is gloriously unreconstructed and serves greasy weak tea, budget own brand Swiss rolls by the slice and keeps a single communal teaspoon in a glass of dirty yellow water next to the ashtrays.

There's me, some sticky kids in pushchairs and their smoking mums. And I am wet and cold and it's still raining and the car is miles away. Stone me, what a life!

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Lake
Editor, London

the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.

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