SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Wednesday 8th December 2004

My Favourite Londoner: Private Walker


When Julie Burchill was a teenager in Bristol, she used to sleep beneath a map of the London Underground. To her, it was a magical document, glistening with the promise of a more glamorous life. I, too, spent my teenage years in the West Country and the equivalent, for me, was Private Walker in Dad's Army. This ducker-and-diver, a forerunner of Arthur Daley, embodied everything I thought was cool about life in the big smoke.

I now realize that Walker was a slightly odd role model for a teenage boy to have. After all, he was basically a crook. Black marketeers, or "spivs", as they were commonly known, were ruthless predators who profited from the illegal supply of rationed commodities, such as petrol, whisky and silk stockings. Walker's catchphrase, insofar as he had one, was: "'Old on a minute--I said they were difficult to get, not impossible." Men like Joe Walker were to wartime London what Harry Lime was to postwar Vienna.

Yet I found him irresistible. This may partly be because he was played with such winsome charm by James Beck. When Beck died--suddenly and unexpectedly--at the age of 44, the cast of Dad's Army were in the middle of filming their sixth series. The show's creators, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, had to do what Ridley Scott did when Oliver Reed died during the making of Gladiator, though without the benefit of digital technology. If you look closely at the final episode of the sixth series you'll notice that Walker isn't in the platoon's line up at the beginning of the programme. Dad's Army was never the same again.

Even if Walker had been played by a different actor, though, I suspect I still would have fallen in love with him. His principal role in the series was to prick the pomposity of Captain Mainwaring. Whenever the puffed-up little martinet delivered a lecture to his troops about the importance of self-sacrifice during wartime, Walker would always turn up with a little something that Mainwaring had ordered earlier: "Ah. Yes. Er, that will be all, thank you, Walker."

He was creative, too--smarter than the rest of the platoon. Whenever they got into a spot of difficulty he was the one to come up with a solution, an idea that was always greeted the same way by the inept Captain: "Well done, Walker. I was wondering how long it would take someone to spot that."

To me, Walker's quicksilver wit was the perfect antidote to the people of South Devon whom, in my London-centric view, I thought of as slow-minded simpletons. He may have been beneath Captain Mainwaring in the wartime food chain, but he had an independence of spirit that made him a bigger man. The rules that Mainwaring lived by didn't apply to him. He was the archetypal streetwise Londoner: a jack of all trades, a wide boy, a Mr Fixit. What he lacked in team spirit, he made up for in entrepreneurial zeal. If Hitler ever did succeed in invading the British Isles, it was the Walkers of this world who'd end up giving him the biggest headache, not the Mainwarings.

Thankfully, my parents got bored of the West Country and, when I was 16, they moved to London. I was sent to an inner-city comprehensive and, to my delight, it was full of little Walkers, trading cigarettes and porn mags behind the bicycle sheds. The friends I made at that school are still my best friends today--and they haven't lost their Walker-ish tendencies. If I ever need a ticket to all-London derby I know who to ask and if I ever find myself in a foxhole I know who I want beside me.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter Awful story. A revealing glimpse of what Corbyn’s “caring” supporters are really like link  (14 minutes ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski - the-american-interest.com
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film