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British Expat Newsletter:
6 February 2008

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Warren Mitchell
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

It’s a sad fact that many of our best-loved celebrities are only really appreciated after their deaths. In that spirit, we thought that this week we’d write about one that is still very much alive and kicking.

Mention Warren Mitchell’s name to people, and the chances are that they’ll immediately think of Alf Garnett, the bigoted Cockney West Ham United supporter who regularly got his comeuppance at the hands of his long-suffering family in the BBC series Till Death Us Do Part. Mitchell played the part from the series’s first airing in 1965 (a pilot show as part of the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse), through its later incarnations as In Sickness And In Health (on TV) and Thoughts Of Chairman Alf (on stage) right up until writer Johnny Speight’s death in 1998.

The series was a controversial one in a number of ways. It was one of the earliest on the BBC to use the word “bloody” on a regular basis, something which Mary Whitehouse cited as evidence of decline in the BBC’s moral standards. (Typically, Speight brought this into the characterisation of Alf Garnett, who was seen in one episode reading Whitehouse’s current book, to the sniggers of his son-in-law: the outraged Alf upbraids him, “She’s concerned for the bleedin’ moral fibre of the nation!”) It also addressed the hot topic of sexism, at a time when women’s lib was coming to the forefront of political and social concerns; Alf’s shoddy treatment of his wife was part of what made him so outrageous.

Undoubtedly the biggest controversy, though, was the way in which the series tackled racist attitudes head on at a time when the issue of racism was becoming more critical than ever. Some viewers, oblivious to the fact that Speight and Mitchell were satirising bigotry through the character of Alf Garnett, found the series uncomfortable to watch. Others, similarly oblivious, enjoyed the show because of Alf’s opinions and saw him as a “rough diamond” type, missing the point entirely that his views were being shown to be offensive, illogical and irrational. Mitchell himself would be a target for Alf’s bigotry: Speight frequently had Alf referring derisively to Tottenham Hotspur’s Jewish following, fully aware that Mitchell comes from a Russian Jewish background and supports Spurs!

Mitchell’s work has gone far beyond Alf Garnett, though. He went into acting after meeting Richard Burton at Oxford University during the war (he was studying Physical Chemistry at University College, Burton was at Exeter College; both were studying for six months as RAF cadets). Burton persuaded him that acting offered him better prospects than a degree in physics, so Mitchell studied at RADA for two years. After a brief stint as a Radio Luxembourg DJ, he became a full-time professional actor with roles on radio, the stage, in films and in television. He was a regular cast member in the adventure shows produced by Lew Grade’s ITC company, including such classics as Danger Man, The Avengers and particularly The Saint. His stage work has included critically acclaimed performances in plays by Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller, and he was still treading the boards just a couple of years ago – his performance in Miller’s The Price won him an Olivier Award in 2004, and his most recent film appearance was in the 2006 comedy The 10th Man.

We’d say “Gawd bless yer, Alf!” – but Mitchell’s a humanist…

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Here’s Warren Mitchell’s entry on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

He’s one of the British Humanist Association’s Distinguished Supporters. You can read more about the Association and about humanism at the BHA’s website.

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • phsychiatric
  • dogs singing the theme to battersea dogs home
  • sex power by sea food
  • clown dressed up as a vultures
  • jet vest
  • what are the guidelines i in garlic bread
  • how can i shorten my bathroom basin pedestal
  • how to get a man sprung in bed
  • a taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question. the driver screamed lost
  • are there good gangs in the uk and elsewhere

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine


“I brought a magnum of champagne and a box of chocolates as big as this table, but they weren’t allowed in the flat because they weren’t kosher. The son-in-law started on me over dinner. ‘Why did you marry out of the faith? You realise you are completing Hitler’s job for him, destroying the Jewish nation?’ I said, ‘Ilsa, I have to go, darling. I can’t listen; this is not what I expected.’ It was very sad. The whole evening ended disastrously – which it always does when you meet fundamentalists, doesn’t it?”

– Warren Mitchell, actor (1926- ), on a visit to his adoptive sister Ilsa Moses’s daughter and son-in-law in New York.


Back in Russian Poland in the 19th century, the only cow in a small town stopped giving milk. The people did some research and found that they could buy a cow from Moscow for 2,000 roubles, or one from Minsk for 1,000 roubles. Being frugal, they bought the cow from Minsk.

The cow was wonderful. It produced lots of milk all the time, and the people were amazed and very happy. They decided to acquire a bull to mate with the cow and produce more cows like it. Then they would never have to worry about the milk supply again.

They bought a bull and put it in the pasture with their beloved cow. However, whenever the bull came close to the cow, the cow would move away. No matter what approach the bull tried, the cow would move away from the bull and he could not succeed in his quest.

The people were very upset and decided to ask their wise rabbi what to do. They told the rabbi what was happening. “Whenever the bull approaches our cow, she moves away. If he approaches from the back, she moves forward. When he approaches her from the front, she backs off. An approach from the side and she just walks away to the other side.”

The rabbi thought about this for a minute and asked, “Did you buy this cow from Minsk?”

The people were dumbfounded, since they had never mentioned where they had bought the cow.

“You are truly a wise rabbi,” they said. “How did you know we got the cow from Minsk?”

The rabbi answered sadly, “My wife is from Minsk.”

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