November 2, 2013
Go Sober for October has just finished. The whole campaign raised over £1.5m for Macmillan Cancer Support. Me and Zoe managed to get £1170 in sponsorship. A massive thank you to everyone who helped us reach that target.
Early on I’d set a notional target of £1664 (in honour of one of my favourite lagers). At the last minute I decided to get in touch with the Kronenbourg people. Nothing ventured blah blah blah.
Here’s the email I sent to them:
It’s been a difficult month! Go Sober, a month of no drinking, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. With just today to go I have raised £768. However, my target, in honour of my favourite beer, was £1664. Is there any way you, or any of your staff, can help me reach my target before tomorrow when I will once more enjoy a pint of Kronenbourg 1664?
I will be pestering everyone on Twitter one last time today (@simonmhickson) in an attempt to get to my proclaimed target of £1664. If there was any way at all in which you could help I will raise my glass of Kronenbourg to you and tweet of your support.
In some ways the idea of Go Sober for a month must appall you, but I am sure you will agree that doing it for Macmillan Cancer Support is the best reason. If you can only sponsor me the price of a pint, every little builds to my hoped for total of £1664.
With best wishes and thank you for the beer (and the lovely glasses it comes in),
And here’s their reply:
Dear Mr Hickson
Thank you for your email outlining the sponsorship opportunity associated with Heineken UK.
I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that Heineken UK is frequently called upon to support a wide range of interesting and worthwhile activities.
Due to constraints on both time and financial resources, we are unable to lend our name and backing to more than a few of the many requests we receive and I regret to inform you that we must decline your request for support on this occasion.
I would like to thank you for bringing this opportunity to our attention, and wish you every success in the future.
Consumer Relations Executive
Oh well. It’s a little bit of a corporate response, but they did get back to me, which I appreciate. And I am sure they are called upon a lot.
As I scrolled down the email, wedged between Maria’s response and my original email there was another email from Tom, an assistant manager of a bar in Tunbridge Wells who was “basically in need of some assistance by either the commercial/sales team or the local representative in Tunbridge Wells”. I wonder how many local representatives Kronenbourg have. I like the idea. I hope Tom fared better than me.
Last night we went out and I had my first pint in a month. San Miguel.
Here’s another favourite Cronenberg.
November 1, 2013
Me and Zoe went Sober for October. It’s November now and (as one of our sponsors, Sarella, suggested) possibly time for Bender for November. No need for sponsors this time. Relax.
We did it for Macmillan Cancer Support and, between us, we raised (at the mo; more could, possibly, come in) £1170. That’s amazing. To the nearly 100+ people who sponsored us, thank you. I know I pestered, and now I’ll stop. You’re all very kind… considering we didn’t run a Marathon or anything.
So. Onto the no booze thing. Yes, I teased you all in the early days about just how hard it is, comparing it to a Marathon and so on. it was a ruse to get money. But I’ve learnt a few things along the way (possibly… no… I haven’t… not really…) Heck! Here’s what I’ve (maybe) learnt:
1- It’s not hard to give up drink for a month. It’s just dull. It’s boring. You count the sleeps like a child and on waking you just count the minutes until sleep time again. And then you count your footsteps every time you take the dog out for a walk, in units of 100, using your fingers to keep count. Then forgetting every 500 or so. (mind you, I’ve always done that; it’s not really a sober thing.)
2- Fake alcohol is an abomination, and yet you keep on drinking it. Becks Blue, Bavaria, Cobra Zero. All appalling. But somehow lovely. It’s a nostalgia thing.
3- Time passes fairly quickly, and once it’s passed it’s gone.
4- Having said point 2, Rochester’s Non-Alcoholic Ginger Wine with an ice cube or two is not bad at all. But hey, that’s in the past now.
5- Soft Brew Citrus Drink is ok too. But no need for that anymore.
6- People are generous and kind.
7- Even going so far as buying Zoe a Golden Ticket. That’s sponsoring someone to be able to drink when you are sponsoring them not to drink. A bit like a Marathon runner doing a couple of miles by taxi and sending you the bill.
8- Zoe had two Golden Tickets.
9- Well… it was her brother’s 40th! And she had a work’s do.
10- I didn’t have any Golden Tickets.
11- I’d like to claim some moral high ground. But that’s not it. I just had to be absolute. How frustrating to have to give up drinking TWICE because you had a day off.
12- I’m looking forward to a pint tonight.
13- There are NO health benefits to giving up alcohol for a month.
14- In fact, it is bad for you.
15- That’s it.
But after all that, there’s this; there’s £1170 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
And that’s why we did it.
Darren, Clare and Bruce and Charlotte and Isobel, Vicky, Sophie, Gerald, Malcolm, Darren, Christine, Christian, Richard, Louise, Barry, Charlotte, Jillian, Jonathon, Simon, Ed, Jason, Graham, Helen, Les, Pankaj, Duncan, Guy, Kim, Kate, Simon, Sarah, David (twice!), Joseph, Chris, Mark, Pia, Raymond, Peter, Ben, Ann, Anna, Andrea, Rob, Andrea and Frank, Ben and Sarah and Eve and Lola and Dylan, Alex, David and Lucy and Charley and Marion, Sarah and Nick and Laurie and Noah, Simon and Helen and Phoebe, Emma and Richard, Claire, Elspeth, Peter, Emily, Angela, Paul, Emily, Frazer, Roger, Catherine and Peter, Jim and Helen and Daisy, Louise, Louise, Jason, Vince, Jenny, Clare, Siobhan, Len, Jevon, Angela, Steph, Glenn, Yvonne, Sam, Tracy, Katie, Pete, Ali, Simon, Sarella and Jason, Jake, John, Kevin, Rob, and Sharon and Andy and Kate and William.
We’re off for a drink. Or two.
October 27, 2013
I am on the verge of opening a Zero Tolerance Cobra, or some such nonsense. Zoe has just asked me if I fancied a cucumber and radish smoothie. And outside the wind howls.
Under normal circumstances the threat of an oncoming storm would be a good excuse to just go ahead, shut the windows, and drink and drink and drink. But these aren’t normal circumstances. This is my 27th day of being sober and I think, at long last, I am starting to suffer from delirium tremens.
This is all being done to raise money for Macmillan cancer Support. And so far, me and Zoe not drinking has led to a lot of very generous people (some we know, some we don’t) giving £700 to the charity. That’s fantastic. And what’s more, it’s all been done with such trust. Unlike a Marathon where you can see us sweat and run, most of our non-drinking is taking place at home where you just have to take our word for it. And here’s the truth; I’ve not touched a drop of alcohol for 27 days. I’ve become familiar with the horrendous alcohol-free beers out there. I’ve tried to fool myself. And it’s not worked. I am looking forward to Friday.
It’s the last few days of the campaign. It is, as Batman people and many others have said, always darkest before the dawn.
Please help me reach the other side. I have constantly asked people to sponsor the equivalent of a pint… anything between £3 and £5. Very few do. I can guess why. You take a look at the sponsors and folk give £10, £20 or more (which is, of course, lovely) and then you too feel you have to give the same. But how many people can afford to do that? Not many. Go on, be the first. Start a trend in these last few days. go and sponsor me, Zoe, or both of us £2.50. You can sponsor me, or Zoe, or both of us here, here, or here.
I can’t believe I’m starting with a diversion, but writing that title has just reminded me of one of my favourite Trev and Simon jokes. It comes from a never-screened pilot we made. Me and Trev are at home (Morecambe and Wise style) when the post arrives. Trev has received a Readers Digest type winning envelope (remember, this was last century). He is overjoyed, ecstatic. The letter tells him; “Congratulations! You have won a car”. Trev celebrates, unfolds the letter, and reads the remaining print; “digan”.
Well, I like it!
But to the point. It’s not often (at my time of life) that something can come along and knock you off your feet, but last night, on Twitter, Clayton Hickman (@claytonhickman) sent me a tweet that took my breath away. (Yes! I know! Knocked off my feet! Breathless! It’s a heady combo!) Clayton had stumbled across something so mind-blowing it might, possibly, just have ripped a hole wide open in my Atkinson-Shiffrin Memory Model (don’t worry- I don’t know what I’m on about either. it’s just a bit of fun. Try and keep up, it’s early days yet).
This is the story of a cardigan. We can trace the cardigan back as far as The Crimean War if we want to, but let’s not. For this story we need only trace the history of a singular and particular cardigan. A cardigan that goes back to the 80′s.
This cardigan, to the best of our knowledge, was first worn by Joseph Marcell in the serial Remembrance of the Daleks (the first serial of the 25th season of Dr Who) in 1988.
In time this cardigan would come into my hands. In the meantime Joseph Marcell would go on to become Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Back to the cardigan. What happened to it? In the late 80′s, going into the 90′s, I worked on two Saturday morning live TV shows, Going Live! and Live and Kicking along with Trev Neal. We did comedy sketches and such, and we were also responsible for finding other comedy acts willing to appear on the show. One act we discovered wasn’t a comedy act but a musical act. We, perhaps foolishly, thought they might appeal to the Saturday morning audience.
The act was called The Singing Corner. We first saw them perform at The Velvet Percush’n in Amsterdam’s Kliegersstaffhen District. We assumed they were a spoof act, there was something so quaint and naive about them; but after talking to the club’s owner, Hansstraff Munck, it became clear they were for real, and so we asked for an introduction.
We met Don and Bob in the dressing room of The Velvet Percush’n. The two of them, in their psychedelic threads, blended neatly into the narcolepsy-inducing grasswhort curtains and hanging fabrics of the Percush’n's inner sanctum and, what with the floating fog of jazz mist swirling around our curlicues, the two of us spent the first two hours of our meeting smiling not talking.
Eventually one of us spoke. Don was the first. All he said was ‘Hello’, and yet it took him seven minutes to say it.
11 minutes later and you couldn’t get any of us to shut up.
We assumed they were called The Singing Corner because each night they would sing in a different corner of The Velvet Percush’n's 28 corners (the club was as famous for its many corners as it was for the calibre of musical acts that performed there; 28 acts every night, a different act in every corner). But no! It was a coincidence. They were called The Singing Corner after their names; Don Singing and Bob Corner.
(A little diversion: on Saturday 17th April 1965, the opening night of The Velvet Percush’n, the line up of acts was truly amazing. Take a deep breath: Bob Coats Trio, Melaniecholy, Dave Suave and his flute, Pancho, Bob Dillon, The Troublers, Sweet Toast, Brother and his Sisters, Carparque, Leslie Cousins, Donna Van Dyke, Long Jack Hankie, Melting Pot, Dizzy Dennis Dickens, EarthenWhere?, KFJ, Leo Sayer, Mustang Alley, David Singing (Don’s father), The Clark Fife Four, The Burds, The Beatles, Turtleneck Beach, Feather Conspiracy, The Simon Sisters, Waferbaby, Mardy Wah!, Big Clint McFlintlock, and (headlining) Art Garfunkel.
What a night that must have been. And, for the eagle-eyed, amongst you, I know that’s 29 acts! Don told me that his father wasn’t supposed to sing. He was there, ostensibly, as Long John Hankie’s whisperer (Long John Hankie could never remember the words to any of his songs ever since being diagnosed as forgetful by a recently qualified doctor and so always had a whisperer on stage to help out). Unfortunately LJH was also partially deaf and so David had to whisper louder and louder until, in effect, he was singing. The story goes his voice was sweet enough to make statues weep.)
So… back to wherever we were. Ah yes! Don and Bob and me and Trev in the dressing room of The Velvet Percush’n. A friendship started that night; a friendship that would last until it finished.
We persuaded Don and Bob to come along and perform on Going Live! They were keen from the start and (once we’d found our way out of The Velvet Percush’n's dressing room) nothing was going to stop us from introducing The Singing Corner to the UK. (The 28 corners meant that the dressing room was a very unusual shape, and it was not uncommon for it to take an hour or two to find the door: rumour has it that Sixto Rodriquez spent 17 years in there.)
However, once Don and Bob landed in the UK, they started to get edgy. It didn’t help that the first thing they saw upon entering the country was Big Fun with their Handful Of Promises.
It knocked their confidence for six. And what could we say? The competition was tough in those times and we fully understood Don and Bob’s reticence.
Annoyingly, we had already told our boss, Chris Bellinger, that we had a great new act lined up. The kind of act that would make Big Fun look like medium fun. What could we do? How could we persuade the boys to give it a go?
Chris suggested we tried snazzying their image up a little, take them down the Kings Road, do a bit of shopping. He even gave us an envelope stuffed with cash to make sure we got top notch clobber. “Maybe something with hoods”, he said.
Now! This next part! It wasn’t my idea ok? All of the following was Trev Neal’s work.
Trev said (and this is verbatim. I was there), Trev said; “ere, Simon. There’s a pretty penny or two in this John Paul*. What say you we take these two geezers down the old BBC costume store and deck ‘em out in some cheap duds? They don’t know the Kings Road from The King’s knackers. We get ‘em kitted out and, in the process, we make a Salamander each!”
I wasn’t in favour. I mean a Salamander (slang for £78.90) wasn’t to be sniffed at in those days. But even so, it felt low.
Hey, it’s in the past now, and I may well be testing your patience with this post. The be all and end all is that I took part in the fraud, Don and Bob were taken by us to the BBC’s wardrobe department out in Acton, and Bob, thinking the Kings Road was inside a concrete tower block, picked a certain cardigan to wear.
The BBC costume collection no longer exists. Nor does its wig collection (not that Don or Bob ever needed wigs). In 2008 “the BBC management team concluded that the best option was to close the department and dispose of the stock”. Idiots.
Huge thanks to Clayton for making me aware of the cardigan connection.
* Trev used to call envelopes ‘John Pauls’ after the current Pope. it was a short lived Cockney style he experimented with between March and April 1990.
October 21, 2013
Wow! day 21 without alcohol. That’s three weeks! That’s almost a lifetime!
Yes, me and Zoe are Going Sober for October. Not for the hell of it. Not for the health of it (I feel rotten not drinking). We are doing it to raise money for Macmillan cancer Support. And so far we have raised an amazing £620!
But… I want to raise £1664. It’s not likely really, but I’m going to carry on pestering until the end of the month. I will drive people mad! They will donate just to get rid of me!
But why £1664 I hear no one ask. Well, I thought of a beer I drink, Kronenberg 1664, and I went for that. I’m just glad (but you may be not) that I don’t drink Pimm’s.
If you can spare just £3 (the price of an expensive non-alcoholic drink) then we will get there. Go, please. Once you’ve given I’ll leave you alone (for a bit).You can sponsor me, or Zoe, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you.
Over the past few day’s I’ve been leaving the post with a drinking song. Today I’ve found one that combines booze with Kronenberg 1664 (sort of). And a warning to the nervous; this video contains nudity and Vimto. It’s David Cronenberg’s Wife with I’m On The Booze, Mama.
October 16, 2013
We’re almost at the halfway mark! I’m thinking of it as a month half full rather than a month half empty. Me and Zoe are Going Sober for October to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. The plan was to raise £1664 in honour of Certain lager. We might not make it, but hey- we’ve raised some money, and I’m a some money full kind of guy (rather than a some money empty).
But why should you give us money when all we are doing is not drinking? It’s not like we are running a Marathon or sitting in custard. here’s why; two words: Glitter Juice.
After 15 days we’ve been reduced to Glitter Juice. You can provide your own jokes (I feel too tainted, too upset). Glitter Juice!? Can you believe such a drink exists?
SERIOUSLY, Marks & Spencer, GLITTER JUICE! What were you thinking? Who approved this? Who suggested it? Do you not CHECK things? Did nobody, at any point, say; “Well… we’re not really going to call it Glitter Juice… are we?”
Please do donate. Please! We are drinking Glitter Juice for crying out loud! For charity!
Do supermarkets never learn? It’s barely a week since the Mental Patient Hallowe’en Costume fiasco. And now? Now we have a Glitter Juice controversy brewing!
As for the drink, it tastes ok. I bought it as third choice in a 3 for £5 deal. It tastes fine; it’s pomegranate with a bit of apple and then the special ingredient- GLITTER!
Who puts glitter in a drink? And then, rather than call it something like Glitzy or Sparkle Froot, calls it Glitter Juice? I would say it’s a drink for the kids, but this, somehow, seems to make the matter even worse.
I must stop writing. It’s making me feel sick… and The Tunnel starts in ten minutes.
Here’s a song to end on. It’s Ted Hawkins singing There Stands The Glass. Hopefully free from Glitter Juice.
October 10, 2013
Double figures! It’s a kind of an achievement. A third (almost) of the way there. The proper achievement is you lot giving, so far, £198 to Macmillan Cancer Support.
That’s what it’s for. That’s why we are Going Sober. For October.
Now! Here’s the rub. Here’s the tricky part:
This Saturday it is my brother-in-law’s 40th Birthday party. He’s not going to have many 40th Birthdays. As things stand, he’s just planning on having the one. And, I’m not going to drink. I can’t; it’s Go Sober.
But, the daft thing is, Go Sober have come up with this ruse whereby you can do the damned challenge but also sneak in the odd day of drinking here and there. It’s called a Golden Ticket.
Yes! I know what you’re thinking! You’re thinking (maybe. I don’t know really. I’m not psychic):
“So, you’re asking me to sponsor you to give up drinking, and now you’re asking me to sponsor you to drink? Isn’t that a bit like asking me to sponsor you to run a Marathon and then asking me to sponsor you to have a break in the middle? Like, say running for 12 miles, then jumping into a taxi, getting the taxi for ten miles, then jumping out and running the last four miles? And I have to pay for the taxi? Which is cheating anyway? Just to be clear, are you asking me to sponsor you to cheat? ‘Cos that’s what it sounds like. And to be honest mate, isn’t that a bit much? A bit rich? A bit of a fucking-”
Yes! Alright! That’s enough! There’s no need to swear!
“But I’m not even saying this! You’re writing it for me! And you’ve already admitted you don’t really know what I’m thinking! To be frank, it’s a-”
Yes! I get it! Just give me a minute. Hear me out. Let me say this.
“It better be good!”
“So you say.”
Look. I don’t want a Golden Ticket-
“Oh! That’s taken me aback!”
It’s not for me. I’d like someone to buy one for my wife.
Yes, she is. And it’s her brother’s 40th, and I think she should be able to have a drink or two-
“How sweet of you-”
So I can take the moral high ground.
Hey, who knew. So? Will you buy her a Golden Ticket?
“Maybe. How much?”
A minimum donation of £15.
“You are such a manipulative-”
“If I do buy the lovely Zoe a Golden Ticket, where and how do I do it?”
Ah! You’re thinking about it-
“I’m not even me! I’m you pretending to be me!”
You’re confusing me now. So I have to buy her one?
“Only if no one else does.”
Let’s play it by ear. Bye.
“You’re done with me now are you?”
(Very long pause)
“Swing your pants!”
Ok… I think he/she has gone.
If you can help Zoe out here you’ll also be helping me out and Macmillan. You can buy her a Golden Ticket here.
Let’s end on a song.
October 8, 2013
Last night was a test. I am in a choir, Note-Orious, and Monday night is choir night. And choir night is also ‘have a few beers after choir’ night. In a pub!
What to do? I could go home straight after choir… but beer is my reward for having sat through two hours of choir!
I could have had a soft drink- (oh! Just typing that has made me feel ill and weak). I can’t abide soft drinks in a pub. Most soft drinks, in pubs, are horrendously over-priced (I once paid £47.34 for a half pint of weak cordial). Having a soft drink in a pub is like having communion with Richard Dawkin’s in his downstairs toilet. I don’t know exactly how or why, but hey!, simply (and I think that’s needed now) it’s just not on.
Cheryl, from choir, came up with the solution. She said “Why not have a pint of non-alcoholic beer?”
Yes! Why not?
I’d forgotten such drinks even exist! Of course, it goes without saying that they’re shit, but desperate times call for desperate (non-alcoholic) measures.
Non-alcoholic beer doesn’t come in pints. You can’t get it on draft. It comes in beer-like bottles, and the fake beer I had last night was Bavaria.
It wasn’t bad.
It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad.
It wasn’t beer. But it was something, and that something was not (I think; I hope) a soft drink.
I had my one bottle of Bavaria then made my excuses and left.
I have since looked into the non-alcoholic beer market. I have my eye on this:
But there’s a catch. Non-alcoholic beers aren’t, in general, non-alcoholic. Last night’s Bavaria (which tasted like liquid Weetabix) is an exception, being a true 0.0% alcohol. But most other non-alcoholic beers, like Bernard’s, are actually 0.5%.
I cannot stray. I am going sober. To even take a sip of a 0.05% supposedly non-alcoholic beverage would be to betray those who have so far supported me in raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Please help me and my wife, Zoe reach our ridiculous target of £1664 (in honour of a certain beer). If you can sponsor us the equivalent of a bottle of Bavaria each (just about £1.50 for two from The Alcohol Free Shop) we will slowly but surely get there.You can sponsor me, or Zoe, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you.
Here’s one of Bavaria’s most celebrated citizens. Why not enjoy a cold bottle of malty 0.0% Bavaria as you watch Siegfried Fischbacher do his thing. And then after that, have a drink!
October 7, 2013
Day Seven! That’s nearly a week! That’s almost a quarter! 25% there; ‘there’ being staying sober, throughout October, for Macmillan Cancer Support. And so far me and my wife, as Team Mr and Mrs Hickson, have raised £196 for the charity. Thank you to everyone who has donated.
It’s been a difficult weekend too. My mum visited from Manchester for her birthday. We visited Trev and his family. There was food, birthday cake, Prosecco! But we managed it. We had champagne glasses filled with fizzy water!
It was also Broadstairs Food Festival this weekend. We strolled around the stalls, with their home-brewed ales, foot-pressed ciders, and wind-dried wines. There was even a owl display. look!
But, the best discovery by far was a drink that we can drink during Go Sober that, just about, at a pinch, if we seriously try and delude ourselves, can fool us into thinking that we are still drinking alcohol.
That drink is: Rochester ‘Dickensian recipe’ Non Alcoholic Ginger Wine. A drink with “the kick of two very angry mules!”
It’s good! It even looks the part (ignore the whisky hiding at the back).
Now isn’t the time to wonder what a “Dickensian Recipe” is. In fact, that time is never. Just try the drink. As far as non-alcoholic ginger drinks go it’s the best. I’ve never been kicked by a mule, or two, angry, or not: but this drink has that kick! My worry is, having bought one bottle, it will be gone by dawn. I’m also worrying about overdosing on ginger; tea, wine (fake), biscuits. but that’s the price we are paying.
Please help us. We have set ourselves an unreachable target of £1664. It’s early days though. If you can sponsor us one bottle of Rochester’s (£4), I am sure we will do it. You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you for helping. Here’s a owl for you.
October 4, 2013
Day Four, and it’s Friday. And my mum is visiting. And it’s her birthday! This is where staying sober makes for a long weekend.
I haven’t got much time to write loads today. We have to go out. To a Temperance Hall. Well, actually Panas Gurkha, but I am going to think of it as a temperance hall; as a place free of Cobra, or Kingfisher, or… well! Alcohol!
The best way to avoid alcohol is to fool yourself into thinking it is bad for you. It’s working bit by bit (it’s not) and we are being helped by friends like Jim (@jim_coe) with his link to a song to put you off whiskey for life. It’s by Amos Milburn and it’s called Bad Bad Whiskey. That’s bad whiskey that’s bad.
Please help me and my wife stay off bad bad whiskey throughout October for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. You don’t have to give much; £3 can get us an imaginary shot of Wild Turkey (good not bad). Thank you.