November 9, 2015
Some of you may be aware of STRANGENESS in SPACE, the new audio sci-fi comedy drama we’ve made with Sophie Aldred (Ace in Dr Who). If I’ve been a little bit neglectful of my own blog here, the poor old Mummified Fox, it’s because I’ve been putting all that good stuff that some folk call content into another area: The STRANGENESS in SPACE WormHole!
The WormHole is a members only area giving those who join up Access All Areas passes to all that is STRANGENESS. So far there’s over 70 posts of photos, stories, interviews, and videos. Membership is for… well, a long time. We’ve never really pinned that down. Somewhere between a Year and Life… more likely falling towards the Life end (it’s not like we’re internet librarians with stamps and stuff).
Now here’s the thing. Normally Membership is £20. But this week is WormHole Week, and we’re making Membership only £5 for the first 100 to sign up. So, if you fancy it, please spend a fiver to gain access to some really funny stuff. And if you do, that money will go directly to funding the next Episodes of STRANGENESS. If you’ve not listened yet, please do. It’s free, and we have two completed episodes featuring me and Trev, Sophie, Doon Mackichan, Barnaby Edwards, David Annen, Sarah Madigan. And also special guests like Carol Cleveland, Peter Guinness, and Rufus Hound!
You can hear Episodes 1 and 2 here. They are FREE! Please take a listen. If you like them, that’s lovely. And if you’d like to hear more, please help us. Please take a look at our shop. It’s our own version of crowdfunding. We’ve got the cut-price WormHole membership, and we’ve also got badges, hats, bags, and scripts and all sorts of ways you can help us get these crazy episodes made.
Here’s a one minute version of a video in the WormHole. It’s when Rufus met Sophie.All improvised, with none of us having any idea what could happen. It’s funny. Very funny. And the full version is four times as long and even funnier… with some rude words. Easily worth a fiver. I hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please spread the word and help us hit our target.
October 24, 2015
My mum has just celebrated her 80th birthday. Part of the celebrations included a party for friends and family, some of whom, sadly, couldn’t make it. On of those was my Godfather, my ‘Uncle’ Cyril, who is 95 and, as much as he would have loved to come, is wheelchair-bound and the journey would have just been too much for him.
His daughter, Margaret, sent this lovely picture of them all celebrating his 95th birthday.
Margaret also sent me a copy of a piece written by my Uncle Cyril a short while back. He was in the Royal Engineers (the sappers) during the war, and below is his account of his time as a sapper. It is a beautifully clear, vivid, and moving tale and I am very grateful to Cyril and Margaret for allowing me to reproduce it here. I hope you enjoy it.
A SAPPER GOES TO WAR
In 1942 I was stationed in Tullibody, Clackmananshire, Scotland. In August we commenced a programme of intensive training, being called out in the night to go on a forced route march, building bridges at double time and everything else that sappers do. At the same time we were packing stores and writing on the boxes “Not wanted on Voyage”. “Hello” we thought, “are we going abroad?” Nobody knew anything, not even the friends of the friends that worked in Company Office where all our inside information came from.
The next rumour was everybody to have seven days home leave and all leave to be finished before the second week in October. I was one of the last to go on leave and on the last day of my leave I said to my parents “Mum, Dad, I am going overseas”. My Dad said “I know that lad”. Of course he knew, he was an old soldier and recognised the signs, the sudden leave, the insignias on my arms, the things I was saying. Sure enough all leave finished before the second week in October and then for security reasons we were confined to billets; no telephone calls or posting of letters.
The 26th October the order “All kit to be packed and stacked outside Company Office before 12 noon”. This is it, we are going abroad but where to doesn’t anybody know? That night, after dark, we marched down to the railway station where we boarded a train with dim lights and drawn blinds. After an hour or so of travel, we arrived at Gourock on the Clyde. A railway porter told me that there were lots of ships anchored out there and that Americans had been boarding them all day. It was that dark I couldn’t see a thing. We boarded a boat at a small jetty and were ferried out into the black Clyde. We came up against a huge wall of black steel with a little door in the side and a ladder running down to the water, a troop ship to be sure. Then a voice “up the ladder lads as quick as you can, chop chop”. It was easy up the ladder, just like going upstairs, a hand rail on each side, no problem. Down a dimly lit corridor, down a staircase into a brightly lit deck with rows of hammocks hanging from the ceiling. Another voice “choose yourself a hammock lads and keep it for the remainder of the voyage”. I chose one at the far side of the deck up against the bulkhead.
That morning, the 27th October, I went on deck and was awestruck. I was on a cruise liner named the SS Cathy belonging to the South Africa Line. She had been converted to a troop ship and was the biggest ship I had ever seen. She was huge.
After a couple of days at sea, I worked out that my hammock was just below the water line and I thought that if a torpedo was to strike the ship, it would hit right where I was sleeping. I need not have worried though because escorting that convoy of 33 ships was 51 warships of the Royal Navy. More than one warship per merchantman. What U-Boat would dare to attack such a formidable ring of steel?
As an ex-Scout, it wasn’t difficult for me to work out in which direction we were heading. SW America. Why? Two days sailing from America we were joined with an American convoy of troopships and their equipment and did an about turn and headed west towards Europe, definitely Second Front, I assumed.
There was a brass plaque on the bulkhead and the wording read “Four times round this deck equals a quarter of a mile”. We shared the deck with a Battalion of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and every day they marched round and round that deck to the skirl of the pipes. I maintain that those Highlanders marched all the way to North Africa.
After 10 days at sea we were assembled on deck to be told where we were heading. North Africa, capture Algiers, Tunis, deny Rommel supply ports and take the pressure off Malta. We were ecstatic!
Early morning 10th November, after 15 days at sea, we were cruising up the Mediterranean when there was a shout. “Hey look there’s Algiers.” Very slowly the ship began to tip to starboard. “My God we are going to capsize.” 5000 troops tried to get to the rails to look at Algiers. The Captain on the bridge shouted through the ship’s speaker system “you men down there get to the other side of the ship”. Some idiot shouted an obscenity to him and everybody laughed, so the Captain sounded the air raid alarm, which meant everybody below decks. As the troops dispersed below decks the ship slowly righted herself. I breathed a big sigh of relief!
The Yanks landed at Oran, the British at Algiers, except our ship. We sailed through the night to a small town named Bougie, off Bougie Bay. Here we came within range of the Luftwaffe based in Sicily, who soon gave us their unwelcome attention. The Infantry were the first to go ashore and as we waited our turn to be called forward, we could hear the bombs dropping around the ship and the ships Bofor Gun pounding away on the stern.
I left the Cathy as I boarded her, through the little door in the side, down the ladder into a ship’s lifeboat and away to the shore. I heard a terrific explosion and looked back to see the Cathy enveloped in a big cloud of black smoke. She had received a direct hit which blew off the stern. How many were killed, I never knew. When I got to the shore, I looked for the Cathy. She had settled on the seabed with just her funnel and part of her superstructure sticking out of the water. All our kit went down with her. All we possessed was our equipment, weapons and a blanket.
After a day and night guarding an unused airfield, our transport arrived from Algiers and we began our advance to Tunis. At this time, the Germans were pouring troops into Tunis and advancing towards us. We met up in the extreme end of the Atlas Mountains, where both sides dug in and harassed each other. We made camp about 2 miles behind the Infantry and after a couple of days, it rained. We had no shelter, no buildings, no trees, no walls, nothing but cactus bush. At night we put our ground sheets on the ground for a bed and covered ourselves with the blanket. Sleep was impossible. This went on for several days with no chance of drying ones blanket. What misery.
After 2 weeks we received 2 man bivouacs. What luxury to crawl into a bivvy wet through and then put on wet clobber in the morning!
At this time, the enemy was entrenched on a high hill overlooking our positions. He could see every move we made; that is if we dared to move because any movement invited a hail of fire. At the foot of this hill ran a Wadi that snaked along the valley just like a World War 1 trench. One morning at dawn, a battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment attacked this hill. Supporting the West Kents was my platoon of Sappers. Our primary task was to neutralise any minefields. So far we had not encountered any, so we split up into pairs to do individual searches. I must mention it was raining heavens hard. We were soaked and slipped and slithered all over the place with the mud.
I and another Sapper were detailed to reconnoitre as far as possible along the top of the Wadi, which we proceeded to do. We hadn’t gone very far when the enemy started to bombard us with his trench mortars. As these bombs came sailing through the air, they made a terrifying screaming noise, that put the fear of death in you and they were exploding the whole length of the Wadi. Without hesitation, my friend and I jumped down into the Wadi and crouched down with our backs to the bank, silently praying that we would not be hit. In an attempt to calm our nerves we each lit a cigarette. Whilst puffing at my cig’., I contemplated my position. I thought, I’m wet, cold, hungry, tired and more than a little afraid and a long way from home. I couldn’t be more miserable. As these thoughts were passing through my head, my mate gave me a gentle nudge and calmly said “don’t look now but there’s a German down that Wadi watching us”. Without looking up I said “ignore him, he’ll go away”. After a slight pause he said “Cyril I’m serious. There’s a German down that Wadi watching us”. This time I looked up and about 5 yards away the Wadi bent to the left. Stood in the bend was a German and with his big steel helmet and his long grey coat he looked about ten feet tall and the rain was just streaming off his helmet, as it was off mine. My mate didn’t have to spell it out that he expected me to deal with the situation! So I got up clutching my rifle in both hands and walked right up to him. I said “now then Fritz, what’s your game?” He just looked at me and pointed around the corner. I looked round the corner and saw several of our stretcher bearers doing what I was doing, sheltering from the mortar fire. They told me that the German was a prisoner and had volunteered to help bring in the wounded, which I considered was very brave when he could have gone back down the line to safety.
Several days later we were told to pack up everything, as we were moving out. We moved out after dark and travelled for about twenty miles under cover of darkness to a small town named Beja. We dumped our kit in a building that resembled a committee room and re-boarded our trucks. After half an hours travelling, we arrived at a quarry where we loaded the trucks with stone. We were going road-making for the Artillery. After another half hour, the truck stopped just as dawn was breaking. There were eight of us on top of the stones, all sleeping or dozing. Next our Corporal banged on one side of the truck and shouted “everybody out”. No-one moved, we were too sleepy. Something urged me to get out of the truck, which I did. I went around to the front to speak to the driver, who said “how are you Cyril?” I replied “very tired”. I then stood in front of the engine, placed my arm on the radiator and rested my head on my arm. Instantly, I felt a blow on my head that I can only describe as being hit with a sledgehammer. I awoke and found I was lying in the road. “What am I doing here? I don’t remember going to sleep in the road”. I slowly got to my knees, looked around and saw that the truck was a smoking ruin with stone and bodies lying all around it. The driver was slumped over the steering wheel dead. Five of my friends were dead too. So badly injured they were unrecognisable. ”What has happened?” I asked myself. “It wasn’t a bomb. I didn’t hear any aircraft. It wasn’t a shell because I don’t think we are quite in the battle area. What was it?”
We had an anti-tank mine shaped just like a small cigar box, powerful enough to blow the track off a tank. We carried six of these mines strapped to a board (ready-primed) at the back of the truck cab. We assumed that somebody had accidently banged one, consequently detonating the rest. What made me get out of the truck, walk around to the protection of the engine and rest my head on my arm so that my steel helmet took the full force of the blast? Only one answer. The Good Lord was watching over me. I found that I was completely deaf and dizzy. I went by ambulance, along with the two injured (one of whom was my best friend) to the advanced dressing station, where a medical officer diagnosed ruptured eardrums, concussion and lacerations. He informed me that I had to go to hospital, which I wasn’t happy about. I didn‘t think I was that bad but he explained that I could suffer secondary shock, which could be nasty and my ears could become infected. With that he slapped a “wacking” big piece of sticking plaster over each ear. Now I was deaf!
The medics lay my friend Colin McCloud on a makeshift table, where the officer took one look at him and said “my God, where do I start?” Poor Colin was just a pulp of bloody flesh. It was horrible. The officer just covered him with a blanket and had a look at my other friend, who was no better. The three of us were placed in an ambulance and whisked off to the Casualty Clearing Station, where we spent the night. The next morning the Chaplain informed me that Colin had died. This upset me greatly, in fact to the point of tears. Reg died some time later. Through the grace of God I was the only survivor of that terrible explosion.
After breakfast I, along with eleven other walking wounded, travelled 200 miles in an ambulance to hospital in Algeria. The hospital was a series of marquees set up as wards. I was examined by a medical officer, who asked what was my problem? I said “I can’t hear sir”. He replied “I should think not with this stuck on your ears” and promptly ripped off the plasters. I thought he had ripped off my ears! After examination, he told me that there was no cure for perforated eardrums. They must be kept dry and clean and they would be self-healing. Also, I should be sent back to Algiers for recuperation but if I wanted, I could stay at the hospital for three days and then re-join my unit. Re-joining my unit was music to my poor ears, so I opted for that. His reply “good man – I wish they were all like you”.
Whilst in the hospital I made friends with an American Corporal who was in the Engineer Regiment, so we had a lot in common. Six months after meeting this Corporal I was in Sicily patrolling down a country lane along with several other Sappers, when we spotted a group of soldiers coming towards us. Germans we assumed. We decided to ambush them and took up positions behind trees and in the ditches. As they drew near we could see that they were Yanks and leading them was my friend from hospital. There were handshakes all round.
The day of my discharge from hospital, I was sent to a transit camp. It was a prison camp as far as I was concerned. I was placed in a bell tent along with several strangers and I did not like that. The next morning I was sat on the ground eating my breakfast when a driver in the Service Corps approached me. He was a sight for sore eyes. He was wearing the Battle Axe on his arms. At last a friend. He asked me how long I had been in the camp. When I said “yesterday” he said that he had been there for three days and that we could be there for two weeks. That to me was a death sentence. He asked me if I would go with him to the Camp Commandant for permission to make our own way back to our Division. I agreed. The Commandant was a Major in the Royal Artillery. My new friend was the spokesman. “Please sir, can we have permission to make our own way back to our units?” “And where is your unit?” he asked of me. “Beja Sir” I said. “And what if your unit is not there?” he said. “Then Sir I’ll find it”. He knew that we didn’t know for sure where our units were but he did know that we were genuine and not potential deserters. He gave us a chit to take to the cookhouse for rations for one meal and then report back to him, which we did in double time! He gave us our discharge papers and said “off you go and good luck to both of you”. We went to the main road and headed east for Tunisia. Shortly an Army vehicle approached from behind. He was going to the railway station. What luck, we clambered aboard. A train in the station! Where is it going? I don’t believe it. Beja. LOOK OUT YOU FILTHY HUN – WOGGIE IS ON HIS WAY BACK!!!
We arrived at Beja just before nightfall. No sign of my unit or of the Division. Where are they? We saw a couple of soldiers on sentry duty outside what looked like a town hall. We asked for the Sergeant Major. He said “what is it about you Battle Axe men that you want to get back into the war”. “You are not the first to come here.” He asked when did we last eat? “Midday” we told him. He sent us to the cookhouse for a meal. Whilst eating he came and told us that a truck from our Division would collect us about 23.00.
We travelled through the night in the back of a 15cwt pickup to our Divisional Headquarters. At 06.00 my unit ration truck took me back to my platoon. Home at last. I never again saw my Service Corps friend. I pray that he survived.
ARMY NUMBER: 2094000
April 25, 2015
What a journey this has been! And we’re still Earthbound! (Hmmm… just confused myself there; Earthbound as in bound to the Earth not bound for Earth… tricky… reboot:
What a journey this has been! And we haven’t even left yet. Earth, that is. Snappy!
For those who know what I’m on about, you know. For those who don’t, it’s Strangeness in Space; a new adventure, a Space podcast, an audio comedy; devised, conceived, by four of us – Me, Trev, Sophie, and Clare.
The journey started about a year ago when we decided we wanted to do something together. Now, nearly a year on, we are reaching the end of our Kickstarter campaign.
Ooh! Kickstarter! I say that so casually, that Kickstarter campaign thing. A year ago I would have thought crowdfunding was (insert your own witty line here). A year ago I would have thought a ‘perk’ was (ditto). A year ago I would have… (finish this of yourself. And remember the rule of three! Then feel free to break it).
Anyway. My point. It’s a new thing and we’ve done it! We’ve succeeded! I would say just the four of us, but it’s been a team of seven. Maybe eight or nine. I don’t think ten. (And you others know who you are and you know just how grateful we are). And beyond that, the 550+ backers who are bold enough to come into Space with us. Without you, our backers, this wouldn’t have worked. With Kickstarter it is all or nothing; if you don’t raise the money you don’t get any of it.
BUT WE DID IT! A BIG BIG HOORAY!
AND WE HAVE PETER GUINNESS IN IT! BARNABY EDWARDS! SARAH MADIGAN! DOON MACKICHAN! CAROL CLEVELAND! DAVID ANNEN! RUFUS HOUND!
We’re a small team and we’re doing pretty much everything ourselves. When you get your perk the chances are I’ll have put the badges in the envelope. The chances are Sophie will have put the stamp on. The chances are Trev will have walked to the Post Office. And the chances are Clare will do the other 549. (See? I’ve already overruled the rule of three with a rule of four; that’s the problem with a quartet).
And now, with just over a day to go, I am pleading with all of you who have come on this journey with us, to pester your friends, pester your family; anyone you think would like to join us on this adventure… LET THEM KNOW THERE’S ONLY 26 HOURS TO GO!
Here’s the thing. We’ve reached our target, and we WILL get Episode 1 made. But Episode 2 is waiting and it’s ready to go! But we didn’t dare, we didn’t know… it’s a new adventure and we couldn’t have dreamed we could reach the funding for Two Episodes. But now I do believe we can.
To all who have backed us, spread the word! If you’re on Twitter, please retweet. If your on Facebook, please… refacebook? If you’re on the phone, please just casually slip it into the conversation.
Heck, Strangeness in Space isn’t a religion, but it’s as good as. And, occasionally, funnier. Spread the word!
This is where I picture some of our team putting their heads in their hands, thinking “this blog post was going so well, why did he have to-
Ok, ignore that last bit. Let me start again. Strangeness in Space isn’t butter, but it’s as good as. Spread the word!
£4 gets you a chance to hear the first Episode before it is made available to the public. And you get your name in our Roll of Honour.
£10 gets you an emailed script. £20 for a T-shirt.
There’s just under 20 different perks to pick from, suiting all pockets (what a weird phrase that is!) If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about with perks, just take a look at our Kickstarter page and scroll down the list of perks on the right hand side. You can find our page by clicking here.
26 hours to go! Our current backer are called Mirthlings (because the strange planet we visit is called Planet Mirth). calling all Mirthlings! Send the message out.
Let us recruit new Mirthlings! (sounds sinister)
Let us be like an army (but without guns and things… or people barking orders at us!)
Let us form a cult (Not a sinister one, like Scientology or The Moonies)
This blog post is going wrong.
Let us be Strangeness.
April 12, 2015
Ok, here’s today’s mission, should you choose to accept it:
Strangeness in Space is well under way. At this moment we have £13113 of our £15000 target! That’s amazing, and we are well on our way to getting the first episode made. But (and sorry to keep pestering) we won’t stop there because another £7000 will get the second episode made too!
A lot of you reading this will already have backed us. And a huge thank you to you all! (If you haven’t, and you want to, just click here). But today’s mission is simpler, easier, less taxing on the pocket. I am just determined to get a retweet from Richard Branson.
Let me explain:
Ok. Retweeting. It’s a Twitter thing. Some people are Twitter, some are Facebook. Facebook people don’t get Twitter, Twitter people don’t get Facebook. People who get neither are people with lives, and people who get both are people with no lives. Most of us fall in the middle. I’m a Twitter person. (We do have a FB page too, and I do go there; I just don’t know how it works).
Anyway, the Mission. Before it self-destructs.
Years ago, when we did Live and Kicking on Saturday mornings on BBC1 we did a sketch where we came up with a spoof product called “Branson Pickle”, and we thought “wouldn’t it be great if we got Richard Branson to do a voiceover for it?” Well, if you don’t ask… (see my past blog post).
Our producers got in touch with Richard’s producers (or whatever he has) and they said “Sure!” So, one Friday, during rehearsal, we went up to the sound room (sorry, I don’t know the technical terms) and we called Richard Branson so he could do his voiceover “down the line” (technical speak – I believe – for over the phone). It only turns out that he’s at his private island, somewhere off the coast of Saundersfoot!* And he’s playing tennis! With Obama!**
So, we are interrupting his tennis game! And he comes on the line and he does the voiceover for us! Thank you Richard.
And now, years later, I am pestering him again. Just for a retweet. See, he’s got over 5 million followers (it’s a Twitter thing, nothing sinister) and if his 5 million saw our Strangeness in Space kickstarter thing I reckon it could bring in a bob or two. And! We are off into SPACE! That’s Richard’s kind of thing.
So… The Mission. Help me out. Let’s get a retweet from him. If you get him to retweet our Kickstarter link we’ll give you a prize of some kind. Don’t know what yet. Something or other. What!? Stop asking! It’s just- you should be doing this for the love of it! Not for some damned reward!
Here’s a Space related pop song to allow us all to calm down a little.
* His private island is not off the coast of Wales. I am not allowed to divulge it’s actual location. it is is a well-guarded secret.
** Ted Obama
Everything else is true.
April 6, 2015
It’s one of the great pop songs. And since hearing it, it’s one I’ve always tried to take to heart. Yes, shyness is nice and (more often than not) the antonym is hideous. So, it’s always worth an ask. “Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”
Years back, last century, when I worked with Trev Neal on Saturday morning TV, we’d get to perform daft sketches with the stars of the day (Big Fun, Craig Machlachlanchlachlan, Nathan from Brother Beyond) and sometimes the stars of many days (Kylie, Cher, Mel Brooks). When it came to the Christmas and New Year shows there was always an attempt by our boss, Chris Bellinger, to up the ante, to aim high, to get the big guns in. And we would always ask for the top bananas. Year after year, for ten years, we’d hand in our wish list. Always the same names. And always, at the top of our list, the same two. We never did get Eddie Murphy or Gorbachev. But the point is, ASK! Always ask.
During one series of Live and Kicking we had a weekly feature called Every Loony Wins*. It was a daft phone-in quiz and we had a band as part of it, all played by kids from the audience. The leader of the band was called Des Tindeby (The Des Tindeby Band). And during their musical performance (miming to the very real Spike Jones and his City Slickers) a character would jump on stage (again one of the kids) as The Lone Yodeller (a Lone Ranger type, in a mask, yodelling like a loony). And each week we would end the segment by looking into the camera and saying; “Just who is the Lone Yodeller?”
When we reached the end of the thirty week run it was time for us to reveal just who was the Lone Yodeller. The obvious way to do this was for it to be one of the guests of the week. The only problem was (me and Trev being a picky pair) none of the guests were up to the task. (Anyone remember Little Danny Mangrove? or Nu Boxxx? Or Jennifer Bush?** No, I thought not.) And so we went to Chris… and we asked… we begged… please, please, can we get another guest. One worthy of the title of The Lone Yodeller? Chris wanted it to be Little Danny Mangrove. Little Danny, who was actually 6’2″, had just won Pop Zinger on ITV and his record company, BIGPUSH, were desperate for him to be the Lone Yodeller. They’d even recorded a special yodelling version of his current hit, A Pocketful of Promises, for him to mime to. We couldn’t have it though. We insisted; the Lone Yodeller had to be a bigger name. And then we asked Chris this; “if we can get a big name to play along will you let them be the Lone Yodeller?” This, of course, depended on who the big name was. We said to Chris; “if we can get Jonathan Ross to be the Lone Yodeller will you let him do it?” And Chris said yes.
Just one snag. We didn’t know Jonathan Ross. Not really. He’d been a guest before on the programme, but it’s not like we played tennis with him or anything. It’s not like we’d been to his house, or had his telephone number. All we had, on our side, was the ability to ASK.
It’s time to get to the races now so… we asked… we found a phone number for his production company and we asked… and they said “we’ll ask”… and we waited. And he said YES!
Jonathan turned up on the Saturday morning, played the Lone Yodeller and also brought along a friend of his who went on to declare “No! I’m the Lone Yodeller!” Our second Lone Yodeller wore a shoe hat, made from two shoes and a coat hanger. That was was Vic Reeves.
We’ve been asking again recently. We are working on a new thing. A Sci-Fi audio comedy adventure with me, Trev, and Sophie Aldred. Some of you reading this will already know about Strangeness in Space. ***
And we’ve been asking people to help us out with it. We’ve given up on Eddie Murphy and Gorbachev, but we have asked two top people who have only gone ahead and said YES!
YES! Doon Mackichan has said yes to being our narrator, Bounty Flightingale.
YES! Rufus Hound has said yes to being Atrocious Knocious, an alien hoverbiker who’s never even heard of Evel knievel!
All from asking.
* based on Nick Berry’s hit Every Loser Wins. We had a minor battle with some BBC bigwigs to get them to accept the use of the word Loony. I’d grown up with it, reading the works of Spike Milligan. It was accepted in the end when dictionary definitions, on the whole, gave the word two meanings; one meaning (and our one) was silly, the other mad.
** Ok, I’ve made all these acts up. And the ongoing business with Little Danny Mangrove. Other than that, this story is true.
*** A final ask. Please help us get this made. We’ve loads of perks available if you join us: T-shirts, badges, scripts, signed photos and artwork, etc. We’re not far off our target now, but the more money we raise, the more episodes we can make. You can back us here.
March 7, 2015
It’s almost time for Red Nose Day 2015, the biennial Comic Relief festival aimed at raising cash and changing lives for the better for people both here in the UK and across Africa. I always try and do my bit. Bit being the operative word here; I’m no mountain climber or road runner or ocean swimmer or dancer or baker. I’m more of a… well, I don’t know… last time round you lot donated over £2000 just to support me as I wrote about Everything But The Girl songs! What was all that about?
So this time around I’ve decided to do nothing. But I would like to tell you about two people who are going to try and do something. It was my wife Zoe’s idea. Last year she packed in her job working for Cadbury’s (Kraft, Mondelēz International, blah blah… I guess things had moved away from the innocence of selling Quaker inspired chocolate) and fulfilled her dream of opening and running her own cafe, The Archie Parker (named after our dog!)
And then she goes and says; “Why don’t The Singing Corner get together for Comic Relief and come and work in the cafe for a few hours?”
Yeah. Great idea.
Why don’t two fictional characters who I haven’t seen in yonks, reunite and come and make coffees for an hour or two? Assuming they can even operate a Fracino whatever it’s called coffee maker. Assuming they know their portafilters from their tampers. Assuming they exist still!
But I say I’ll give it a go.
First up I give Trev a ring. He used to be close to Don Singing (the Singing half of the Singing Corner). Trev follows him on Twitter (@DonSinging) and it turns out he lives in Angoria. This is a place that DOES NOT exist! We are off to a flying start.
I try and track down Bob Corner (the Corner half of The Singing Corner). He’s on Twitter too (@bobcorner) and it turns out he’s moved to Skandeborg. On the plus side, Skandeborg does exist. He runs the Marigold Ged Gard and is also regularly involved with Smukfest.
To cut a long story short, both have said they are willing to come along to The Archie Parker next Friday to do their bit for Comic Relief. Indeed Bob Corner tweeted last night that he is already flying over from Denmark, having booked a flight with cut-price Ildelugtende Ged Airlines.
So, they are going to be in The Archie Parker on Friday 13th. Me and Trev will be there too. We’ll be there most of the afternoon but I think Don and Bob will turn up at about 4pm. The cafe normally closes at 4, but for Comic Relief it will be staying open until 6pm, giving people a chance to nip in on their way home from work.
And Don and Bob will serve folk, clean tables, make coffee and sandwiches, and maybe sing a song or two.
All I ask of you is that you sponsor my wife Zoe, and her cafe, in their attempt to raise money for Comic Relief by bringing about the resurrection of The Singing Corner.
If you come to the cafe you can make a donation there and then, and (if it’s your thing) get a pic with The Singing Corner. A ‘selfie’, if we must.
If you can’t make it perhaps you’d like to make a donation anyway through Zoe’s Red Nose Day Giving page. She has set herself a £150 target (almost reached!), but the more money we get, the more The Singing Corner will do at the cafe. And I’ll do my best to get someone to film bits of it so we can shove it all on YouTube.
And I promise, on Don and Bob’s behalf, if Zoe can double her target to £300 they will sing their hit version of Jessie J’s Pants Tag. And they’ll do their best to learn it too.
December 19, 2014
Over the past few years, in the build up to Christmas, I have been reviewing the Top Ten Comedy DVDs to help you make those difficult Christmas present choices. I’ve left it a bit late this year, but here goes: all ten in one go.
And here (for those new to this exercise in futility) are the rules: The Top Ten is taking from today’s Amazon Stand-Up comedy recommendations. I’ve not watched any of them. I don’t read anything about them. I merely look at the covers (pictures of the covers) and come to undoubtedly unfair conclusions. Yes, I am judging a comedy DVD by its cover.
That’s it. Happy shopping. Let’s countdown!
10: Nina Conti
Nina Conti is “Brilliantly funny, outrageously hilarious”. But we don’t know who said this. Perhaps it was her dad, the Liverpool boxer John Conti.
It’s a “live” DVD but I cannot tell you where from. The show is called “Dolly Mixtures”. I remember Dolly Mixtures from my childhood. They were/are sweets. Nina’s teeth are perfect suggesting she doesn’t eat them, or she brushes well. Her smile is rigid. If I were Sherlock Holmes I would put this with the puppets below and conclude that she is a ventriloquist with a penchant for confectionery nostalgia. Suitable for 15 year olds and above.
9: Harry Hill
No. 9 is Harry Hill. He is the “Lord of Misrule” and this is his return to stand up. It is also a “Brand New Live Show”. Unlike Nina’s we know the location of this live show. It is Leeds. The show is called “Sausage Time” and the cover suggests the sausages that are taking up the time are meat sausages and also “sausage” dogs; dogs resembling sausages in shape alone.
This DVD is suitable for anyone above the age of 12.
8: Frank Skinner
Well now, this is fascinating. It’s that rare thing in the world of stand-up comedy DVD cover art; something that looks, almost, well… designed. As if someone has put some thought into it.
Here’s what we know for sure. It’s Frank Skinner “live”. Location unknown. The show is called “Man in a Suit”. The comedy comes from Frank being in a suit and a suit alone. No shirt, no tie. We cannot see, but I guess he has no shoes too. It’s traditional, it’s subversive. And possibly a little Christ-like.
The Mirror (representing the ordinary left-wing folk) call it “A masterclass in stand-up”. The Telegraph (representing the extraordinary right-wing folk) call it “Outrageously funny”. Something for everyone. Over 15.
And if you think you’ve seen that cover somewhere before, try this for size.
7: Roy Chubby Brown
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
18 and over.
6: Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson is “Back and Live”. We don’t know where he is live, or where he is back from. The quote from The Mirror (none from The Telegraph here) says “Standing ovation to packed houses every night” so perhaps Jim did a door to door tour.
The DVD is subtitled “No further action”, which is, I assume, an Operation Yewtree reference. Jim also reveals the “Unseen story of Celebrity Big Brother”, unseen by any who didn’t watch it.
He stands, cheekily, clutching his mic like a big cock whilst hiding his other hand in his pants! Spotlights play over his groin area, saucily. It’s a 15 and over affair.
5: Al Murray
Covers don’t come any better than this. It’s a work of art with something for everyone. Firstly, Al is painted. Take a close look; he could be by Michael Sowa, or a painteralike. That pint of beer is a masterpiece waiting to appear in an unwritten Paul Heaton drinking song.
Look at that maroon strip along the bottom; worthy of the discontinued range of HD DVDs (the ones that lost out in the 2008 BluRay/HD DVD war). It’s an all-new live show. We don’t know where, but look! A bonus is a full-length live show from somewhere we do know; Edinburgh.
The Times says; “Murray is on exuberant form, splashing the audience with both his beer and his ideas”. Yes, it’s an odd quote, but no doubt well meant.
The cover references the Carlo Goldoni classic, “Servant of Two Masters” (aka One Man, Two Guvnors”) and there is an added joke in the subtitle “20 years at the lager top”.
It is suitable for 15 years olds and it is 20 past one.
4: Still Game
I’m a little clueless on this one, but I think it may be Harry and Paul.
15 year olds welcome.
3: Jack Whitehall
Ah! Jack Whitehall! Frankly, I’ve never heard of him, but he must be a big cheese because he is “Live from Wembley Arena”. That’s a big place.
Going off his hi-tech microphone it’s possible that he may be connected in some way or another with Justin Bieber.
Minimal research shows that he is the son of someone.
2: Russell Howard
Sorry folks. I’m really letting you down now. I haven’t a clue. Possibly Jack Whitehall’s son?
This guy could be an illusionist. He’s performing a ‘trick’ on the cover, making it look like he can hoverfloat a cup of coffee. Closer inspection shows that he is lying on the floor, shot from overhead.
This is “Wonderbox” live. We don’t know where live. My research yields no results for Wonderbox. I will have to hazard a guess that his Wonderbox is where he keeps his rabbits and his silk handkerchiefs.
Suitable for ages 15 and under.
1: Lee Mack
And back on dry land once again. I know where I am now. “Slick, sharp and very funny” Time Out says. Swearing too, which is good. But clearly no “cunts” as it is a 15 certificate.
It’s your traditional comedy cover, right down to missing foot behind a big ‘C’. Well done Lee.
But which is your favourite (and least favourite)?
Remember, play by the rules. Don’t pick your favourite comedian. Pick your favourite cover. Then least favourite.
September 30, 2014
On Sunday I did some walking. And I was sort of paid for it. Crazy. You know that sponsoring thing, where people give money to a charity in return for you doing something arduous or stupid (like sitting in a bath full of lobsters or skipping up Ben Nevis)… well, I got away with raising a load of money for Alzheimer’s Society just by walking. Walking. Something I have to do anyway.
If it’s any consolation, I am a reluctant walker; I’m no fan. I look forward to the future when we all wear hover shoes, or have ball bearings for feet. Walking is overrated. Unless there’s a pub at the end of the walk.
So, me walking 10km, around a park! (I think parks are overrated too… well, not all parks. There’s some nice car parks around. Like this one:
Poor old Alf Roberts).
Back to the business. The walk I did was the Memory Walk. 10km around Victoria Park – I give in – it’s a lovely park. It’s about a mile from (appropriately) Mile End Road tube. So that’s another 2 miles I had to walk! Unsponsored too!
Once there, around the park we went. And it was a moving sight, to see all the folk with memory cards pinned to their backs; all the nans and grans and grandpas and mums and dads and friends who had been affected by this awful illness. I walked in memory of my wife’s Nan, May, and my friend Trev’s dad, Tudor.
And a huge thank you to all who supported me and so kindly and generously donated to Alzheimer’s Society. The final total raised, including the donations to the World Cup Tweepstake this July, is an incredible £2016.90. I hope I’ve managed to thank the Tweepstakers throughout the Tweepstake blog posts. And some of you Tweepstakers have been incredibly generous, donating again and again. To those who donated for the Memory Walk thank you thank you thank you. Thank you to:
Andy and Sarah, Beccy, Mel, Kevin, Allison, Louise, Debbie, Ivan, Gillian, Tim, Jason, Mary, Jane, Jenny, Jason, Andrea and Frank, Dave, Stuart, Elspeth, Jaq, Tom, Richard, Paul and Charlotte, Samantha, Tiggy, Rebecca, Angela, Mike, John, Sarah, Pete, Beth, Rachel, Jenny, Cecilia, Darren, Christian, Mo, Sam, Mark, Peter, Glenn, Lisa, James, Sarah, Trev, Dave, Richard, Sophie, and Paul.
A huge thank you. I take back all the cheap ‘jokes’ at the start of this post. x
Before the walk started I met Carrie Dunn, who walked on behalf of her Grandma. You can read her blog post about the event here.
And now, because I have finally found a way of getting the photos from my phone onto my computer, here’s a few snaps from the day.
September 27, 2014
Let’s start with a song:
Ok, I’m not going to walk 500 miles. Or 500 miles more. (Let’s be honest, we don’t even know if Craig and Charlie Reid ever did; they’ve only ever said they would. Saying’s one thing, doing is another).
But I will do the 10km London Memory Walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society.
Yes! You heard right (read right?) I am gonna walk… 6 miles. About.
Yes yes yes. I know. 10km. Walking too. I’m hardly Izzard, or Walliams, or Bishop, or any of those idiots who really put themselves out. But… running’s tiring! And swimming’s hard! And my Peak Flow is down to 400 at the mo when really it should be all the way up at 600. It’ll be a wheeze!
Earlier in the year, during the World Cup, I organised a Tweepstake to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society (you can find out about that elsewhere on my blog- if you wish). The generosity of the folk who took part was astonishing. A handful of folk donated almost £1500 to the charity. Some of them are donating again, now, sponsoring me on the walk. Part of the reason (beyond the obvious reason of kindness and generosity) is to help me reach my target of £1966. We are now 84% of the way there; just under £300 to go.
And now, here’s my most unusual plea: Please tweepstakers, please don’t donate anymore. You have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
But… to the people reading this now who haven’t donated as yet, here is my simple plea: Please sponsor me 30p a km. Please donate £3 to Alzheimer’s Society. If all the people reading this now, who haven’t already donated, donate just £3 we will reach the target by the end of today.
Here’s something: Craig and Charlie Reid, Scottish, The Proclaimers. William and Jim Reid, Scottish, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Four brothers? Two singing about walking, the other two singing about tripping? That’s some sibling rivalry.
July 14, 2014
Let’s not beat about the bush. Germany won. @DarrenK73 won for Germany after downing a monstrous amount of German wine and beer and donating a small fortune to Alzheimer’s Society. In second place came a strong and unlucky Argentina and @joyfeed. Argentina had their chances but, as the game went into extra time, Germany brought on a small boy and he scored a wonder goal.
The small boy was fifteen year old Mario Gotze.
GERMANY 1 ARGENTINA 0
Everyone who took part in the Tweepstake will get something but do please bear with me. I am still waiting on some items and I also need to collect all your addresses. Everyone will get: a letter, a certificate, a gift. And, for that reason, I am not going to tell you where you came in the Tweepstake; it can be a nice (or not) surprise. (Of course you could look up your placing on the internet, but I bet half of you can’t be bothered… and the top four all know where they came. But, for example, without looking up, would you @Arfablue know that you had come last? Sorry to include plot spoilers. And if you are wondering what team that is, well, it’s Cameroon).
Along the way you all gave very generously to Alzheimer’s Society, some of you giving over and over. And can you believe that you lot have donated over £1300? A huge huge thank you.
And now please raise your glasses to toast Germany and Darren. And why not singalong to a hit-filled medley from Germany’s greatest Schlager singer (and, as I’ve just discovered, an influence on Klowz und Betty). Here’s Heino!
See you all next time! x