B & B

August 30, 2010

Have you ever stayed in a B&B? Do you know what it stands for? Bed and Breakfast? Well, yes. But a more appropriate abbreviation would be B&BISEH- That’s Bed and Breakfast in Someone Else’s House.

We’ve just come back from Claire and Sean’s wedding in Norfolk. The wedding was lovely, we had a great time, and we send a big Thank You to Claire and Sean for inviting us. And we both wish you a long and happy marriage. But back to B&B’s. No! Wait! I’ll have to divert for a moment.

Those Broads. Those Broads are crazily scary. I’m not talking about the Norfolk women here (though American tourists must get seriously confused when they travel all that way just because they’ve been told the Norfolk Broads are a must see). No, not the women. They’re all lovely. The other Broads. The watery ones: flat and wet, though capable of an almost Escherian mind-mess.

You can drive around all day, even with Sat Nav, and I guarantee you will drive past the same shop (perhaps Hairmageddon or  Dave’s DVD rentals) at least seven times.  Every 47 minutes you will find yourself in Norwich.

It is, truly, sincerely, like being In the Mouth of Madness.

There’s a scene later in the film where they drive and drive and keep coming back to the same place. They just can’t escape.

In Las Vegas, in the hotels, on the gaming floor, there are no clocks. This is to encourage you to lose all sense of time; to keep you there, gambling, through the night, through the day. In the Broads there are no calendars.

But back to the B&B. Or rather the B&BISEH. Or B&BWAM&AD. That’s Bed and Breakfast with a Mum and a Dad. Not your mum and dad. Or mine. Just a mum and a dad. Who metaphorically tell you what time to be back by.

Our room was lovely. Like a hotel room. We had a huge bedroom, a dressing room, and a nice big bathroom. It was like a 4 star hotel bedroom. Tidy, clean, tasteful. Like a 4 star hotel bedroom, but not in a hotel.

On arrival on Friday afternoon we were made a cup of tea and we sat with our ‘just for the weekend’ mum and dad. Our plan was to head out for the evening, find a local pub and enjoy beer, wine and food. And our ‘mum and dad’ were very helpful there. They offered great advice on all the local pubs, even going so far as having homemade laminated maps for us to take and use. ‘Mum’ was unhappy with one though. She told us they offered far too big portions. The portions were so big ‘mum’ had even written to the local newspaper to complain. ‘Dad’ kept quiet on this one. I suspect he thought ‘mum’ was giving us information that wasn’t needed; perhaps information that might just, possibly, scare us a little. Writing to newspapers to complain can be a great art, also a noble endeavour. But to complain about large portions? It’s a hard sell.

Breakfast is early in B&B land isn’t it? The wedding was on Saturday at 2pm. Only 3 miles away. Lots of time for a nice Saturday morning lie-in. As we sat having our tea, ‘mum and dad’ asked us what time we would like breakfast. Well, not quite like that. They asked us if 8.30am would be ok. I was shocked. Picking up on my shock they came back with “8.45?”. I asked what time they did breakfast till. 9. Oh, ok, let’s go for 8.45 then. (I could have settled for a lie-in and breakfast somewhere else a little later, but I couldn’t bear to disappoint ‘mum and dad’; to turn their B&B into just a B.)

But back to Friday night. We were back and in bed before midnight. Fooling around a little; you know the kind of thing. I was doing impressions of Rolf Harris and Zoe was laughing at them.

I ended up doing a surreal take on your bog-standard impression from the 70’s. Instead of saying “Can you tell what it is yet?” I was saying “Can you tell me what it is yet?”, as if Rolf himself had no idea what he was painting. It’s not funny to read now, but you should hear my impressions. Every one sounds like a high-pitched leprechaun (apart from my impression of a high-pitched leprechaun, which sounds more like Al pacino in Scent of a Woman).

It’s just a bit of late night fun, no big whoop. Just two folks on holiday making each other laugh. And we laughed and laughed, until, at midnight, the knock knock knock knock came through the wall. We were mortified. I know I have a big loud voice, but my Rolf impression is normally so soft and delicate.

And whoever was knocking would be glaring the following morning over breakfast.

The breakfast was all local produce; perfect and just the right portions.

Despite getting quite drunk at the wedding (surely obligatory) we were back at the B&B by bedtime. We even managed breakfast the next day (a Sunday!) at 8.45am. ‘Dad’ did, however, comment on us having being out a long time.

Checking out time was 10am. Being a Sunday, and being the day after the wedding, we did our best. We were out of there by 10.10am.

As we loaded up the car I realised I wasn’t sure where my coach ticket home was. Then ‘mum and dad’ came out and got into their car. I caught ‘dad’ and asked him if I could just nip back and check the room. ‘Of course’ as he got out of the car. ‘Mum’ called after him, loud enough for us kids to hear; “Do hurry up!”

I’d wasted his time. My ticket was in my bag, slipped between the pages of the guardian G2 supplement from Friday. He smiled and explained the hurry. Church. You don’t get that in hotels.

People are nice. On Twitter. Maybe just in general. ‘Course, there are exceptions. Take that guy who gives Naomi Campbell diamonds. He’s not nice.

I met Naomi Campbell once. She was on Live and Kicking. We did a section towards the end of the show called the Video Goldmine. It was a daft way to review the latest releases with the show’s guests. We’d start off by asking them what they liked to listen to around the campfire. Off camera, minutes before doing the section live, we told Naomi we would ask her this. She seemed puzzled. We explained it was just a silly way of asking what your favourite music is. Naomi turned to her assistant and asked “What’s my favourite music?”

Maybe she did think they were just dirty old stones after all.

But back to the point. How did I start? Oh yes, people are nice. On Twitter.

I put up a few moany tweets. Just fretting. They were meant to be light-hearted but I guess I didn’t think it all through. And a few people came back with ‘are you ok?’ tweets, which was sweet. And yes, I am ok. And I will be better than ok soon. I’m on a coach, off to Sheffield, with The Smiths’ Shakespeare’s Sister lyrics running through my head.

The Man Who Fell Asleep drew me a picture to cheer me up. Look! This is me:

Me by Greg Stekelman

It’s based on a photo by Bill Wadman. Here’s the original.

Photograph by Bill Wadman

And now I am minutes from Sheffield. A little happier, though feeling guilty for dishing the dirt on Naomi. After all, she’s not the War Criminal.

BBC Radio 7 Comedy Club

August 14, 2010

This may sound like a joke, but it’s true; yesterday I did some work. Almost a proper job, almost paid.

We (Trev too) went along to BBC Broadcasting House to record the links for BBC Radio 7’s Comedy Club. I guess everyone else is in Edinburgh.

It was fun. We worked with a lovely producer, Laura Baron, spending the first five hours writing some bits of nonsense that will link together all of the programmes featured in the two hour Comedy Club. We did two shows. The first will go out on Friday the 27th August at 10pm, and the second on Sunday the 29th August, 10pm. 2010. After writing the links we recorded them. I hope they’re funny. The big boss, Simon  Jordan, after looking them over, declared them works of art. I hope they’re funny.

Here’s proof we did go there and we did do some work.


What is Brigitte Nielsen?

August 12, 2010

Yes. That’s my question today. What is Brigitte Nielsen? It’s not intended to be rude. Clearly she’s just a person, like you or I. So that’s one answer. But is she a movie star? A model? A singer? A reality TV star? The daughter/wife/sister of funnyman Leslie Nielsen? All of these things?

Heading off to see Step Up 3D before going on to the monthly BFI Film Quiz (Hey! We won!) I saw Brigitte (with ‘film stars’ we all feel like we know them well enough to use first name terms. Don’t we?) standing outside Cafe de Paris (Cafe of Paris) just passing the time. look! Here she is!

Look at me! I’m a paparazzi! look at that guy on the right. He didn’t move once during the 60 seconds or so I stood and gawped. I think he might be a heavy. I think he might be looking out for her. I also think he might have a nail-biting problem, but he knows he can’t do it in public so he’s settling for a good pick.

I wouldn’t normally dream of taking pictures of strangers without first asking. It’s just rude. But with these Hollywood folk it’s a little different. I still felt impertinent but I relaxed when I saw others taking pics and Brigitte not minding; in fact actively smiling and looking to the camera. Look! Almost my way!

What’s with the guy to her left? look at the first picture. Both of them can’t look her in the eye. It can’t just be because she is eight feet tall. Perhaps looking into her eyes turns men to stone. Maybe I had a lucky escape.

She posed with the public for a few photos, but I didn’t dare. It’s not often you can get this close to proper Hollywood stars. I once saw De Niro and Pacino in Leicester Square, but they were standing on a balcony above the Empire cinema (Brigitte could have walked passed and had a face to face conversation with them).

So well done Brigitte. Well done for stopping and shooting the breeze with the folk of London. For smiling for photos. And for having a nail-biting minder.

But what exactly are you? I’ll let the poll decide.

The Life of Tess

August 11, 2010

Tess was born in 1990 and died in 2010 at the age of 20. If she were a human she would have been 96.

Tess (and her brother Bobbin, who died at the age of 15… 76 human years) spent their first 8 years living in Northampton; an outdoor life, living in a garden and a garage.

At the ages of 8 in 1998 they came to live with me and my then girlfriend. They then became indoor cats. They didn’t do much. Neither of them got a job and they rarely helped wash the pots.

But they did like long horse whips. With the right kind of flick of the whip they would leap 4 feet in the air and do acrobatic back flips. Why did I have a horse whip? A 4 foot long one with a 12 inch whippy tassle bit at the end? Well… when I worked on Live and Kicking we and the other presenters were sent lots of mail. Most of it lovely and sweet. Some of the presenters, however, would attract a more bizarre type of fan. Val would go through all of our mail before we got it, in case there was anything unsuitable. She would then censor it, and then we would all demand to see it. It’s difficult to censor (or hide) horse whips. These weren’t sent to me of course. Nor Jamie Theakston. The horse whips were sent to Zoe Ball. Zoe kindly gave me a couple. For the cats of course.

So, the cats enjoyed a couple of years playing with a whip. This, and sleeping, took up most of their days.

Somewhere along the line my life changed and I ended up moving to Peckham. The cats came with me. Tess liked to climb into bed and curl alongside me. I would have to turn her around when she tried to sharpen her claws on my… you get the drift. Bobbin would always stay on top of the sheets.

Then things changed again, I moved, and I couldn’t take the cats with me. My good friend Sarah took them. Only for six months mind, whilst I sorted myself out.

I’m still not sorted out and so six months became years. Bobbin and Tess became Sarah’s cats as much as (if not more than) mine. But I would visit, and they’d appear nonchalant. They loved me really.

They both stayed with Sarah until the end. Neither of them ever got jobs, and, to the best of my knowledge, neither ever helped Sarah even with the most basic of household tasks. No pot washing, no putting out the bins. Nothing. Just sitting around, eating and weeing and pooing. This is what cats do. It’s no good holding it against them. No point in getting angry.

If Tess had been human her life would have been something like this:

Tess was born in 1914, the year war broke out. By the time the First World War ended Tess was four years old. She was too young to be conscripted into the forces and she has little memory of the impact war had on her. She spent all of it living in a garage in Northampton.

Tess lived in the garage in Northampton until 1962, craftily avoiding all of World War II too.

In 1962, at the age of 48,  she moved to London to live with me. I was only a baby, new born, living in Salford. But somehow it worked out.

She stayed with me until she was 70. And then, around 1986, she moved in with Sarah. I don’t know what Sarah was doing in 1986, but I suspect she looked a little like this.

Tess was upset, for a short while, when her brother Bobbin went at the age of 76 in 1990. She missed him, but she didn’t miss his cheeky goes at her with his barbed penis (it’s a cat thing, don’t blame me).

She then settled into a happy and long retirement. When Tess announced her retirement the common response was “how would we know?”

And so to 2010.

96 year old Tess decided to call it a day. She’d had enough. On the journey to the vets she whispered in my ear. It was difficult to make it all out, what with her raspy little lungs and her shallow breathing, but what I could make out went something like this:

Thank you all for looking after me. Thank you Simon, thank you Sarah. I’m sorry I never helped out much. I wanted to wash the pots but I just couldn’t reach the sink. I’m sorry I never helped out in those World War things, but I wasn’t really there. It’s just you, Simon, doing this cat/human year thing. Though it’s a shame I can’t hang on a little longer just to get something from the Queen. Take  care, I’ll be fine. I love everyone who has looked after me. Bye.

With thanks to Andrea for the use of her photos. Andrea lived with Tess and Sarah for a while and Tess loved sleeping on Andrea’s bed. You can see many more  of her photos of Tess here.

Gig in the Park 2010

August 10, 2010

I’ve just come back from the Gig in the Park, Halesworth’s answer to Glastonbury. Not that Glastonbury is a question. Halesworth’s version of… oh, it’s just a… Why am I even trying to explain what it is? It’s evident. It’s a gig. In a park.

We were invited along by good friends whose parents live in Halesworth, in the most gorgeous cottage in the world. And this gorgeous cottage has lots of little cottages growing out of its side. And we get to stay in them. And they are five minutes away from the gig. And there are ducks!

Lots of ducks, and five of them are very special. They were rescued as chicks from a drain by Jen and Tony (our hosts; and Tony, being a retired RSPCA bigwig, knows about animal rescue). Now they are doing very well indeed.

Could this weekend break get any better? Well, we started of our Friday night park-gigging destroying Capitalism with Mundo Jazz. You can support them by buying some of their Fight Capitalism merchandise. I recommend the beer.

They were followed by Showaddywaddy.

No other group ever managed the combined Fifties and Seventies look in one go as well as The Shwads. What? No! Not even Darts.

They sang all of their hits. Except Tiger Feet. Because that was by Mud. It’s an easy mistake, that many people at the gig made.

And Dave Bartram, the grinning lead singer? Well, he’s still got that grin. His voice is shot to pieces, but who cares? All the ladies still go crazy for his cheeky voiceless grin, the damn 50’s/70’s freak. It’s as if someone put the 50’s and the 70’s into Jeff Goldblum’s Fly Pod and out popped Dave Bartram.

Well done, the Waddy’s, you made my Friday night.

There were lots of acts on; in the region of ten a day on the main stage, the same number on the mini-next door stage and then more down at the Jungle Stage. But, without meaning to be rude, although being patently and openly rude, some of the bands are a bit… well… weddingy. They’re good. Very good. But they might not quite do it for me.

The Shaddy’s did it for me. They’ve got what it takes. And also The Undertones, Saturday’s headline act, they did it for me.

They’re Feargal-less these days but don’t let that put you off. Paul McLoone’s a great replacement. You can just make him out in this clip from a distance one of the audience has put up from Saturday night’s performance. Sorry I haven’t any photos or films; I was too busy acting like a fool, throwing myself into the crowd at the front.

Sunday and the gig winds down. It ends with the Lee Vasey Band; local heroes who perform a set of crowd-pleasing classics, but the highlight of Sunday for me was on the small stage just before.

Benjamin Bloom is my kind of festival performer. I even bought his CD. Ok, it was only £1 but it’s the best pound I’ve ever spent. He won’t be for everyone and indeed some of my friends, I think, found him too bizarre. This is how I described him in two tweets, and I’m sticking with it:

Imagine Rick Wakeman having a child with Morten Harket. Then listen to that child. Or, if you prefer, Ron Mael mating with one of Billy Mackenzie’s whippets. This gives you Benjamin Bloom.

Have a listen to his tracks here. I guarantee you will be singing Kingpin or Brainwashed all day long after just one (maybe two) listens.

And if you read this Benjamin, me and Zoe were dancing down near the front. Some of our friends were dancing too,  maybe a little mockingly. Not me and Zoe. We both bought the CD and we are both big fans now.

Soon, I think, he will have some of the Gig in the Park songs up on YouTube. When he does I will put them up here and link to them.

Finally, another duck picture.

Bye Tess

August 6, 2010

Tess 1990-2010 (pictured on the 3rd June 2010)

Tess has gone.

On Tuesday night I had a call from Sarah, my good friend and Tess’ ‘mum’. Tess had been sick and was really not well. I went over and as soon as I saw her I knew her time had come. In the car I held her in my arms rather than put her in the cat box. She had barely any life left; breathing shallow and quick, hardly moving. As Sarah drove I put my finger in her paw just to feel a reflex, just to know that she was still with us. The sweet thing managed a bit of a purr now and then.

I didn’t like having to sign a form giving consent to ‘humane destruction’. I know this is another term for euthanasia but… destroying little Tess?

She was 20 years old. That’s old for a cat. If she were human she’d be 96.

I want to say thank you to all those who have looked after Tess (and her brother Bobbin too, who died when he was 15) throughout her 20 years. Those who, whether it was for years or hours, looked after her:

Dermot, Julie, Lydia, Paul, Trev and family, Andy and Thomas, David and Charlie, Simon, , Vic, Emily, Nick. No doubt many more I’ve failed to mention.

Finally a big big thank you to Sarah. Tess came to you to be looked after whilst I sorted out somewhere to live. You maybe expected to have the two for six months? A year? Tess has been with you for at least a third of her life. Thank you for caring for her so.

I will write some fun stuff about Tess soon. A twenty year history… but maybe viewed through a 96 year life. That’s to come. And, should you wish, you can read previous Tess posts here.

For now, rest in peace Tess.

The Utzon Centre, built on the waterfront of the Lim Fjord in Aalborg, Denmark, was the last work of the architect Jorn Utzon, a local boy, who died in 2008 aged 90. If you think you don’t know who he is, well, you do. He created the “most famous building of the (20th) Century”. This one:

picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Just when he’d finished work on the interior things changed and when the “new ruling party” wanted it finished quickly and cheaply, well, he said no, and left the project. You can read the full saga here.

The Utzon Centre is a little like a Mini Me Sydney Opera House. And as such it’s not the most striking of buildings from the outside. I wanted to take some pictures but I just couldn’t find a way to do them. It does photograph well, particularly when lit up at night and photographed by others (take a look at the site). I couldn’t manage it. I was, sadly, a little underwhelmed.

But inside is a different story. Then it all makes sense. Everything about this building is aimed at making it a place to be in, not to be out of. Go in. Use your Aalborg card, then it’s free. Enjoy the light, the space, the floor, the textures, the wood. I’m guessing the interior of this building was not finished quickly and cheaply.

The Utzon Centre floor