Go Sober – Day 27

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.

Joseph Marcell cardigan

Joseph, Sylvester McCoy, and the cardigan

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.

Bob corner cardiganIt’s an incredible story. And, despite the ups and downs, despite the fraud and almost indecent deception, something must have gone right, for Don and Bob had a no.61 hit with Jennifer Juniper.

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.

two jumpers

Where is the cardigan now?

* 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.

Go Sober – day 21

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.

Go Sober – Day 15

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?

glitter juicw

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.

If you can spare the price of a bottle of Glitter Juice (about £2) please do help us reach our target.You can sponsor me, or Zoe, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you.

Here’s a song to end on. It’s Ted Hawkins singing There Stands The Glass. Hopefully free from Glitter Juice.

Go Sober- Day Ten

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!”

It is.

“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.

“Zoe’s lovely.”

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.

“You’re horrible.”

Hey, who knew. So? Will you buy her a Golden Ticket?

“Maybe. How much?”

A minimum donation of £15.


For Macmillan?

“You are such a manipulative-“

Watch it!

“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?”

Yes. Bye.


(Long pause)

“Good luck!”

Thank 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.

Go Sober- Day Eight

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.


Bavaria ‘beer’

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:


Bernard Beer

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!

Go Sober- Day Seven

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!


a owl

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).


Pic courtesy of Rochester Ginger Wines

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.

Go Sober- Day Four

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.

Go Sober- Day Three

October 3, 2013

First off, an apology. To Frank. You can see Frank having a poncey drink (followed by a foul drink) here. When we were on holiday we would joke about our favourite documentaries; documentaries such as Titanic, Sharknado, and Big Momma’s House 2. In yesterday’s post I talked about a Woody Allen documentary, Sleeper.

Frank, as his Twitter alter-ego, @eph_bee, pointed out in his RT that my blog post featured a Frank joke.

It did. Sorry Frank. Although I’d like to point out that these documentaries are no laughing matter.

This mishap was an accident. Here’s how it came about: On hols we would drink. Alcohol. And then, when I drink, I forget. And then I appropriate other people’s jokes. It’s inappropriate to appropriate.

(I’ve just looked back over this. The second paragraph reads like future-speak. And, in time, it could become meaningless. Let us all enjoy the Twittersphere whilst it’s here.)

Secondly… Oh, I can’t remember the secondly. And I’ve not even had a drink!

So, since it’s late, let’s enjoy one of the weirdest drinking videos you are ever likely to see. Hank Williams died when he was 29. He was a mess of alcohol and drugs when he went. And he left a little four year old lad dadless. But that didn’t stop Hank Jnr from growing up and eventually getting to sing with his dad. Here’s the two of them duetting on There’s A Tear In My Beer. Creepy, moving, and keeping me off the booze.

Please help me and my wife stay off the booze 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; £2 can get us an imaginary half pint, free from tears. Thank you.

Go Sober- Day Two

October 2, 2013

Day Two of Go Sober. And today I have mostly been drinking ginger tea.

I should be able to go without alcohol for a month. Let’s face it, there was a time in my life when I didn’t drink for almost 16 years (please provide your own punchline). So a month is a doddle. Not even a month now. Just 29 days.

I’m doing it, along with my wife, to try to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.That’s all. It’s not a health kick or anything new wave. Oh, I know it won’t do us any harm but… Hang on! What if it does do us harm! In Sleeper (a documentary by Woody Allen) cigarettes are proven to be good for us. It’s just a matter of time; Woody made the documentary in the 22nd Century.

So, God willing!, alcohol will, in the long run, turn out to be good for us. We’ll all be dead by then, but it’s a comforting thought.

If you’d like to help us reach our target for Macmillan (an ambitious £1664) please sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. You don’t have to give much; £2 can get us an imaginary half pint. Thank you.