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!)

IMAG1067

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.

You can donate by clicking on this sentence.

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.

 

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Just walking

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.

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The Midwich Cuckoos

dog

the peleton

not sure if I'm at the front or back now

not the peleton

lost

lost

other charities are available

other charities are available

proof

proof

reward

reward

An exciting day yesterday with some near shockers (and my predictions up the spout). First up:

ARGENTINA 1 IRAN 0

Of course Argentina (@joyfeed) were expected to beat Iran (@Freig). And they did. But only by one goal. And even then it took them until stoppage time. And Iran should have possibly had a penalty. And it took Messi to win it for Argentina. If there is a way of winning by losing then Iran did just that. Hard luck.

GERMANY 2 GHANA 2

Another surprise result (not that the above is a ‘surprise’ result, but you know what I mean). Germany (@DareenK73) were expected to win. Ghana (@fiona_bulter) came from behind to take the lead before Germany drew level. Klose moved closer to being the World Cup’s all-time record scorer (he’s joint all-timer at the mo; him and Ronaldo – the Brazil one not the Portugal one – on 15 goals each). Germany should go through, but all eyes will be on USA v Portugal late tonight; a USA win will put them top of the group! As this World Cup is showing us; anything can happen.

NIGERIA 1 BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA 0

Sorry to say that Bosnia-Hercegovina (@jaq421) are going home. Having no points, even in they win their next and last match, they cannot pass Argentina on 6 and Nigeria (@redorbrownsauce) on 4. And they have a right to feel aggrieved, having a perfectly good goal from Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko disallowed.

Iran, on 1, are still in there (they just have to beat B-H in their last game, rely on Argentina beating Nigeria, and have a greater goal difference than Nigeria, who only have the 1 goal, so it’s perfectly do-able).

Top points go to @jaq421 and Sybil for their headtastic support of Bosnia-Hercegovina:

Jackie

@jaq421

Sybil

Sybil

This should have secured them the victory, but then @redordrownsauce (Nigeria) had a secret weapon. He went and fashioned his own magic headgear. And this, and this alone, secured Nigeria victory.

@redorbrownsauce's winning hat

@redorbrownsauce’s winning hat

And congratulations both of you on your lovely wall things.

The presence of Pjanic in the Bosnia-Hercegovina team led to me making a feeble late night Smiths song pun on Twitter. Just as I was heading off to sleep Twitter was bombarded with #worldcupsmithssongs. The unofficial winner is @jewkesyno4 with “The More You Ignore Me The Klose I Get” (technically Morrissey, but hey, I never even meant to set this all off. You could say I started something I couldn’t finish).

So, on to today’s matches:

BELGIUM  (@hbnm1985) v RUSSIA (@chislehurst)

5pm. BBC. Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. It’s still early days for this group. Belgium have 3 points, Russia just 1. They remain the favourites to go through from Group H, the other two teams being South Korea and Algeria, who play their second game just after this one. I haven’t got a clue, and so I am going to follow Mark Lawrenson’s prediction of a draw, but I will up the goal numbers. My prediction:

Belgium 4 Russia 4

 

SOUTH KOREA (@anna_borowski) v ALGERIA (@lolers)

8pm. ITV. Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. South Korea (having drawn with Russia) have a point, and so they will be desperate to win this game. But then, on no points, so will Algeria. It’s going to be the craziest game of football yet. Or the dullest. My prediction:

South Korea 14 Algeria 9 or South Korea 1 Algeria 0

 

USA (@Lindaannbown) v PORTUGAL (@ali_spencer)

11pm. BBC. Arena Amazonia in Manaus. This is the big game of the evening, annoyingly on in the bedtime zone. I’ve checked with Mark Lawrenson and he agrees with me; USA will win. Portugal are relying too much on Ronaldo and he is not in a good head-space, having had his toiletries stolen by a Avon rep). My prediction:

USA 2 Portugal 0

The charity bit. I’m writing all this (well, for fun) but also to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. My ‘goal’ is £1966. So far you have donated an amazing £905, 46% of my target. And many of you have donated more than once. You’re all fantastic, and all of you in the Tweepstake will receive a prize. If you’re not in the Tweepstake you are still welcome to donate; I can’t guarantee a prize, but I can guarantee that you will be helping someone, somewhere (and their family) who is battling this awful illness. And, if I have any prizes spare, I promise you will get one, if you ask. You can donate at my Just Giving page here.

To those who have given so generously, I don’t want to pester you anymore. You’ve done your bit way and above the call of duty of the World Cup Tweepstake. But, if you have a mo, please do spread the word. Should we get to 50% my wife, @Zoleipar, has promised to recreate the John Barnes World In Motion rap. What it will be like? Who knows! That’s the gamble.

Here’s someone else having a go (no relation of mine, by the way).

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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).

rochester

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.

Hockney’s rubbish

October 25, 2012

I wrote this post way back just before Easter. For some reason, it’s been lying around as a draft. And so now I’m publishing it. I hope you like it. But if not, hey, what gives?

HOCKNEY’S RUBBISH

Or so you’d think, listening to the folks wandering the Royal Academy’s galleries. We went along to see Hockney’s latest exhibition, A Bigger Picture, on Good Friday. The exhibition closes this Easter weekend, and, just like us, it seemed many people had left it to the last minute to go. And so the queues were huge; at least an hour and a half until you could buy a ticket, and then another wait depending upon which time slot you got.

A nice lady stalked the queue, pointing out that, if you became a friend of the Royal Academy, there and then, you could get into the exhibition, there and then. And for free too! Once you’d become a friend. A friend who gives money that is. And so let me introduce you to my little friend; the Royal Academy.

Why do people queue up to see something they’re only going to moan about? What is it about art that gets people so angry? Heck, if you don’t like something, just move along there. It’s not as if Hockney’s only done two or three paintings. just relax please; all you people who have left it til the last weekend, to come with your words and your talking.

In a packed gallery it’s easy to loiter by those who have something to say. Occasionally you learn something; I never knew Hockney once gave Damien Hirst a dead leg in Tesco’s (I may have misheard this one); but more often than not you learn more about the talker… and hell, I know that in writing this I’m sort of showing off my big art mouth, so feel free to heckle…

Here’s my favourites:

Elderly fop to squirelled madame and (possible) first date: “And look, here, there’s no definition, as if he couldn’t be bothered, or got bored.” Move along please.

Grey fellow to owled and tired wife: “He says he painted them all at different times of the day, but look! Look at the sky! There, and there, and there in that one too! It’s the same blue! He’s used the same blue paint!” Owl wife; “What’s your point?” Grey mullet; “It’s just the same blue, he’s used the same paint!” Next please.

Tim Dowling lookalike pushing a baby in a pram to his word-beaten wife; “It’s a shame you don’t like blah blah blah.”

By the way, it wasn’t Tim Dowling, just to make that much clear. The little I know of Tim Dowling, from his columns, I doubt he’d choose to be so provocative to his wife. Surely he’d keep mum.

It’s not a shame that his wife didn’t like blah blah blah. I’m glad she didn’t like blah blah blah (blah blah blah because I can’t remember what it was… a Hockney thing). Maybe she liked the next one. Or none. That’s ok. No shame.

Was he threatened by his wife not liking what he liked? I do wish, in the gallery, she’d gone all Peanuts Pesci on him and started a “Shame, how?” row.

 

 

I don’t like some things. And I’ve had friends not get that, or not like it. l like shrugging and going “what gives?” I like Sparks. If I took it upon myself to tell all my friends that it was a shame that they didn’t like them, well, I’d have no friends. I just have to accept that not everyone likes Sparks. And the “don’t like” is the crucial thing. I  can’t choose to interpret “don’t like” as “don’t get”. It’s not for me to think they’re missing out. It’s their choice. Idiots. Shame.

 

Dogs, sheep, llama, people

October 21, 2012

A few weeks back we went to the Brockwell Country Show. The choir I’m in, Note-orious, were singing there. After singing (but no dancing from me; I was still on crutches, recovering from a fractured pelvis- convenient indeed) I hobbled around and took a few pics of dogs, sheep, a llama, and some people.

I hope the people featured don’t mind. I still feel a little uncomfortable photographing strangers. Not so much with the animals. They like it.

Mike’s Place

June 29, 2011

Crete. Sissi.

My first holiday holiday (a holiday holiday being a holiday where all you do is be) in yonks. A holiday without the sightseeing, without the doing things: friends lent us some snorkelling gear – flippers, snorkel, goggles – we craftily left them at home. When I go in the sea I float on my back and look at the sky, none of that downwards stuff.

Just being. Sitting by a pool or the sea, looking into the sun so your eyes hurt. Then trying to read a book; something distant, removed, with short chapters. I took Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis. And The Information by Martin Amis (I started this in 1995, it’s about time I finished it).

Drinking is good too. That’s part of the deal. Cocktails even. As the sun goes down. In (it’s true!) a bar called Hemingway’s.

And food.

Ah! Food (not as in ‘Aaaah! Food’).

Food in Greece isn’t what I expected. I don’t know why but I expect food in foreign parts to be exciting, different, maybe blue. Certainly involving things I’ve never had before. Like Kakamaska and Toremosalinas. Or perhaps a Bigou plant. Or a Bigou fish. Or some Chevkasalakas. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, just make it exotic. I quite fancied some Fekhamadoras, but even they weren’t to be found.

Meat was available though. If you like Meat go to Crete. Lots of meat.

One of the restaurant’s recommended to us (for its authentic Greek cuisine) was Mike’s Place. It didn’t look too promising:


It turned out Mike’s Place was just up the road. This was simply where Mike sat to tell you what his daily speciality was.

Mike’s selling point was that he offered an ‘ecological menu’. This meant that all the meals came from Mike’s farm, just up the road.

I’m guessing here, but I think Mike lets a few animals (goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, octopi) run around his garden (free range) and every morning, when he awakes, he thinks to himself  “what should I kill today?”

He makes his decision, kills, then sits on his chair, by his sign. And as you pass he says: “Ecological menu. Today – goat – from my farm!”

We didn’t go on the goat day. We went on a lamb day. The vegetables came on a side plate. They had to, there was no room on the meat plate. Here’s my plate after I’d finished my meat.

I’ve made this pic  smaller. I’m not sure why. I think I may feel bad. Earlier in the day this was a little lamb, gamboling.

Here’s Mike’s farm (maybe). All I know is, the next day, as we walked past, there was one less goat.

possibly Mike's farm

And to think I used to be a vegetarian. I blame Mike. And Bret Easton Ellis.

Snow pics

December 4, 2010

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.