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

Crutchless

October 12, 2012

My crutches have gone. I’ve handed them back. Though, living close to Catford, perhaps I should have kept one.

I don’t know what it is about Catford, but most of its people have a crutch. This isn’t the lazy observation of a Catford call-througher, passing from Forest Hill to Lewisham, depositing his crutches back at the hospital, now he has, at last, been discharged: been declared officially fixed after fracturing his pelvis some yonks ago.

This observation; that most people in Catford have one crutch; is 100% true. And it’s no exaggeration. At least 76% of Catfordians have a crutch. Or, put another way, about 1 in every 54.

Why this is the case nobody knows. Do they – Catfordians – regularly fall over? Breaking bones willy-nilly? Do they get the standard two crutches and then, when better, think “I’ll keep one, just in case?” Do they pass one on to a friend? For emergencies?

It’s an odd thing. Only see in Catford. And only seen by lazy wannabe McIntyre’s.

But it is true!

And here’s another thing. You never- NEVER- see anyone with crutches in Dulwich Village.

I guess it’s just the way things are. Here’s my fractured pelvis.

When the Olympics opened and Danny Boyle made us all feel happy to be alive- in those heady, crazy, joyous days; before Savile, before Armstrong- I danced around the lounge. A newly-wed full of non-jingoistic, patriotic pleasure. I trooped up and down, on the rug, mimicking nations never heard of before, entertaining my wife with my tomfoolery, terrifying Archie, the dog.

Then, two days later, still full of hope and awe, I jumped up at Charing Cross station to rescue a caught balloon. I never reached the balloon. But I did fall hard onto the stone station floor. And I did, thanks to a drink or two, shrug it off, putting on a brave face for my new in-laws.

But when me and Zoe came to change trains at London Bridge it became clear all was not well. Something to do with my colour I believe. And the fact that I wanted to just lie down on the floor.

I enjoyed the Olympics. The Paralympics too. All from my bed. All on Tramadol.

Now, I’m better. And I’ve written this. A blog post. My first in… I can’t use yonks again… It’s been a while though. I’ll try harder. One a week. At least.

Now the crutches have gone it is time to slowly build up those blog muscles once more.

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.

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.

Arriving in Aalborg

June 17, 2010

So I’m here in the Happiest Place in the World;  Denmark. In Aalborg. If you are wondering why, please read here. But before I tell you anything about this place – and I don’t know much yet, it’s 12.30 now, we’ve only been here half an hour and we must drink beer – let me help you out with some do’s and don’t about travelling to Denmark. Well, let’s keep it to don’ts.

Don’t think you can get Danish Krone at Bluewater. You can’t. Don’t get it at the airport like we did. The exchange rate’s… heck, I don’t know. I’m, told it’s bad, but it’s just, well, it’s just all notes. And when I give a couple of hundred and get a few thousand back, hey, I feel pretty pretty good.

Don’t cat sit for three cats when the pollen count is at its highest and then run out of asthma inhalers on the day you are travelling and then try and persuade a weary chemist in Bluewater to phone your doctor and persuade them to say yes to your emergency inhaler. You know that scene in Magnolia where Julianne Moore waits for her prescription and the chemists mutter to each other and she gets tense and then she says How dare you!

Still, that’s behind me now and I’m having a beer and writing my blog whilst Zoe looks over our bag of goodies from Louise at VisitAalborg.Yes, the ever patient and lovely Zoe has forgiven me my inhaler fiasco, she’s tolerated me leaving my glasses on the plane (thank you nice Danish man for stopping me near the conveyor belt), she’s even ok about the currency thing. But listen folks, order your currency in advance. Please. You’ll get more. Oh, and don’t go to Bluewater, walk into the First Choice bureau de change and ask for Dutch Krone. I just confused them. And me. And Zoe.

A diversion. When the flight details arrived from Norwegian.com I had to contact Anne Sofie at VisitDenmark because I couldn’t understand them. They were all in Danish. She sent me an email giving me the gist (turn up, check in) and then politely pointing out that in fact they were in Norwegian.

Anyways, now it’s all exciting. We’ve checked in to the Quality Hotel, and it must be quality because the only other people drinking in the bar with us right now are the crew who flew us over here. And we have a big pack of goodies.

The bag of goodies includes info, maps, vouchers, our Aalborg cards, lots more, and a letter from Louise congratulating us on our prize. We were delighted, and excited. Particularly when we got to the paragraph that starts with “I have booked a table for you at…”

But more of that tomorrow. It’s ten past one now and I guess we are going to have a busy day ahead of us.

I love Aalborg. I have the perfect slogan for it:

Aalborg, better than Copenhagen… maybe.

Catsitting

June 13, 2010

I’m catsitting again. I tend to do this a couple of times a year for friends who like to have a holiday. It gives me somewhere to live. And it gives my long-suffering friend who kindly houses me a break every now and then (it was meant to be for six months or so… now… 3 or 4 years later… oh my… I have become the guest who won’t leave). So far I have four families in need of occasional catsitting. Maybe, in time, I can build up enough cat families, all taking holidays at different times, so that I can just float from cat house to cat house, never needing a place of my own.

Now I am catsitting for Stella, Tigger and Pirate (the names of the cats, not their owners… not that you can own a cat). Saucer too, but sadly she disappeared a few days before I arrived. We hope she’ll come back, but it’s been a while now. She’s blind too. Hopefully someone, somewhere, has taken her in.

Tigger on top, Stella down below

Stella looks calm doesn’t she, sleeping down below? Well she won’t let me get near her. There’s low level growls that make all of Hither Green quiver, and then comes the hissing, the spitting, the scratching.

I looked up Stella on the internet to try and write some witty Tennessee Williams thing; to portray myself , sweaty and vesty, crying her name in despair. But I was distracted by this Stella picture. I can’t really compete with a nude lady holding a lamb.

Tigger is far more friendly. Tigger moves like a Ray harryhausen cat, all stop-motion jerks and crazy head twitches. At feeding time she paces around in circles, whipping her head like a lion would if I was standing there in a red top hat and tails. She sometimes walks around Pirate, as he sits still, waiting patiently for his half a pack of jellied cat stuff.

Pirate’s the friendliest. Given the chance, he’ll jump up on my lap; at night he sleeps on the bed.

The other two spend most of the time sleeping on my bags. Wherever I go the cats are always drawn to my bags. That’s fine, but with mad cat Stella plonking herself on my suitcase I’ve now gone ten days without a change in underpants.