Comic Relief thank you

March 16, 2013

Over the past 12 days I have been part of Team @tracey_thorn, raising money for Comic Relief. The challenge I set myself wasn’t too hard. I’ve not been running or swimming or sitting in a bath of eels. I’ve been listening to the songs of Everything But The Girl and I’ve been writing about them. Not even all their songs. I have more in storage, on vinyl, but the only CD’s I’ve had to hand are Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Love Not Money (the 2 disc special editions). Apologies to those who sponsored me and asked for songs from Idlewild, or Eden, or songs by Marine Girls. Maybe next year.

An enjoyable challenge. The hard part was reaching the ridiculous target I set for myself; £1986, in honour of the release year for Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. At a push I was prepared to lower my target to £1985 for Love Not Money.

Ten days of pestering had raised about £600. That amazed me. But I started Friday off aware that I would not reach my target.

And who can explain what happened on Friday night? Yes, I kept pestering on Twitter, and bit by bit money came in, but surely I would never reach my target?

Before too long I was at 50%. Then I had over £1000.

It seemed like it could be possible.

I wanted £1986. By the end of the night 104 sponsors had donated £2145.


Comic Relief has broken all records in this its 25th year, raising over £75m. And you’ve helped. You can find out about all of the charity’s work here.

I’m staggered and astonished.

A big thank you to you all.

Thank you to Rhada, Charlotte, Peter, Clare, Ian, Tony, Zoe, Kirsten, Paul, Belinda, Jim, Ben, Sophie, Ian, Andy, Janetta, Gerald, David, Clare, Simon, Matt, Lisa, Mark, Frank, Karen, Ian, Andrea, Paul, Siobhan, Hannah, Glenn, Helen, Zoe, Robin, Vicky, Veena, Simon, Naomi, Gill, Trev, Louise, Christian, Kirsty, Caroline, Steven, Vince, Amanda, Jacqueline, Pia, Kate, Melanie, Adrian, Kindle, Catherine, Glenn, Kathryn, Jonathan, Frazer, Anita, Robert, C, Will, Chris, Jake, Fiona, Richard, Karyn, Mark, Clare, Lisa, Rob, Helen, Paul, Jim, Mark, Robin, Jane, Olly, Lindsey, Roger, Jill, David, Matthew, Mark, Anne, Ian, Jon, Toyoko, Ben, Samantha, Gary, Andrew, Ed, Nick, Craig, Jonathan, Kevin, Yvonne, Kathryn, Etta, and Andrea.

This morning I had an email from The Red Nose Team. It encouraged me to get more sponsors even though Red Nose Day is over. It’s admirable to pester me as much as I’ve pestered you. But no. We’ve done what we set out to do. We’ve done better than could be expected.

Besides, they are offering me a special treat if I get one more sponsor before Tuesday morning. My last treat was a One Direction video. Please, I beg you, no more sponsoring.

I hope I’ve thanked everybody. I’ve not put surnames as some of you wanted to be anonymous (I’ve already half compromised that!) And I’ve used the names from all my emails, which, in some instances, are different from the ones on my sponsorship page. Some names appear twice; sometimes you’ve sponsored me more than once, other times there’s just two or three of you.

A special mention for Wonky. I don’t know which one of you is Wonky, but Wonky, you pushed me over the finish line.

And even then you all carried on giving.

And thank you to my team leader, Tracey Thorn, for being so supportive and for not minding my EBTG ramblings, which you can read here.

Here’s my drunken thank you filmed late last night by Zoe. I started the evening with a big martini. Then some beers. And here I am draining the bar with my last martini.

Thank you all. You overwhelmed me. And you’ve taken part in something that changes lives for the better. xxx

Well yes, to a degree.

Tonight is Red Nose Day Night. It starts in an hour. It’s most probably on as you read this. And you’re being battered with demands for money. And I’m still on at you. Am I trying to be funny?

Ok. I get it. Comic Relief. You’re after jokes.

Tracey and Ben are in a restaurant. Ben has poached quail eggs for a starter and Tracey has a bowl of tomato soup. It’s a huge bowl of soup! There’s Ben with his small quail eggs, and Tracey has what must be a few gallons of soup. So much soup she has to ask Ben to help her finish. He leans over to take a spoon or two, but the bowl is so big he falls into it. Tracey calls the waiter over and says; “Waiter, waiter, there’s a buzzin’ fly in my soup!”  And the waiter says; “Shush madam, or I’ll pop a cap in yo’ ass.”

Ok, it’s not a good joke. It’s not even a joke. It’s a play on a joke, with references to Ben’s solo career.

It’s the end of a long week. And today I have been at a writer’s meeting all day. It’s possibly the first time this year I’ve left the house. Tonight is Red Nose Day Night and I need a drink.

You have all been fantastic. I’ve just looked and I am almost at £1000. Astonishing.

Over the weekend I will thank you all. I will write some more too, because I know this is hurried and is maybe letting Team @tracey_thorn down. You can read all my challenges here.

This song, Are You Trying To Be Funny?, is from Love Not Money. Tonight though, well, money will be best. Money please. Not trying to be funny. I’ll leave that to all the people who are going to entertain us in 20 minutes time.

If you can sponsor me, if you will allow me to still pester, you can do so here.

I am overwhelmed by how generous you have all been.

Enjoy Comic Relief tonight, and enjoy Everything But The Girl performing Are You Trying To Be Funny?

With only two days to go it looks like I’ll run out of time to write about all the songs on Baby, The Stars Shine Bright… or maybe not. Am I allowed to carry on reaching my target beyond Friday night? Yes? I will have to. Come hell or high water I will reach my target of £1986 for Comic Relief.

If you’re new to this challenge just take a look over the past ten days and you will find out why £1986.

It’s for Comic Relief. I’m part of #twittermillion Team @tracey_thorn. We’re going to raise a million. Just you see.

In the build up to Big Red Nose Day tomorrow the BBC is showing Comic Relief: Through Hell And High Water tonight (BBC1, 8pm). In it Jack Dee wrestles with a hippopotamus. Maybe.

And guess what? Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt wrote a song called Come Hell Or High Water for Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. How could I not listen and learn to that one today?

But what does it mean, come hell or high water? Well, someone called Kitt writes: “This phrase appears to have been coined in the late 1800s to describe trail drives bringing cattle to the railroads. They had to cross the rivers even if they were flooding and the summer sun made the open prairies unbearably hot. The trail from Texas to Kansas went through hell AND high water.”

Ok. That sounds about right. It’s like Starship singing Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. Singing it whilst Jack Dee hippo wrestles. Maybe. In mud.

Come Hell Or High Water (EBTG style) is, like yesterday’s A Country Mile, a country and western affair of sorts; a lush Patsy Cline-like ballad of drinking and singing and selfishness and charm; of staying “off the rails”,  of not quite walking the line.

Come hell or high water/ You never will be/ A goddess or a genius/ A drunkard at twenty three/ And all that you yearn for/ Is attention I guess/ Come hell or high water/ You deserve nothing less

And, selfishly on my part, seeking attention no doubt, I’m using these posts as an excuse to play some of my other favourite tracks that, obliquely, connect to EBTG. This one reminds me of (I’d Be) A Legend In My Time, as sung by Patsy Cline. I can’t find that on YouTube (which is a shame, as it’s the arrangement that makes me link the songs together).

I could play you the Johnny Cash version, but I won’t. Do give it a listen though.

A voice straight from heaven/ So you like to believe

Please enjoy lloyd Horlick singing (I’d Be) A Legend In My Time.

I think that’s just become my new favourite YouTube find of all time. For now.

Here’s Tracey singing Come Hell Or High Water… with some kind of desert island theme… hey, that’s YouTube for you, don’t blame me.

You can blame me for Lloyd if you like.

And if you can sponsor me, if you can help me reach my target, then you would be a legend in this time. You can sponsor me here.

Only three more days to go of my Comic Relief team @tracey_thorn Challenge. And my challenge is… well, it’s not much of a challenge at all really. I am listening to tracks from two EBTG albums, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Love Not Money and then I am writing about them. Why those two albums? Because they’re the two I have.

And my plan is to raise £1986, in honour of the release year of Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. If I can’t reach my target I will settle for £1985, the release year of Love Not Money.

People have been incredibly generous and kind, and, at the time of writing, my total is £540. That truly astounds me. Thank you all.

But I have set myself a ridiculously high target and, truth is, I am a country mile off reaching it. And so, as we reach the last few days of campaigning, I am going to try and cover some of that huge distance by writing about a track from Baby, The Stars Shine Bright  called, hey, A Country Mile.

A Country Mile isn’t an out and out country song but it does have a bit of torch and twang about it. And Ben Watt’s gorgeous orchestration makes me think of Owen Bradley and the great work he did late on in his career with k. d. lang. And then there’s Tracey Thorn’s soaring vocals, that would make any man, woman, or member of One Direction, swoon. And so, a breather before the song. Time to enjoy a bit of Kathryn Dawn.

And each time you smile/ I know I would follow you a country mile/ For all that I’m chasing is worthless and vile

I’ve looked online for information about country miles. This is my favourite find; Robin Hood shot a full mile; and, according to his bard, a north-country mile was equal to two statute ones.

If you are going to follow someone for a country mile, it’s not going to be easy. it’ll take time and the chances are you’ll stand in a cow pat.

Oh… that reminds me. Some folk have been surprised that these blog posts aren’t just jokes. It never occurred to me that I should be using the songs of EBTG as a basis for jokes, but if there’s the demand I’ll do my best to provide.

Here’s a joke my grandpa used to tell me. He told me of walking home drunk from the pub. He took a short cut through the local cow field. His cap fell off. He tried on 24 before he found his.

That’s the joke.

Another from my grandpa; the first joke I ever heard. It’s more of a riddle to be honest, but I was all of four, I’d laugh at anything.

Here it is:

What goes under the water and over the water but never touches the water?

I’ll tell you the answer at the end, give you time to think about it.

But when you smile/ I swear I would follow you a country mile/ Please save me before I do things that aren’t worth my while

This was one of Zoe’s choices but in the end she went for Don’t Leave Me behind. So I dedicate the lines above to her for saving me.

Oh, give me a break. I’m allowed some indulgence here. What? More jokes?

Why was Ben and Tracey’s barbecue a washout?

Because they remembered everything but the grill.

Right, can I get back to the songs now please?

There’s lots of Country Mile’s out there. Rory Gallagher, Clinic, Slim Dusty. Or how about this one from The Ink Spots.

But you’d have to go a further country mile to match this:

Three days to go to Red Nose Day. If you can spare a pound or two please sponsor me here.

Oh, and did you get it?

The answer is; an egg in a duck’s belly.

Ok, my rant is out of the way and all is well again. Which brings us to:

Today’s choice. And it is from @AndreaMann. It’s When All’s Well from Love Not Money.

Here’s what I do. I listen to it. I write about it. It’s for Comic Relief. I’m part of Team @tracey_thorn and our aim is to raise a million pounds for Comic Relief through Twitter. If you enjoy this post, or even if you don’t but are just feeling kind-hearted, please sponsor me here.

When All’s Well is, on the surface, an uplifting song of love.

When all’s well/ my love is like cathedral bells

But most of the video takes place underground. Tracey is trapped in an upturned cathedral bell. Ben tries to rescue her. The video cuts of early. I like to think, in his failure to elicit an escape, that right at the end, when the youtube stops, he jumps into the bell to be with Tracey.

It’s a jolly sounding song, like lots on Love Not Money. It makes me think of The Smiths again. In a good way. But listen to those opening words:

We are not true/ We are not pure/ We are not right

You wouldn’t get One Direction singing that.

O but still I’ll steal to you at night/ Too selfish by half/ Too ugly by far/ But when your songs have been sung, come to me

It is a love song. but…

Rumours are rife/ And the winter blows cold/ Reminds me of such wretched times

And we’re back. In hard times. Today it makes me think of the lying former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who saved the planet by speeding. Would many sing this of him?

And yet all the same? I will never deign/ To think ill of you, when all’s well/ My love is like cathedral bells

We’re back in a song of love and forgiveness. And the beauty, and the love, are found, not just in the joyous melody (that you should dance around the lounge to), but also in the downbeat and upbeat last verse:

Amongst all the dross/ And the lies and the grief/ There are so many things you just wouldn’t believe/ But amongst all the dross/ And the lies and the grief/ When all’s well, my love is like cathedral bells

Cathedral bells. I can’t help but think of Batman and The Joker.Or Judy and Scottie.

But let’s focus on the positives; this film has Ben and Tracey messing with bells. Here’s a line from someone else, but it wouldn’t be out of place in this song:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

Have a dance, and if you can please give some money to Comic Relief here.

I’m livid today. Very angry with Comic Relief. But we’ll come to that.

Firstly an update. I’m up to £405! 20% off my target for team @tracey_thorn #twittermillion challenge.  I might not get to the £1986 100% mark but I’m going to keep on keeping on. Spurred on by Karen, and Ian, and Andrea, and Paul. Thank you all for your generosity. x

But I forget! I’m livid! With bloody Comic Relief!

I know I shouldn’t be. it’s Comic Relief after all. But really. For crying out loud!

I had an email from them today; a thank you for my fund raising, and, as part of the thank you, a treat. That’s nice.

They said:

“If we were standing next to you, we’d throw our arms around you and smother you in kisses for adding to your fundraising total. Unfortunately, we’re not. So, as promised, here’s a little treat instead.”

So the treat was instead of lots of kisses. The treat was a video. I had to click on it to get my treat.

And my treat was…

A message from One Direction.

Yes, you’ve read that right. A message from One Direction.

One Direction.

Have Comic Relief gone mad?

One Direction?

I’m 50 for fuck’s sake! 50!

One bloody Direction? A treat? What one earth do you think I am, Comic Relief?

Even if they’d said Trick or Treat, One Direction wouldn’t fit the bill.

I don’t even know who they are, Comic Relief! I’m 50! 50!

I’m so furious.

Now this would have been a treat:

I click on the link. Morrissey is there. He sings Teenage Kicks. And as he sings, One Direction skip past and he kicks each one of them in the head.

And as each One Directioner staggers away they bump into Tracey Thorn singing Kiss You. She kisses them better (Hey, it’s for Comic Relief. I cannot wish real harm on them).

As they walk away, swooning from the kisses, they walk past Ben Watt and Stewart Lee, both sitting on high bar stools, wearing big 80’s jackets. And they throw crisps at the children.

And Tracey joins them and throws crisps too.

And they’re salt and vinegar, and they sting a little.

But even though they sting, Harry tries to catch them in his mouth like a wind-up musical toy borne of Oliver and Russell Brand.

That’s a treat.

After a lull yesterday I am back listening to Everything But The Girl and learning from them to help raise money for Comic Relief. I am part of Team @tracey_thorn, aiming for a #twittermillion. I have set myself a target of £1986, in honour of EBTG’s 1986 album, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. So far I am 17% there, with £350.

I have two EBTG albums to pick tracks from, and today’s choice, Ballad Of The Times, comes from 1985’s Love Not Money. (Struggling to reach my target I may have to lower my aim to £1985).

Frank, aka @eph_bee, picked this one. He also made a donation to Comic Relief, for which I say a big thank you. x

Ballad Of The Times is the first song choice to be solely written by Ben Watt (that’s the first thing I’ve learned).

It sounds jolly, and, like a lot of Love Not Money, it makes me think of the jangly guitar sounds of The Smiths (which I mean as a good thing). And, also like The Smiths, behind the joyful sounds there’s a sadness.

The times it ballads are, I guess, the early to mid 80’s; Thatcher at her best. It could be a song swinging between the end of The Falkands War and the beginning of the Miners’ Strike.

Then again, it could be a song about now.

Because Billy has gone off to war/ And God knows what he’s fighting for/ But wartime will make him a man/ Work that one out if you can

It’s also about hard times when promises were not enough to pay for shoes. And in hard times we can turn inwards too:

Narrow streets breed narrow minds/ And care for kin but not for kind

The 80’s? Or now, Mr Nigel Farage?

What am I learning? What am I on about? All I know is good songs can affect us way beyond the times in which they were written. Perhaps it’s a Ballad Of Times.

It reminds me of another 80’s song of war and hard times; Shipbuilding by Elvis Costello.

Is it worth it?/ a new winter coat and shoes for the wife

That’s Elvis. But it resonates with Ben’s line:

When did a promise ever pay for shoes?

And that makes me think of Comic Relief with its mission to “tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice”.

If you can give to Comic Relief please do. You can sponsor me here.

At first I couldn’t find Ballad Of The Times on youtube and so I made my own video, looking out from our flat. Since then I’ve found a live version. Let’s have both.

Here’s the live version, with some Morrissey-like dancing from Tracey and a big jacket from Ben:

And here’s my home made thing:

I failed. I’m sorry. Yesterday got the better of me and I didn’t listen. I didn’t learn. I took a day off after writing my update. I drank too much. It was all too easy; off to the in-laws for Mothers’ Day, off to the pub for football, and, before I could even know it, I was home, drinking wine to the final of Mr Selfridge (don’t ask me who won. Or lost).

And so my Comic Relief Challenge as part of team @tracey_thorn came to a temporary halt.

Come hell or high water/ You never will be/ A goddess or a genius/ A drunkard at twenty three/ And all that you yearn for/ Is attention I guess/ Come hell or high water/ You deserve nothing less

Sounds about right.

But, nevertheless, I did get a sponsor yesterday. @marksemczyszyn sponsored me pushing my total up to £330. he’s doing his own thing for Comic Relief too. You can sponsor Mark here.

I’ve a long way to go to meet my target. Quite a few country miles. Yesterday I wrote about some bonus things that will happen if I get nearer the target. I also wrote about how it can be difficult giving money when we have no money to give. So, as always, it’s a polite, almost apologetic hector. If you can, that’d he great.

And if you can, you can here.

And later today I will write about another song. At least one. Maybe two to make up for yesterday.

Happy Monday. x


Happy Mothers’ day to all you mothers out there. Happy Day to all.

It’s a Sunday and in a bit were off to Zoe’s mum’s for some food, some family fun, walking the dogs in the park, going to the pub… not necessarily in that order. More likely in reverse order.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that today’s Comic Relief Team tracey_thorn Challenge will not happen until this evening.

But, if you can, I’d love for you to keep sponsoring. Big thanks and lots of love to yesterday’s sponsors, Simon, Matt, and Lisa. And good luck to Matt, who is running 10km today to raise money for AgeUK.

I’m up to £320 and 16% of my £1986 target. It’s a very high target, and, let’s be honest, one I am unlikely to reach. I’m good at urging people to give, but not that good. Times are hard. And I’m not some comfortable P-list celebrity just making the right noises here- part of the reason I have set up my challenge is that it gives me the chance to contribute to Comic Relief in the best way I can, because for sure my money would not go far at all.

Having said that, I am going to sponsor @marksemczyszyn. He’s on a rival team, not team Tracey Thorn but Team Emma Kennedy. But hey, at the risk of getting all We Are The World on you… let’s face facts folks! We’re all on the same team!

Anyways, I’m sponsoring him because he’s come up with a great idea for Comic Relief, and a cheap one too. He wants you to buy him a ‘drink’ for his birthday. Of course it’s not a drink, it’s a donation to Comic Relief.

Like I say, it’s a great idea. When you look around the world of Comic Relief giving you see donations of £10, £15, £20, sometimes more. I’m sure some people hold back from donating because giving £2, or £1, seems too small, seems like it won’t make a difference… even could make someone worry that it makes them look mean.

Well, that’s just only so much shit. if you can give £1, please do. Mark has 356 followers on Twitter. Imagine if they all gave £1. If all my followers gave £1 that would add a bit more. And if all of Tracey’s and Emma’s followers gave £1… Between the four of us we’d have raised over £100,000.

£100,000. Imagine.

Give £1 if you can.  Buy mark a pint for his birthday (this Saturday). I’m going to get him a pint of Sierra Nevada Ale. They sell it at the East Dulwich Tavern (where I sing with a choir every Monday night). It’s £5.50 a pint! Can you believe that!

If we all bought Mark a ‘pint’ he’d be horribly ‘drunk’, so buy him a soft drink from the shop and donate £1.

Done. And I’m Mark’s first sponsor! You can sponsor him here.

And if you wish to sponsor me too you can do that here.

That’s enough begging for today.

Oh no… sorry. I forgot. It’s not.

My wife Zoe said to me; “Why don’t we recreate the cover to Baby, The Stars Shine Bright.”

Hmmm. That’s a thing. I’m not sure how we’d do it, but I’m up for having a go. And then I said to Zoe; “Ok, we’ll do it… when I hit the 50% mark of my target.”

So there. All we need today is for lots of people to give Mark a pound, and one benevolent fat cat (I use that term kindly, I like cats) to give me about £650.


I did point out that recreating the cover of Love Not Money would be easier; just an average Saturday night out for us two.

Oh, just realised I haven’t sorted my song for later. If anyone wants to pick one from either Baby, The Stars Shine Bright or Love Not Money, please do and let me know through Twitter (@simonmhickson) Oh, and don’t pick one I’ve done.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for giving. Happy Mother’s/Mothers’ Day. x

It’s been a crazy few days, and, what with Ugly Little Dreams and Little Hitler, we’ve been to some pretty dark places. But it’s a Saturday now and time to put on our dancing shoes.

Today’s choice for my Comic Relief Team @tracey_thorn Challenge comes from my wife, Zoe. She ummed and aahed between Don’t Leave Me Behind and A Country Mile, before settling on Don’t Leave Me behind.

I’ve learned something new already. Shockingly, Don’t Leave Me Behind only reached 72 in the charts. Sweetly, Zoe was born in ’72.

Sweetly, I was born in ’62, and so were Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. Shockingly, that makes the three of us all 50.

Don’t Leave Me Behind has trumpets! It’s a mid-80’s trump-fest that makes me think of Elvis Costello when he went trumpet loopy. Before we enjoy Don’t Leave Me Behind let’s have a laugh with Mr Costello in what is one of the daftest videos of the 80’s (possibly of all time).

Did you spot any familiar faces in there?

You’ll also spot some familiar faces in the video for Don’t Leave Me Behind. Look! Annie Lennox on piano!

This video is less daft than Elvis’. It’s just Ben and Tracey and the band enjoying themselves.

And I have learned two new things from watching this video; sweetly, Ben likes stroking cats, and, shockingly, he likes sniffing pencils.

I like to think that Zoe picked it for these lines:

But you’ll always be a fool/ So I will catch you when the world is cruel

I hope you enjoy Don’t Leave Me Behind. Why not have a dance around the lounge. And, if you can, please help me reach my £1986 target for Comic Relief. You can sponsor me here.