Category Archives: Vaguely Amusing Writing



The Living Skins

135973I’ve had a bit of fun on twitter – Tweeting along as I watched The Tomorrow People, of which I’ve only seen a very few episodes of up till now. I am well aware of the show and could name most of the cast but I’ve never really given it my time. So when on a train journey I decided to watch some stories in a random order.

I just went for the ones I fancied at the time – a imposition in order to prevent me from being all OCD and get bogged down in episodes I didn’t fancy by watching chronologically (I watched the first series and start of the second last year and I think I yearned for a bit of variety).

I started with Hitler’s Last Secret as I had an inkling that it was something I had to see. I wasn’t wrong, and I shared my incredulity on Twitter. People seemed to enjoy it and so I watched other episodes. Now, not having planned ahead I didn’t hashtag everything so that it’d be easy to follow, so when I get the chance I’m going to pop them all here – each one getting one easy-to-follow blog post. They may amuse and  might be briefly diverting: I hope so.

Where some Tweets had – out of necessity dictated by the 140 character count – abbreviations or grammatical compromises I have tidied them up here.

Having enjoyed my train viewing I was alone at home one night and thought I’d do more…


Can’t watch The Apprentice till Chez gets back from swimming so … The Tomorrow People: The Living Skins it is …


Tomorrow People: A sightly creepy shop assistant works in a place where Mike picks out a horrid orange jumpsuit new outfit for Hsui Tai.

Tomorrow People: John’s got a cold. It looks real. The baddies are alien balloons. They don’t.

Tomorrow People: Mike and Hsui Tai are in their shiny new fetish suits. Mike’s horrid to Andrew about his kilt: Mike feels angry then sexy.

Tomorrow People: I mean, the aliens really are balloons. Not balloons with added special effects. Or a hat. They’re balloons. Just balloons.

Clever rubber clothes!
Clever rubber clothes!

Tomorrow People: Actually very beguiling plot-wise – the repairing skin, the atmospheric interference which leaves Our Heroes on their own.

Tomorrow People: I like the creepy shop owner too: he’s beahaving as if he’s being played by David Walliams after a season at the RSC.

Tomorrow People: John & Elizabeth tell Mike and Hsui Tai to take their clothes off. Tsui Tai is very upset but does her best not to show it.

Tomorrow People: John has shot Mike and Hsui Tai! He tries to take their clothes off but they’re stuck. Now Tim wants to “examine’ them!

Tomorrow People: The balloons are bouncing around very angrily in the cellar. Their dialogue is nearly as discernible as Hsui Tai’s.

Tomorrow People: Mike and Hsui Tai are literally fashion victims. The skin is intelligent: nice idea. Tsui Tai’s bed linen is terrifying.

Kudos to actor Ralph Lawson who does a good job as the creepy shop assistant.
Kudos to actor Ralph Lawson who does a good job as the creepy shop assistant.

Tomorrow People: Creepy shop assistant is doing lots of scary eye acting : he invites John and Elizabeth downstairs. Andrew falls asleep.

Tomorrow People: : “John, what are they?” “Aliens I should think.” God he’s good. Most people’s first guess would have been “Balloons”.

Tomorrow People: Good ep ending. John & Elizabeth attacked by balloons (out of shot). Tim cries “Andrew” forlornly has he’s smothered by a jumpsuit.


s3_The_Living_Skins_e2_Cold_War.mkv_snapshot_03.11_[2011.04.25_22.56.30]Tomorrow People: Mike looks around the room and studiously avoids seeing Andrew till the last moment. The empty jumpsuit attacks them!

Tomorrow People: Oh no! John and Elizabeth have been taken over! John is really creepy: being taken over brings out the cad in his diction.

Tomorrow People: John & Elizabeth get free denim jackets from the aliens to disguise their jumpsuits. Which they immediately remove & blow their cover.

Tomorrow People: The bubble skin doesn’t stick to John. He’s obviously far too sensible to be overcome by fashion. He’s got a cold again. Ah!

Tomorrow People: The bubbles are invading. Which seems to involve bouncing down country lanes and annoying old people who run away slowly.

Tomorrow People: A Canadian newsreader’s clearly been taken over by the bubble people & is issuing bubble propaganda with a shiny bubble face.

Tomorrow People: Ooh, Tim’s been on Space Wikipedia & it seems the bubbles envelop us and slowly digest us. Yuck. John’s cold acting v good.

Tomorrow People: Dave Carter is a bubble chinned security man. For the greater good John & Mike have to let him attack a lady.John looks grim


In space, people can still hear you being told off : especially if you're Mike.
In space, people can still hear you being told off : especially if you’re Mike.

Tomorrow People: Even after fending off a balloon with a fire extinguisher whilst in space John finds time to tick Mike off. Poor Mike: he tries.

Tomorrow People: Everyone’s got a cold. The bubble people leave: creepy shop man ends up alone & in his pants. It ends with a laboured joke.
Hopefully I can add some of my earlier Tweet views of The Tomorrow People in later blogs.

Ten Things That Will Be Illegal When I Am King


Warning: This blog contains signs of the wear and tear of middle age.

1.       Listening to music on public transport loudly. This is includes using those useless headphones that seem designed to leak whatever racket you’re numbing your aural and neural pathways with, just enough to give everyone else in the vehicle/carriage a sort of hip-hop tinnitus. Then there’s not even bothering with headphones and just playing it loudly with a swagger that suggests you’ve got a knife or have no fear about administering a punch to a remonstrator. This shows that consideration for others in this country is about as popular as brushing your teeth with a chainsaw or drinking a syphilis milkshake. It’s also a sort of challenge, daring the timid commuter to ask you to desist just so you can give them lip or bust theirs. You may like your music, and fair play to you. You’re welcome to listen to it – so long as you use headphones that actually do the job headphones were designed to do. Lest we forget, they are the key component of something called a personal stereo – personal, as in for your own, private use. Otherwise it would’ve been called a Bus Disco, Tube Rave, or Pendolino Glastonbury.  There are things I enjoy doing that it might not be appropriate for me to do every time I would like to, and certainly not on the bus in the presence of other people. Like say, playing Twister, pretending to be a soldier in a film, or making love to my wife. And are any of these ear rapists listening to Suzanne Vega, Showaddywaddy or Daniel O’Donnell? I think not. My point is made.


2.       Saying “yourself” when you mean “you”, and “myself” when you mean “me”. Using words of unnecessary length makes proceedings appear neither more formal nor more intelligent. It just makes yourself sound thick.


3.       Shrinking TV credits. That our major national broadcasters think that the sudden appearance of the English Language on our screens will have us reaching for our remotes insults us. Yes, there are some people who do that, but in my kingdom those people will not exist. They will never have existed. Readable credits are a conduit behind the scenes, and a good theme tune stays with you forever and gives you a comforting shroud of nostalgia on a lonely night. They are essential elements of the viewing experience, not to be used as nests for the advertising cuckoo. If I want to watch what’s coming next, I will, but not because you’ve just shouted at me to do so and thus mucked up the ending of something into which I’d happily immersed myself. Would the Mona Lisa really be improved by having sticker in the corner with “Look, over there, it’s the Venus de Milo, she’s ‘armless!”? (the answer to that, by the way, is no). As punishment, any TV exec who sanctions this will have someone shout in their ear, every time they make love, “Coming soon, a melancholy feeling of at worst shame, and at best inadequacy – stay tuned” just at the moment of orgasm.


"You couldn't make it up," he says. And then does.

4.       Treating the opinions of Richard Littlejohn with any seriousness whatsoever. This will be redefined as a hate crime and awarded the maximum possible sentence.


5.       Dropping litter. I sometimes pick up discarded things like cigarette packets and say “you dropped this” and when they reply “oh, it’s empty”, I put it in the nearby bin and say “Oh, look, that was difficult wasn’t it?” This will, one day, get me killed. If you’re a grown-up who can’t use a bin, you don’t deserve democracy, frankly.


6.       Sitting on a train where one of the few plug sockets is but not using the plug socket for anything. This will be a capital offence. With no right to appeal.


7.       Tabloid newspapers quoting “a friend” of whomever they’re doing a hack job on, who speaks in apposite puns. You know the sort of thing, a friend of a cricketing cuckold’s mistress quoted saying that “after a short first innings his middle stump wouldn’t stay up for a second one” or the friend of a woman having an affair with a World War 1 veteran saying that when they first saw each other it was “The Phwoar To End All Phwoars”. It’s bad enough that they use something as precious as freedom of the press and abuse it to reduce national discourse to childish tittering. But to parade such dishonesty about using the weakest humour available to humanity on one page and then assuming the umbrage of the morally affronted on the next is worse than stabbing a sleeping child’s head with a pin whilst its mother isn’t looking.


"Did you see the game last night? Yes, me too. OMG - What a goal. ... Oh, hang on, my patient seems to have exploded"

8.       Talking on the phone when you serve me in a shop. Can I take a call when I’m at work? No. Halfway through a set I’d be rightly pelted with eggs if I said to the audience “Hang on, this is more important than you” and answered my mobile. Bus drivers don’t do it either. Or teachers. I’ve never seen a judge dial out for pizza during a trial. I’m sure not even the most bargain basement lady of the night would break of her servicing of whichever inadequate requires a siphoning to book a holiday or ask about improved broadband services. So, shopkeep, nor should you when I’m purchasing a Wagon Wheel, crucifix or lingerie magazine.


9.       Not tipping your waiter, who’s given you good service because “well, it’s optional innit.” Yes, you have the option not to tip if the service wasn’t very good, but not just because you’re not in the giving vein today. It’s optional for me not to batter your face with a cactus mallet or scythe your baby, but I doubt you’d take that as an excuse. If you had decent service and you don’t tip you’re a twat. Simple. Don’t try to intellectualise it by saying – well, I don’t tip person in x,y and z job, either. Waiters’ wages are kept low because of the tipping system. You’re not bucking that system or campaigning for higher wages by not playing ball, you’re simply denying the person who has worked for you all night what they might reasonably expect for doing a good job.


10.   Being anonymous on the internet. This would suddenly emasculate the world’s keyboard warriors pretty quickly. Imagine having your name and address flash up every time you fancy yourself as a cyberspace Oscar Wilde (if Wilde was a witless hobgoblin who only developed a pair when cloaked in anonymity and protected by a monitor screen that serves as a vileness amplifier). They’d also, in true Bullseye! style, be shown all the real life girls they could have touched if they hadn’t spent their lives articulating their own crushing lack of self-esteem and achievement through a conduit of bile pixels that contribute precisely nothing of value to anyone or anything, anywhere, ever.


Oooh, what’s that sensation? Oh yes, my chest feels much lighter now.

See you at the coronation.

Ten Things That Have Brightened Up My Lifetime That I Don’t Think Get Enough Credit

Warning : this blog provides mild amusement at best.

Now then, in my blogging for a week experiment I have discovered that the (relative) pithiness of my Top Ten from the other day (Oh God, it was weeks ago: so much for “every day”) seems to have elicited the most popular response in terms of feedback and numbers. So I shall do a repeat (if it’s good enough for UK Gold it is good enough for me) but this time trying to accentuate the positive (a bit like in my book Running Through Corridors which lesser men than me would blatantly plug whilst warning that the first print run has nearly sold out).

As well as the best feedback it has also had the silliest, with someone telling me that my Ten Things That Annoy Me More Than I Think They Would If I Were A Reasonable Human Being were quite normal and that I had erroneously used the phrase “personality disorder” to describe my grumpiness. Possibly, or perhaps I was taking something that has a basis in truth and extrapolating it for whimsical or comic effect. Almost as if I was adopting the modus operandi of a professional comedian or something. Similarly, if I type a sentence like “I was so shocked I almost had a heart attack” I don’t mean that I was actually really having a heart attack or that I am somehow undermining the true suffering of heart attack victims. If you think that I am, I suggest you spend less time trawling the internet looking to take offence and find some stuff in the real world to get annoyed about as there’s plenty that doesn’t involve the application of semantic gymnastics to manufacture umbrage.

Anyway, positive, positive:

1. Tic Tacs Just another sweet, sure, but a veteran of the confection world (he’s outlived the Pacer, the Banjo and the Texan Bar) who was never my first choice as a child but was always noted for its uniqueness. No other sweet quite rattled so in a box. Tics Tacs were also always mint – I remember the introduction (to my world at least) of the orange and lime flavours and was initially quite impressed if a little suspicious of this dual coloured interloper. Hitting Europe in my travels I’ve discovered a large number of varieties, but as with voting and love making, clearly we Brits can only be trusted with the most straightforward and uncomplicated varieties. Euro-sceptics could reasonably cite the recent creeping barrage of passion fruit and cherry flavour onto our territories as evidence of our capitulation to the continent, but most of us will simply enjoy the inspired taste-combination for its deliciousness. The lesser spotted sleeper agent that is lychee and grape, however, possesses that petrol fume flavour for which yer actual lychee is so inexplicably prized. And as an occasional weight watcher, that you can neck a box with apparently little threat to your waistline is final proof that these are little sticks of joy dynamite that blow your tastebuds but not your physique. In America they have cinnamon flavour, which almost makes up or their inability to spell theatre properly.

2. Inspector Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo – ‘Allo ‘Allo isn’t the greatest comedy of all time. It’s not especially my cup of tea (I’m

"I am a TooVoo horoo and no mistook"

more of a satire/dry humour type of chap), but there are achievements in the world of popular entertainment that I don’t think are appreciated enough due to the fact that they were in, well, popular entertainment. And Inspector Crabtree is one – an absolutely inspired and well-wrought creation that was just one part of the make-up of a programme that became televisual furniture for years. Not a programme such as The Killing that makes you sound impressive at dinner parties, or like Brass Eye that demonstrates how savvy and maverick your tastes are, or even The Only Way Is Essex which blithely displays your sense of irony and lack of pretention (whilst unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the universe, may I add). This was just on and people just watched it. The conceit was simple with ‘Allo ‘Allo – take the fact that the actors playing Germans in the brilliant wartime drama Secret Army spoke in German accents and do the same, but with exaggeration (in addition to the comedy French accents which – unlike Secret Army – were given to our heroes). By adding a farcical element and catchphrase characters to the humour it somehow managed to dodge any squeamishness we may have had about a comedy set during an atrocity in which millions died. In series two, someone hit upon the genius idea that an incognito Englishman could disguise himself as a gendarme. In the logic of the ‘Allo ‘Allo world his inability to speak French well would manifest itself as inexpertly wrought English in a daft accent. The result was desperately stupid – and very, very funny. Add to that the mighty Arthur Bostrom playing the role absolutely dead straight and you have a comic creation of such brilliance it should be celebrated every time great British comedy is mentioned. Every time I hear the line “Good moaning” or see Bostrom’s face etched in earnestness, as he conspiratorially whispers that he was “pissing through the streets” I do an enormous amount of pissing, myself (pissing myself).

3. Ladybirds – You’ve got to love a ladybird. Most garden dwellers that are brave enough to hang about with us humans are of fairly mundane appearance (those black beetle fellows, greenflies etc) or nice enough looking of themselves, but not so much so that we don’t soon get used to them (you know, bees and things). But there’s nothing quite like a ladybird – a little compact nodule of colour, gamely crawling on your hand without being tickly or slimy or threatening, and then hoiking itself off optimistically as its dainty wings provide unlikely carriage for its Mini Cooper frame. There’s even a song about them, in which they are encouraged to save their children from arson. What’s not to love?

4. The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 – It has no practical or entertainment value for me whatsoever. I don’t even know what it means. But the fact that it is there and always has been, I find rather wonderful and comforting. It’s something that interrupts something that the majority of people are enjoying to give vital information to a small minority, and nobody minds. That’s how life should be. It’s like aural mogadon – calming, relaxing, and the key to a less stressful life. Part of me does worry though, that it’s one big joke that’s got out of hand but that nobody has quite had the courage to own up to (I mean come on – Dogger? German Bite? Yeah, right).


5. The nice scrunchy sound my laptop makes when I send something to the recycle bin – I like it. It sounds scrunchy. And nice (see also, Bagpuss’s yawn).

6. Bernard Cribbins – if you need a reason you are not human. Even his name is brilliant. Bernard and Cribbins, the stuff that unassuming British institutions are made of. We all know he’s the charming, quirky array of voices of The Wombles, the comic crooner of Right Said Fred (why does that work? No idea, but it’s fab), and of course, the impossible-not-to-love Wilfred Mott, funny and heartbreaking in a trice in Doctor Who. But remind yourself of his fantastic turn as the irritating suspected Hotel Inspector in Fawlty Towers for a sublime piece of character acting. We don’t make ‘em like Cribbins anymore, and that’s a terrible shame. His knighthood is long overdue (after I drafted this his OBE was announced – well deserved but not enough).

7. Penguin Book Covers – I love a book. I like having books more than I actually read them. And there’s something about the simplicity of the penguin covers – a thick stripe of orange, sometimes green, a penguin, the title and author in a humble, undemonstrative font … classic design work. It’s like the No Frills of the publishing world yet brings with it none of that itinerant snobbery about cheapness. There’s something honourable about a raft of papers containing a great work of literature but being confident enough in its own worth not to carry a hefty price tag. It’s like the millionaire who wanders around with wellies and a hole in his jumper but is well spoken, erudite and intellectual. You can’t buy class. Except you can, in book form, and as I’ve demonstrated, for not very much money.

8. Cryptic Crosswords – Nothing in the universe can make you feel both abjectly thick and rather pleased with how clever you are than a cryptic crossword. You can stare at them, baffled, and make absolutely no headway, or you can make relatively decent progress. I’ve never actually completed one, and am certainly nowhere near to being an expert, but there’s nothing wrong with having something achievable to try to crack and improve at. Especially if it stimulates your brain cells and gives you something to do on the bus other than tsk at boisterous young people. I tend to do them when I’m in a play (I generally get cast in roles that have plenty of time off stage and require the acquisition of a hobby) so they also comfort me that I’m being gainfully employed. Favourite clues have included “Half of the alphabet is very small (4)” which is ATOM (A to M geddit?), and “Cowardly Balloonist? (7,2,1,6)” which is, gloriously, CHICKEN IN A BASKET.

9. The “Slippery Surface” Road Sign – because no matter how often I see it, I always try to rationalise the tyre markings which are surely impossible to achieve. It’s one of the Seven Wonders Of The Even More Modern World (others include that unfathomable feeling of approval and admiration one feels upon seeing an old man with a sculpted handlebar moustache, the creation of the name Barry Scott to conjure just the right naffness:knowingness ratio to effectively market a cleaning product, and The Tube Map).

10. The fact that even though raspberries are red, making raspberry slush puppies blue sort of makes sense – it does. They taste blue. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is.

I thought by saying I would blog every day would make me do it. But it hasn’t. I am going to blog more though, so keep an eye out. I’ve also been doing some other writing, so watch this space. It’s worth noting that the one about how irritating things are was much easier to do than this one about things I enjoy. A sad reflection of humanity, its inherent grouchiness and alacrity for criticism (and by “humanity” I may well mean “me” but what the hell, if I’m going down I’m going to take you all with me).

Ten Things That Annoy Me More Than I Think They Would If I Were A Reasonable Human Being

Warning : This blog’s initial draft contained a reference to Jedward that was replaced with something marginally less predictable.

I’ve been supposed to be blogging every day this week as a test of discipline and to see if I can be remotely interesting, but haven’t posted yesterday’s up as it needs some cosmetic surgery and doesn’t quite make sense yet. I’d left myself plenty of time but I’d had a bit of travel hassle that led to my train journey and subsequent gig being cancelled. Then Doctor Who was on, I drank some Chablis and then the evening disappeared in a blur brought on by mind boggling continuity developments and Bacchus’s brain-fug juice. So I may post yesterday’s blog up later tonight or even tomorrow, which isn’t quite blogging every day but I could get away with it by saying it’s a clever timey-wimey manipulation, or, for the more down to earth, argue that it’s a bank holiday weekend and so one of the days somehow doesn’t count. Or, like the Sinclair C5, the coalition government or Cheryl Cole on X-Factor USA, you could just deem the “blogging every day for a week” thing a failed experiment and gloat.


Anyway, there are a number of things that annoy me that I’m perfectly happy annoy me. I am supposed to be annoyed by things like shrinking TV credits, that little evil plastic hair shard bit from a trainer that sometimes sticks into your foot and itches that you can never quite find or prise out or work out what it’s bloody doing there in the first place, and genocide. Being miffed about those shows that I am a righteous, frail and reasoned human being. But despite the fact that I think I’m generally quite benign, and pretty easygoing if you get to meet me, there are some things that annoy bat-shit out of my brain-cave that in my more contemplative moments lead me to think I have some kind of personality disorder. This isn’t that contrived “grumpy old man” oo-isn’t-Ikea-irritating nonsense. That’s been done to death. I’m actually worried that being irked by the following might just mean I’m evil.

I do hope not, it would be most inconvenient.

The following is best read in a voice of slightly strangulated indignation:

1.       Finsbury Park Tube station has a tunnel that leads to and from the tubes. There is a barrier in the middle so people all have to walk in the same direction (decided by which side they’re on) and so not bash into each other. So far so good. However, the whole design is rendered useless when people walk three abreast on one side (making those behind them unable to overtake) and amble, chatting,

Looks Innocent Enough Now, But Just Add People And It Becomes Worse Than A Big War

oblivious to the fact that people behind them might – what with all the tube trains and things lying about – be in something of a hurry (see also people who stand side by side on escalators and people who stop walking to chat or look at a map in a fucking doorway).


2.       “There’s millions said Henry* all under one roof.” There may be Henry, but the backward R in Toys R (no, I’m not doing it on a point of principle … and because I can’t with this keyboard) Us isn’t the worst of your evils. There are millions Henry, not there’s millions, and it’d still scan if you said it correctly. You benefit neither your ditty nor your target audience by your slapdash approach, Henry. People make spelling and grammatical mistakes all the time – I’m no lexicographical fascist and can forgive this. To perpetrate such felonies on purpose to be either cool or branded makes you Satan’s fluffer here on Earth, Henry, you giraffe-bastard. No wonder our children are feral.


3.       People texting or calling me when Doctor Who is on (I should put it on silent, sure, but I expect people to know and leave it on deliberately so that I can get annoyed).


4.       I like to cook because I hope I’m quite good at it, I get a great feeling when people enjoy my creations, and like to think the whole process is creative, cathartic and rewarding. Speak to me whilst I’m doing it however, and I’m about as pleasant as a chlamydia sandwich at Jeremy Clarkson’s house.


5.       My eldest son remembers the minutiae of television episodes and describes them in detail, without pause, recalling dialogue, jokes, and situations. I find myself getting grumpy with him for doing so despite the fact that it’s what I do for a living and what I did when I was his age (and probably to a greater extent).


6.       The fact that the makers of Appletise bowed to public ignorance and renamed it Appletiser. Why? The public were wrong. Just because everyone pronounced it incorrectly wasn’t a reason to change the name. Especially as the people who did it will now think they were right all along. That’s like God ironing the Earth just to make the ignoramuses who thought it was flat feel good about themselves. Or Wendy Richard changing her name by deed-poll to Wendy Richards. Or the word “ask” deciding to spell itself “arks” because some cockneys can’t talk properly.



7.       Fussy eaters. I hated loads of food as a kid. My Mum made me eat it. I learned to like it. Anyone else that can’t be bothered to go through that process deserves at best starvation and at worst, some sort of extreme food camp where desperately middle class fascists like me force feed them asparagus and wean them off Big Macs. A bit like those courses where batty Christians try to cure people of being gay, except morally right. “I don’t like any vegetables” I hear people say. As if vegetables all taste the same. That’s like me saying “I don’t like any people” just because some people – like you – can’t be bothered to see if your taste buds might have matured since you were six.


8.       The fact that for about 7 years I didn’t realise that Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny wasn’t live. When I found out the truth it was, of course, so obvious  – why would those high end celebs (no Big Brother winners here ) all give up their family New Year’s Eve to sit in a BBC studio to listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing covers of Kajagoogoo’s back catalogue? Yet I was still crushingly disappointed when I found out. And I don’t even care about music. Or know who any of the people on it are. Except Jools Holland.


9.       When I was a kid I did amateur dramatics with a woman called Glenys. That’s right, Glenys. Except my Mum always pronounced it Glynis, even when I’d corrected her more times than Keith Allen’s come across as a bit of a knob in interviews. When I hear her say it in my head, now, as I type, it bothers me so much that I’ve gritted my teeth enough to give me lockjaw. It’s like the mispronunciation equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. She probably hasn’t done it for twenty years, but I know, deep down, that I can never forgive her.


10.   I still haven’t thought of a reasonable excuse for not having done yesterday’s blog, and even though it’s up to me whether or not I do it and it doesn’t really matter, it still really annoys me, and it annoys me even more that I’m explaining it and justifying it in a massively uninteresting way but nonetheless feel the need to clarify my position even though I don’t know what that position is.


There you go. I never said they had to be enlightening.



* Before you both write in, the Giraffe Grammar Pervert is called Geoffrey (of course, alliteration is your friend when luring children into your den of imminent parent poverty) not Henry. I let my initial mistake stand because (a) I’m not afraid to admit to mine and (b) Glenys Barber (very good) who points out the mistake in the comments below does so in an extremely witty way and deserves credit for doing so.

Goodnight, Sweet Potato (Chicago TARDIS begins…)

Chicago TARDIS

Day 0 (Thursday) and Day 1 (Friday)

Well, what a treat that was. I arrived in Heathrow in good time and immediately bumped into a couple of Chicago bound fellow thespians : the always immaculate and charming Nigel Fairs and the whirlwind of fun that is Laura Doddington. Before long I was chatting to Leela and Winston Churchill in the departure lounge (i.e. the wonderful Louise Jameson, a truly classy lady, and Ian McNeice who I’d not met before and is charming and clearly chuffed to bits with his Doctor Who association). Rob Shearman sat next to me on the flight and we anticipated getting our hands of physical copies of Running Through Corridors before he fell asleep and took both armrests with him. I didn’t sleep for more than about twenty minutes, but Tony Lee popped over for a chat and made the last hour fly by.

And so we were in Chicago. As ever people made us feel very welcome and it was nice to see so many folks I only ever hook up with in the USA. We were really looked after by a charming and hospitable team of people and I can’t thank Gene, Jennifer, Tara, Ruth-Ann, Anne, Dennis and everybody else enough.

We had a Thanksgiving Buffet in which enough food to sate an entire nation (and probably sink a couple) was laid on, but America’s uncertainty with the natural appeal of the humble vegetable meant that each of them had been augmented in some way (generally involving drenching their honest healthiness with some sort of spoonful of death): cauliflower and broccoli gratin was especially successful, and the asparagus with hollandaise was scrummy, but sweet potatoes never have, and never will, require the addition of marshmallows. Is everyone in this nation pregnant? It seems odd to contrive a way to turn every single foodstuff  into a sweet – even the bread and butter was (sweet)corn bread and maple (syrup) butter! I half expected to have pizza with spangles or shepherds pie studded with M & Ms the next day. I’m not saying it wasn’t delicious, but I’m not 100 per cent certain in was sane. Thanks are due to the lovely Karen Baldwin for organising us into a big party of barrel stomached Brits abroad. Yum, yum.

"For the love of God don't use us in savoury cooking"
"For the love of God don't use us in savoury cooking"

On Friday I woke ridiculously early and meandered about pointlessly (which is a neat summation of my 36 years on this planet actually). Rob and I did a pretty well attended panel (considering it was the first one in the big room on the first day) with our patient and genial publisher Lars Pearson who had proudly showed us the books when he arrived. There’s a brilliant bonus inside thanks to Katy Shuttleworth of a little running stick man at the top corner of each page who becomes a piece of animation if you quickly flip the pages – a neat, witty touch, very well rendered. Of course, having scrutinised the final text over and over again with a mircroscope, typos flew out of the page as soon as I read them, but that’s always the way. There aren’t too many, it’s just one always notices and dwells on the little niggles. It’s a handsome looking thing and I think it reads well.

We signed a few autographs for the very first people to buy the thing, which was great, and then I was chock-a-block with other panels including something called Toby Hadoke: One-on-One which I feared would be a literal description of the turnout. In my quest to be involved in the worst attended panel of the event I think I won – we started with three but by the end there were nine (including a baby, but I’m including the baby, all right?). I had a bet with Simon Guerrier (a delightful bear of a man whose wife Debbie was along for the trip too, which was good news because she’s lovely) that he’d get more than me on his One-on-One, and he tripled my paltry attendance. I love spending time with Simon as he’s jolly and always a good sounding board for ideas (and is full of interesting nuggets that he pops into conversation with a big grin) so why I only see him in a different continent when we live in the same city I’ve no idea.

Was that the day of the theatre panel? I think it was – where Ian, Frazer, Laura, Louise and about three thousand other people (it was a hefty panel – didn’t need me on it) were terribly kind not do be insulted having an oik like me, whose mimsy CV would be crushed to death by the first page of each of theirs, included amongst them discussing a life on the stage. Nick Briggs had a host of funny stories that he dealt out with apolmb and it turned out to be rather fun all told (but I really shouldn’t have been on it!). I did a Brian Blessed anecdote.

Later that night I was enjoying the fine company of Frazer Hines (this man should be on the after dinner speaking circuit – he’s full of stories, brilliantly told, and his enthusiasm for Doctor Who is wonderful to behold) and Lisa Bowerman (who is as much of an actor’s geek as I am, would you believe?) and got very grumpy having to be dragged away to do a thing called a Liars Panel. This is where the entire panel (of two) has to regale the questioners with witty answers that have no basis in fact, to hilarious effect. What actually happened was that Tony Lee regaled the questioners with witty answers that had no basis in fact, to hilarious effect and got loads of laughs and I spent the whole hour not having a clue what was going on and ended up doing jokes only myself and Lisa (whose atten dance to show solidarity I appreciated) could possibly understand. I even got dissed by someone in the front row who brazenly told Tony he “counted” because he’d written for Doctor Who (unlike me!). Charming. Then it was back to the bar and much needed buckets of booze. I worried that my response to the thing might have come across as disdain for Tony rather than my own bafflement at how the thing was supposed to work, but I think I made that clear to him afterwards. He’s a natural at these things and it’s obvious why he’s such a favourite at events like this.

Tony Lee is amusing. Toby Hadoke is not.

It’s always a bit weird for me before I’ve done Moths as most people aren’t really sure what I’m doing there ; everyone was very friendly though, and I finally got to see my book in the flesh (or rather, paper). And I had breakfast with Jamie off of Doctor Who.

By the end of Friday, my arm was completely bruised by the amount I’d had to keep pinching myself.

NEXT TIME (I shall not be so lenient):

My wife arrives, Moths is performed, and Nicholas Briggs cries.

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Whine

OK – a quickie. Not been about because of work. Just back from ChicagoTARDIS, a wonderful Doctor Who convention that I’ll write up soon.

Anyway – December dates for the diary:

Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf : last one of 2011, and frankly, likely to be one of the last times I do it at all. It’s in Tonbridge at the E M Forster Theatre on December 11th. Tickets here.

XS Malarkey has Jason Cook and Phil Nichol on Dec 7th and the Christmas Party on Dec 14th

And I’m in Holby City on Dec 28th.

The rest is … Christmas gigs – boosting your finances as they destroy your soul 🙂

Oh, and if you know a Who fan who is in need of a Christmas present, buy this. Don’t be worried by the “Currently Unavailable” status ; it should make itself known on Dec 14th.

Apologies for all the plugs – more contact and less whoring on my next post, promise.