Monday 29 April 2013


Exciting showbiz weekend kicked off on Friday with Pete the plumber. It had occurred to me that I'd not had my central heating boiler serviced in a while. It works fine but safety considerations and also the thought that I may be burning more gas than I needed to informed my decision.

The last time I had it done I'd turned the boiler off for the summer to save the gas burned by the pilot light. Come September I couldn't get the beast to light. Condensation had corroded the pilot light hole. So it cost me about £100 to save £5 worth of gas!

Seems the heating machine is on its last legs but still could soldier on for a couple more years.

"Bet your gas bills are huge with this old thing!" said Pete.

I told him how much my annual bill was.

"Blimey. That’s not it bad actually" he said.

I thank my upbringing for my resistance to cold. My parents never had central heating and my childhood was marked by visible breath and ice on the inside of the windows. So I don't have the heating up too high normally.

Dark Lady was due to join me in the early evening after work. In the meantime I set out to the Conquest Hospital to hand over some long service certificates to a couple of fine volunteers at Hospital Radio Hastings. Then I sat and droned on for 90 minutes to a rapt (OK, shell shocked) audience of volunteers. They had been warned but somehow couldn't think of an excuse or were unable to flee quickly enough before the door slammed shut and I started to talk about me favourite subject.....MEEEEEEE!!!!!

After I left a stunned audience behind I hurried to the railway station to collect the Dark Lady and we headed off out to our favourite Chinese restaurant for crispy duck and prawn toast.

Saturday and with the sun shining we decided to go for a walk. DL fancied a trudge along the sea shore from St Leonard's to Bexhill and maybe back again depending on how we were feeling.

Dark Lady also wanted to visit Bexhill's newest landmark. New in terms of it being put on the map rather than it being a recent addition to the townscape. We're talking the Sovereign Light Cafe as referenced by the band Keane. As kids they'd cycle from their homes in Battle to the cafe .

It obviously made such an impression on them that they named a track off their last album after the location.

By the time we arrived at the place we were parched and desperate for a cup of tea. The sun was shining and my stomach had started to rumble. We were also feeling slightly worn. We'd walked more than four miles by the time we arrived and were in need of sustenance.

So we did have the tea. Two generous mug fulls. However we also had tuna sandwiches and chilli con carne which filled a hole and gave us a burst of energy so we strode out in the direction of home and made it back in no time at all. Frankly there's little that can beat a walk along the sea shore on a sunny afternoon.

We reckoned we'd burned off the calories by the time we got back. Then it was off to the pub to meet our friend and Best man, Clive.

I got the first round in.

"Where are the snacks?" trilled the DL prettily.

"Snacks? You wanted Snacks after a tuna sandwich?"

"We always have snacks in the pub"

Good point, we do. I was applying guy logic. After eating (for us) a large lunch do we really need crisps and nuts to accompany the first round of drinks?

Of course we do!

Monday 22 April 2013


TIME...the theme for this year’s Shrewsbury international cartoon festival.

Ten years since it started from small beginnings each year it has got bigger and better.

It was a conscious effort to start small and it seems to have paid off. As a casual observer and fan I also think it benefits the town. The council appears to think so too as do a number of other local sponsors and a host of volunteers. However, not everyone is happy about it as I learned chatting to Roger Penwill, one of the organisers and no mean cartoonist himself.

Surveying the assembled cartoonists creating giant cartoons on the theme of time in the town square an elderly lady was heard to say…

"I don't approve of this sort of thing in Shrewsbury. We’ll be having one of those lapdancing clubs next!"

The festival has a host of events from workshops to lectures and exhibitions from some of the world’s top cartoonists. This year there was a visit from Australian cartoonist, Dean Alston; he comes over every year but this was the first year he'd had an exhibition of his own and it was certainly worth it.

Children weren't forgotten either as there was also a show of caricatures done by local youngsters.

As someone who can't draw I like to go along each year to rub shoulders with the talented and hope some of the charisma will rub off. So far it hasn't, sadly. Although I've had the good fortune to meet some supremely talented and funny people. It was nice to meet up with the excellent Bill Stott again and The Surreal McCoy who last year told me to call her "The". This year as we know each slightly better I now call her by her real name. As well as being a very funny cartoonist she also plays a mean accordion. A quick Google reveals her work with the London Klezmer Quartet, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Palmer, Indigo Girls, Boy George and Sinead O'Connor.

All this and she draws!

I discovered Cathy Simpson who caricatures as well as being an artist illustrator and journalist. She's also a near neighbour of mine so hopefully I can suck up sufficiently so she can come along to St Michaels Hospice in St Leonard's and do some caricatures for us and maybe exhibit at the annual Art Exhibition later this year.

For me one of the highlights of the whole event is the social side. On Saturday night there is a meal and drinking. As I've mentioned before on the show cartoonists are unable to gather without drawing. So wisely all tables are covered in paper cloths which are swiftly covered with imaginative and often bizarre sketches.

This year – foolishly - I was asked to help compere an event with another of the festivals patrons, former Guardian journalist and author, Martin Wainwright.

This involved two teams quick fire sketches on given subjects. A witty and erudite commentary from Martin and grim mugging from me!

I also had the chance to have a good long chat with Clive Goddard who supplies wonderful cartoons for the show.

After the food and games it was back to the Lion Hotel the ancient coaching Inn on Wyle Cop Dickens and Darwin among its celebrated former guests. The place is festooned with cartoons from the festival and it was to the bar for more drink conversation and music. I'm amazed just how many cartoonists also play instruments. Clive brought out his ukulele. A couple played the tiniest piano I've ever seen and sang. Whilst all this was going on Helen did a caricature of me.

Love that nose!

Roll on 2014. Wonder what the theme is going to be? I think I heard some muttering about music. Whatever it turns out to be make sure you come along. I make no apologies for this puffery as it's a terrific event and makes you realise just how much pleasure cartoonists add to our lives.

(Feel free to browse the show's cartoon galleries by clicking here)

Tuesday 16 April 2013


Dark Lady and I head off to France for the weekend from time to time. Being in the south of the country. It's fairly easy to do and mile for mile and minute for minute it's easier than heading to Scotland.

However we are already planning a trip north. So head for the hills!

Trouble is due to the constraints of time our lives are spinning by so quickly. Too many great places to go and too little time.

Not so long ago we hired a van. The deal being we set off from the studio first thing after the shoe and head for the channel tunnel. Hop across the channel and then head west. The whole journey is around 300 miles and we arrive rather ragged but elated around 8 hours after leaving London.

I'd booked the crossing with our short wheelbase Transit. According to the woman on the phone we were only allowed to go freight. What this meant and trucker types I sympathise. We turned up and had to wait ages before we were allowed on to the train. Rather than book a particular crossing. We also had to board a coach which took us to the front of the train where there was a passenger carriage for commercial drivers. Normally you remain in your vehicle.

It felt a little strange the DL was the only woman in the carriage. Lots of European drivers stared at her which made her feel a little uncomfortable.

As I mentioned on the show the other day she has a very attractive slight olive tinge to her skin.

On one of early dates struggling for the right words to tell her how gorgeous she is I plumped for "swarthy"! I've not lived that one down yet I can tell you.

I think they were thinking she may be from somewhere further south than Enfield.

As a businesswoman she knows a deal from a lemon and couldn't figure out why we were being forced to go freight when we were stuck in a long queue as larger vans than ours were gaily driving straight onto the passenger car trains.

On our return I phoned Eurotunnel and complained. They immediately apologised and admitted we had been misinformed so offered us a discount on our next trip. So this time we were setting off in our van on a Channel crossing for the princely sum of £7!

No such mistake this time. We arrived and were ushered straight onto the train. A few minutes later we were heading west with a van full of furniture.

When we arrived my eye was feeling rather gritty. I assumed it was due to tiredness as it had been a long day and a long drive.

"Your eye"!

Trilled the Dark Lady prettily.

"Looks all right from this side"

Retorted her hypochondriac husband secretly worried that he'd have to have it removed and be forced to wear a raffish eyepatch like a pirate.

"Conjunctivitis" She diagnosed. She is a former nurse so knows this stuff.

We trooped off to the pharmacy for some eye drops.

"I think it's getting better" I whined.

"It still looks very red"

"It doesn't look it from here" I persisted.

We explained to the pharmacist what we required. I think she diagnosed the problem just by looking at my gurning face as I explained in my terrible French that I was going to end up looking like Long John Silver.

By the time we'd driven back to the house it was beginning to feel a bit better. In fact by the following day it had improved considerably.

Anyone want to buy some French eye drops. Never been used?

As it rains constantly in this part of the country everything gets soaked and covered in mud. The washing machine is in an outhouse as there's no room in the kitchen. I hate running it half empty so I order to make sure I get a full load it's all off and out into the rain.

I usually wait until after dark for fear of terrifying the neighbours.

Here's why.....!

This may also explain why the French regard us as a little odd. They can be very elegant.

Although judging by the picture I think I carry the wellingtons off pretty well!

Tuesday 9 April 2013


What with the texts and the Tweets and the emails and the Facebook page, there are many ways we can communicate with each and respond to the things we talk about on the show. So this blog is designed to be slightly different.

Not sure if you agree but I'm not entirely convinced the radio is the place to sit and talk constantly about Meeeee

I prefer more of a dialogue and also the opportunity to fool about. More like a chat over a cup of coffee or a pint. Where we can discuss the rather bizarre night time world we inhabit.

The blog, however, is more like a personal diary. So I can tell you a little about what I've been up to if you like.

Three years ago I sort of arrived at a ready-made family when I met the Dark Lady who - in a momentary aberration - agreed to marry me. Along with her came two children who are now teenagers. Never really thought of myself as "Mr Nuclear Family". In fact, I was never really that interested in having any children. A fact that I think pained my late Mum, but we all make choices and also stuff happens as we're making plans and those choices. So maybe things don't always turn out as we expect.

So suddenly I found myself a Stepdad. Luckily for me and them and the DL they have a fully-functioning hands-on real Dad, so I don't get to do the tough parenting. I'm more of an add-on. Which is just the way I like it and it seems to work.

So last Sunday it was Jamie's 14th birthday. I've watched him grow from a bright intelligent eleven year-old who can talk for Britain and with some knowledge about pretty much anything (although if he ran out of facts he'd resort to making them up; I can see a future in politics for this boy!) to a strapping fourteen year old with a rapidly descending voice who is a keen footballer and fitness nut. He's not reached the monosyllabic knuckle dragging phase and we may be spared that (we hope).

So what did he want for his birthday?


"What kind of weights?"




"You've already got weights."

"They're dumbbells"




So off I went to find him a set. I started out at a central London sports equipment shop.


"Sixth floor"

I toiled up six flights of stairs as there were no escalators and I couldn't find the lift.


"Fifth floor"

"Fifth floor....pant…pant…I was told sixth"

"Barbells fifth floor"

Down I went.





"I was told fifth"

"You was told wrong then, mate"

Back up I went.

"Haagh haagh gulp haagh. Bar gulp pant bells"



"We don't sell ‘em mate. Only do dumbbells"

"Where are barbells sold?"

"Charing Cross"

I trudged the mile to Charing Cross station. Sure enough there was the shop.

"Acme Olympics"

It was stuffed to the gills with gym equipment.


"Up the back mate"

Said a shaven-headed rather buff man in a Lycra singlet trackie bottoms and fancy trainers.

He eyed me with that "If its for you, buster, right shop…thirty years too late" look.

I puffed up the stairs until I found what I was looking for.


If you've ever wondered why working class people excel at football and boxing and the middle and upper classes are more successful at show jumping and formula one it boils down to one thing

Equipment cost.

You can play soccer in the street using a bundle of tied up rags or a tin can.

"What position you play?"

"Right gutter".

Boxing. Well you just need someone's head to crack open with your fists.

If you want to get on in the heady world of Polo or Dressage. Deddy (this is how it's pronounced I think.) "Deddy" is going to have to stump up for a pony or two. If you want to be in motor racing you are going to have to get some wheels to prove yourself before you can hope to attract sponsorship.

Luckily with weight training, gyms already have the gear.

I looked at the weights. The bar. The price. I think they were made of platinum with gold and diamond inlay!

I slunk away trying to think of an excuse.

"Sorry Jamie. Due to the Olympics there's been a run on weights and there are none left."

"Er. Due to a tragic incident in America where some maniac went mad and killed his whole family when he cut the brakes on the family treadmill all private purchase of exercise equipment has been prohibited."

"Sorry. Didn't realise. You have to be eighteen before you can hold a barbell licence."

This wasn't going to wash. So the Internet directed me to a high street shop where you click and collect and the prices were considerably more realistic.

I paid. Punched in the code I was given and a short while later a wheezing youth hove into view with the goodies.

I thanked him and it took three trips to load them all into the car.

Have you ever tried to gift wrap a barbell and two boxes of weights?

It's not easy.

The look on his face on the day was worth all the effort.

There is only one tiny nagging thought at the back of my mind. The Dark Lady's house is tiny. So he's either going to have to exercise in the garden shed or in the living room. His bedroom is only big enough for dumbbells. If he swings round clutching his barbell he'll destroy the place.

He's fourteen and so doesn't understand the concept of "tidy".

Whose toes are going to connect with 35kg of weights at one o'clock in he morning on my way out the house?

Yes it's brings us neatly back to....


Oh...and him!

Wednesday 3 April 2013


Ok maybe a mite premature. However in our family there is a point in the year when we know for a fact that summer is on its way. It's the first barbecue of the year.

As a kid we never did BBQ. My Dad never understood the attraction or allure of eating outside.

"Why bother. We've a perfectly good kitchen!"

Can't remember his views on picnics either. We had quite a number of those which were like so many of yours no doubt. Each one was a nature ramble as they coincided with the discovery of the sheer variety of wondrous biting stinging itching buzzing germ ridden. Or just plain annoying insects that exist outdoors.

One of my best mates Clive summed up picnics thusly:

"Pull up a dog turd. Sit down and wait for the ants to arrive".

I don't know what prompts us to dine al fresco in this country. Perhaps deep down in our DNA we are more closely related to our Southern European cousins than we care to admit. We are trying to recreate that communal eating experience in warm sunshine gazing out at an azure sea. Rather than huddled together on a damp field in the drizzle with the drone of motorway traffic in the distance.

However that's the way we have to do it in the UK with our bizarre weather patterns.

Easter weekend is usually regarded as the start of the "season". Not entirely sure what season exactly. Where I live in Hastings it coincides with the arrival of the day trippers. The funfair opens its gates and children appear covered in the first of the years candy floss. An ant magnet if ever there was one.

Dark Lady and I had a very restful and fun weekend we trudged along the beach and sea front from Hastings nearly to Bexhill and back. Had a few drinks with friends in the pub on Friday evening. Saturday we strolled to the old town up onto the west hill near the castle and stopped off and bought a couple of crabs so I could prepare my signature dish of dressed crab. It's the one thing I can do that the DL hasn't mastered as I guard the secret vigilantly!

She can cook and prepare anything else but crab.

"It's the dead men's fingers" I warn her airily as if I was sushi-ing a deadly puffer fish

Soon she is going to discover the secret that anyone can do it!

Holiday Monday and it became officially British summer time as we went to visit our good friends Fran and Greg and their family.

Just as Punxsutawney Phil predicts spring each February from his home in Gobblers Knob Pennsylvania made famous in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day".

Greg's first BBQ of the year from Hammersmith in London heralds the start of summer in our calendar.
He'll be the first to admit it’s not an exact science. We sat inside in the warm whilst he took orders for delicious juicy steaks outside in the garden in a thick overcoat and a scarf.
Just as Eccles from the Goon show was spied sitting in his swimming trunks on a deck chair as the snow fell with a thermometer in a hot water bottle "in case he froze to death".

However from where we were sitting in the warm centrally heated house it sure felt like then start of summer to us!