Thursday, 31 July 2014

She Looks More Like Him Than I Do.


Last night, I went to a screening of A Hard Day's Night at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. 

It was lovely to see it in such great shape. The music has never sounded as good. The energy still whip cracks from the screen fifty years later. It was also great to see it with an audience, as this was the way it was meant to be watched.

While it isn't my favourite Beatles film - I prefer Help and, controversially, Magical Mystery Tour for their looseness - it's still a lot of fun. It's also retained its freshness, partly because I haven't seen it as much as the others. 

I was struck most by how young they looked. I'm ten years older than the oldest Beatle, Ringo, was then. I need to pull my finger out. 

It's amazing to think how quickly The Beatles worked. Barely three years later they were making Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. What will I be doing three years from now? Whatever I'm up to, let’s hope I’ve grown a moustache.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Festival Pangs.


This year I’m doing my best to pretend I don’t wish I was up at the Edinburgh Festival.

It’s been a few years since we’ve done it properly. Long enough for me to almost forget the bad bits. While Edinburgh is an exhausting and depressing experience, it’s also satisfying. It’s nice to be able to spend a month working on something solely for yourself. It’s also a chance to get match fit. There’s nothing like doing a show every day to make you feel better equipped when in front of an audience.

As it stands, I feel out of shape. I’m also out of the loop. This is accentuated when a quick flick through my Twitter feed reveals how many of my colleagues will be up there when I’m not.

I have to remind myself that Edinburgh isn’t the be-all and end-all. There’s also no point in doing it if you’re not going to do it right. The next time Doggett & Ephgrave head northwards, we’ll be playing a venue that’s perfect for us. We’ll also pay someone else to flyer. That’s one aspect of the festival that I’ll never miss.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Death Storage.


The subtlety with which my dad dropped the A-word into conversation yesterday was astounding. 

We were both staring into my airing cupboard, when he tapped the piece of material screwed to the back of the door and said, “That’s probably asbestos”. If my life were a film, it would have cut to one of those shots where the person stays in the centre of frame while the background zooms out behind them. If my face was animated by Terry Gilliam, my bottom jaw would have disengaged completely. My cupboard was giving me cancer.

All my closet-related memories flashed by me in an instant: the countless times I’d hung towels up in there to dry, then innocently rubbed them into my face the following morning. I didn’t know they were contaminated. I hadn’t an inkling.

It wasn’t just my towels. Every item of clothing and bed sheet in my house has rested against the back of that door at some point. I may as well have broken into a factory built in the 1950s, dislodged some lagging from the roof and rolled myself up in it.

My dad assured me there was nothing to worry about. I wasn’t convinced. Henceforth, my hallway cupboard is a no-go zone. I’m also going to have myself fumigated. With it comes to health, you can’t be too careful.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Getting on my Wickes.


As I stood in Dunelm Mill in Stevenage yesterday, listening to Toploader blaring from the Tannoy, I felt like I’d reached a personal low point.

I was shopping for curtains and paint. The prospect of buying either item didn't fill me with joy. My hunt for dull DIY products had already taken in B&Q, The Range and Wren Living – and, unlike the bird in that final shop name, I was rapidly losing the will to live.

There are only so many superstores you can visit in a day before you reach your personal limit. For me, the tipping point was three. Dunelm Mill was a step too far. Dancing in the Moonlight was the icing on the cake.

Thank God my trip to Dunelm Mill was just a one-off. Imagine working there. I’d be barely five minutes into my first shift before I went on a psychopathic rampage.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sum People.


The one thing missing from this equation is ÷ vomit.


I saw this frame in the window of Clinton Cards. Why would anyone buy it? Unless they're a parent looking for an indirect way to their child the facts of life.

There’s something creepy about the whole concept. Who'd want an ornament that celebrates their parents’ fertility? It’s also a tiny bit megalomaniacal: any offspring that displays it may as well say, “these two people created me - their single biggest achievement - and I’m fucking GREAT”.

 I’d fill it with three photos of me. That would confuse any visitors.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Drive My Cornetto.


Yesterday, a man drove past me whilst eating a Cornetto. His nonchalance was impressive.

Not only was he tucking into an ice cream from behind the wheel, he also managed to wave his thanks to me for letting him past and then take a roundabout. Either he's the best driver I’ve ever seen, or the most negligent. I can’t, for the life of me, work out which.

I don’t think he’d thought the situation through. Starting a Cornetto in transit may be fine, but what happens when you reach the latter stages? Separating the wrapper from the cornet can be a tricky business. You’d have to pull into a layby to finish it.

At least he wasn’t as bad as the motorist I once spotted in an Irish petrol station, who refuelled her car whilst holding a lit cigarette in the same hand as the pump. That time, my heart was truly in my mouth.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Betwixt.


The other day, while flying back from Venice, I unwittingly stumbled across the secret of how to make a Twix. It was plastered to the back of the seat in front, which is somewhere you don’t expect to find a chocolate bar recipe. It made for eye-opening reading.


Who’d have thought that mixing a cup of tea and a bacon baguette would result in a caramel-based two-fingered snack? Not me. Presumably, the people at Mars Inc. are aware of this; if so, it’s not something they shout about, except on the back of the seats of an EasyJet jet. They don't teach these equations at school.

What other secret ingredients are confectioners not telling us about? Do Cadbury’s Buttons contain real buttons? Is a Yorkie made from mashed-up Yorkshire Terrier? I dread to think what goes into a Curly Wurly.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Diagnosis: Murdered.


I've just found out that next week, Five USA will skip back to the beginning of the first season of Diagnosis Murder rather than carrying on into season five, and I'm inconsolable.

(I'm a closet fan of the show, by the way. Something I've covered here previously.)

Why are they doing this? Do they think no-one's watching? I guess not: they're Five USA. They don't seem to have any faith in their audience.

This is the third time they've shown season one this year. I've half a mind to write to Channel 5's owner Richard Desmond and take him to task on the subject. Though, to be fair, when it comes to the man who’s also behind the Daily Star and Television X, continuously rerunning the first few episodes of Diagnosis Murder is the tip of the iceberg.

Perhaps Five USA don’t hold the rights to air seasons five to eight. Maybe they’re just trying to fuck with my head. Whatever the reason, I’m not happy. I may resort to watching Mary Poppins daily, crying whilst dressed as a doctor, until they rectify the situation. Either that, or get into Murder, She Wrote.

When will someone buy me the complete DVD box set, damn it?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Never Forget.


Yesterday, my train from Gatwick Airport to St Pancras was diverted due to a trespasser on the line. This wouldn’t have been notable if the driver hadn’t kept telling us we were being redirected via "Eleph-aren't & Castle".

He must have said it fifteen times. Not elephant, but eleph-aren’t. His comic timing was excellent. Each sentence took a different route to its deliciously mispronounced punchline.

I’d have understood it if English wasn’t his first language. It sounded like it was. Everything else was intoned in a broad cockney accent. Why was he giving one word unexpected airs and graces?

I can only assume he’s never seen elephant written down outside of this context and hasn’t made the animal connection. Imagine his embarrassment when he does. Is that an Indian or African Eleph-aren’t?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Name's Ephgrave, David James Ephgrave.


As I hurtled towards Marco Polo Airport by speedboat this morning, I felt like James Bond. 

Admittedly, Bond would have been behind the wheel himself. He'd be surrounded by a fleet of water-skiing Russians and under a barrage of machine gun fire. He'd be brandishing a weapon too, making quips to an imaginary audience each time he successfully shot an enemy. In truth, I differed from Ian Fleming's creation in every way, except for being on a speedboat. Still, one out of four wasn't bad. 

It certainly was the best way to leave Venice. Actually, it's one of the only ways you can. This didn't matter. I was pleased to be leaving the water-locked city in style. 

I felt like a Bullseye contestant on their maiden voyage, with a Bendy Bully in one hand and a wad of freshly-counted cash in their back pocket; like a spaniel with his head out of the window of a speeding car, ears and tongue flapping in the breeze; like Prince Charles, the day his mastery of the cup and balls trick got him into the Magic Circle. In other words, I felt good

"This is the life," I thought, then felt seasick. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Check it Out.

In the six days I've been in Venice, I've not seen a single supermarket.

You're fine if you're after a Commedia dell'arte mask, a Murano glass ornament, or a snow globe of a gondolier - but if you're looking for groceries, you'll be sorely disappointed.

It actually doesnt have to be a supermarket. Any shop that sells food basics would do. I'm not out to buy a fake Gucci handbag (which, bizarrely, you can pick up right outside the Gucci shop), but stuff one with cakes and biscuits and you might rouse my interest.

If we'd been here for five days as we'd originally planned, it wouldn't be a problem. Thanks to EasyJet, our honeymoon was extended by two nights. Consequently, we've now reached the point where, given the choice, we'd much rather fend for ourselves.

I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, so don't make me. The restaurants here are lovely. I'm a big fan of Italian food. I also like variety. Venice is one of the few European cities I've visited where other international cuisine isn't an option.

Sorry for sounding like a typical British tourist. I'm not being fair. I did spot a nice little market near the Rialto Bridge, but as I don't have sufficient apparatus to cook fish in my hotel room, I gave their wares a miss.

Shopping gripes aside, I've had a lovely few days. Yesterday, we visited the Gallerie dell'Accademia and an exhibition on the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. Today, we went inside the Basilica di San Marco, which is beautiful. Stored amongst the relics there, I saw St George's dragon-slaying arm and St Roch's femur. It's not every day you can say that. If you did, you'd be lying.



Sunday, 20 July 2014

That Rings a Bell.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm wasted on my own audience.

A few months ago, I went for lunch with my parents. This has become a weekly occurrence of late; something I'm pleased about, as it's nice to make the effort.

On this particular occasion we'd gone to the Half Moon in Hitchin, which is one of my favourite haunts, as I like their pets. They have a springer spaniel called Moon (who appears to be stuck permanently on the setting of a sulky teenager) and a chocolate labrador called Becks (who's a little more forthcoming than her moody counterpart).

While both dogs are friendly, they show considerably more interest when you're eating. They spend most of the day moving from table to table, pestering anyone with food.

The pub kitchen is upstairs, so the cook rings a bell to alert the bar staff when a meal is ready. This is also a signal for Moon & Becks, who leap into action when they hear it. Though I'd eaten at the pub a lot in the past, this was the first time I'd noticed it.

"It's just like Pavlov's Dog," I said to my parents.

They looked at me blankly; they didn't get the reference.

It wasn't them not knowing about Pavlov's canine experiment that upset me. It was the fact that there will probably never be another time in my life when this observation would be more relevant. Sometimes, life's a shitter.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Rialto.

I'm hot. I'm very, very hot.

I wasn't too bad until lunchtime. Then I ordered a margarita pizza. This was the tipping point. Ever since then I've been bearing the brunt.

This morning we walked to the Rialto Bridge. We crossed to the other side (not in a dying sense), where we found a small market, full of fresh fish, fruit and other fings beginning with F. After stopping in a café (where I ordered my soon-to-be-regretted pizza), we decided to head back to the hotel; it was just too hot to stay out.


Seeing the bridge reminded me that I once drew a picture of it as a kid. I'm not sure what spurred me to do this; perhaps it was just after my childhood holiday to Italy. It wasn't particularly accurate - I seem to remember adding a token Leaning Tower of Pisa behind it - but all-in-all, if wasn't a bad likeness.

Today, I just took a photograph. It's much less effort.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Not-So-Easy-Jet

My honeymoon has been extended.

This wasn't by choice. Not my choice, anyway. This decision was made by the folk at Easyjet.

We came back to our hotel this afternoon to discover an email from Orange Airways to tell us that Sunday's flight had been cancelled due to a cabin crew strike. I'm not sure why they wanted to inform us of their staff's bowling ability, but whatever the reason, we couldn't get back.

Thank God we checked our email. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have known until we got the airport.

The earliest flight they could give us initially was Thursday. After a good deal of pushing on the phone, they eventually offered us one on Tuesday instead, agreeing to reimburse our additional food and accommodation costs when we get back.

Other than that, today has been nice. This morning, we ventured up the Campanile; one of the few Venetian structures visible on flying into Venice (without any undue squinting, that is).


I also ingested an outsized ice cream...


...spotted an example of cross-species volleyball...


...and a very worried-looking postbox.



Oh, and yesterday evening we went out on a gondola. It was the perfect time to do it, as it was so much cooler than during the day. The sky looked very dramatic. Take a look for yourself.



My blogs are starting to resemble Uncle Travelling Matt's postcards in Fraggle Rock. That's my niche reference for the day.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

You Can Call Me Canal.

I've come to the conclusion that Venice is v. nice.

Last night, we went for a lovely al fresco meal by one of the city's many canals. While we ate, a little girl sitting at the table next to us threw chunks of bread into the water, which were instantly engulfed by a swarm of fish. It would have been sinister if it wasn't for the picturesque setting. I was tucking into a plate of sea bass at the time, anyway, so I had the upper hand.


The hotel is ridiculously plush. Our room is like a small flat. I happened to mention we were on our honeymoon on checking in. Within minutes, they'd brought us a bottle of champagne and some fruit. I should get married more often (or say I have, at least).

In the night, I was woken by the sound of thunder. It was very dramatic. Yet there was no evidence of the heavy downpour by morning; one of the plus points of being in such a hot climate, I guess.

Today I have been mostly walking, with a little sitting, eating and drinking thrown in. It's not sort of place where you plan a route. You take each turning, hoping for the best. Sometimes you hit a dead end, sometimes you don't. The architecture everywhere is beautiful; even the dilapidated streets are lovely to look at.



A highlight of the day was visiting St Mark's Square, to pay a nod to a personal photo from the past. That piazza has seen a lot of Ephgraves through the ages.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Meeting The Venetians.

Today's blog was written in the sky. 

I'm in a plane, not up a ladder, on my way to Venice for my honeymoon. I've been looking forward to it. Although, at the same time I haven't; with all the wedding excitement, I'd almost forgotten I was going, so the holiday feels like a welcome surprise. 

This isn't my first trip to Venice. I went with my parents in the late Eighties. Despite being seven or eight at the time, I still remember it vividly. I guess this is because the city is so distinctive; there aren't many holiday destinations built almost entirely on or in water (except for the City of Atlantis, which doesn't really count). 

I remember travelling by gondola. I also recall posing for the photograph below. 


We were standing in St Mark's Square, where I'd just watched the little mechanical people who lived in the clock tower make their way out as it struck the hour. Round my neck is a toy camera, full of slides of famous Italian tourist attractions, like the Leaning Tower of Piza or Michelangelo's David, which were visible through the viewfinder. It made me feel like a Proto-David-Bailey, or would have done, if I'd been familiar with his work at this point. 

It's astounding to think that was at least twenty-five years ago. Have I been alive for long enough to say that? If you'd told the me standing there, with my pretend SLR and my not-so-pretend father, that my next visit would be with my wife-of-forty-eight-hours, I would have laughed in your face. Either that, or branded you a witch. 

In life, you never know what's around the corner. Unless you've looked up the route on Google Maps.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

More Cowbell.


The sound the till at my local chemist makes when printing a receipt is a perfect recreation in rhythm and tempo of the cowbell part to 'Hello Mary Lou' by Ricky Nelson.


I never anticipated such a niche allusion to come to light whilst queuing for some tablets. The similarity is as striking as it's unexpected. The only reasonable explanation can be that the cash register is haunted by the spirit of Ricky Nelson’s percussionist.

Or so I thought. A little internet research revealed that the drummer on the record, Ritchie Frost, is still with us. So, unless Nelson (who passed to the other side in 1985) provided the distinctive rhythmic hook himself, it’s more likely to be a coincidence.

Either that, or there was a cow standing in the queue behind me. I really should have looked.

Off the Market.

Today is more notable than most in my life: today I got married. Everything about my wedding was just as I wanted. It was understated, but right

I could go into detail about my day now, but i won't; it's too late for that. Instead, I'll share my speech. Those who know me should imagine it spoken with my voice. Those who don't can substitute it with Morgan Freeman's.

Enjoy.

Ladies and Gentleman, if I could have your attention please: I just want to say a few words. I promise to keep it brief (though Glyn will be doing half an hour of stand-up in a bit, so you can look forward to that). Firstly, I wanted to thank you all for joining us today, on a day that’s very important to me (very, very special): the day that Gemma became my first wife.

I’m delighted that Gemma agreed to be my first wife – and I very much hope that she’ll be my last. If not, it’s an expensive way to find out.

It’s lovely to be able to spend today surrounded by our close friends and family. It’s also nice to get married in such illustrious company: we have a cast member of Inspector Morse, an Olivier-Nominated actor, an artist who painted the cover of a Top Twenty album – and Glyn. Thanks for coming. Keep it up.

Gemma is one of the few people in my life that I met almost completely by fluke. It very easily could not have happened.

The first time I saw her I was in what is possibly the UK’s least romantic town: Harlow in Essex. A town that was forged in the selfsame mould as Stevenage. I was playing a gig with my band at The Square, supporting The Supernaturals. I was stood at the side of the stage when they came on, when I spotted her amongst the audience. Everyone else in the room’s attention was firmly on the band, but all I could see was her. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. It was love at first sight.  

The evening ended without me plucking up the courage to speak to her. For weeks afterwards, I regretted it. There was nothing I could do. I just had to face the fact that I would never see her again. I even wrote a song about this mystery girl that I’d never met. It was a restraining order waiting to happen.

A year later we happened to play the same venue supporting the same band when I saw her again, standing in the exact same place. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by. I gave a copy of my band’s CD with my phone number on it to one of her friends – I was a self-promoter even then – and asked them to pass it on.

Three years later we had our first date (I’m a very slow worker). We spent the evening together in a pub in Islington – and despite having never actually met in person beforewe clicked instantly. The evening just flew by. I didn’t know it but I’d met my soul mate.

We’ve been together now for nine years (as I said I’m a very, very slow worker). We went back to the same pub earlier this year, when I asked her to marry me. It felt like the right place to do it, to bookend our time together so far. I’ve never beenhappier than when she said yes (other than today, of course).

Gemma is my closest friend, my biggest supporter,my favourite person to be with - and now she’s my wife. She makes my world a better place. I love her with all my heart. I’m thankful that I spotted her across that crowded room. I don’t know what I would have done it I hadn’t.

Thank God I wasn’t playing Stevenage.



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Missing Cat

Yesterday, we took the cat to my fiancée's sister's flat, so she (the sister) can look after her (the cat) while we're away for our wedding and honeymoon (don't burgle us). I keep forgetting this, and expecting see the cat about the house. 

It's very confusing. We also have two budgies, who live in the bedroom (as pets; they're not feral). We'll usually observe a complicated airlock-like procedure to ensure our feline and feathered lodgers never meet. Millie is a housecat, so any potential exits must be kept shut. All of a sudden, the rule book has been thrown out the window (which can be left wide open afterwards, as a bonus).

More than once, I've mistaken a screwed-up cardigan for a sleeping cat. Thankfully, I've realised my mistake pretty quickly. I haven't tried to feed it, or take it to the vet. 

"Can you tell me why my cat has grown sleeves?"

It may be silly, but I miss having her about. She's excellent company. I'll always keep pets. Having life around me always lifts my mood. 

I'm sure Millie will enjoy her holiday. She'll no doubt be spoiled rotten. By the end of the week, she probably won't want to come back. By which time, I'll have formed a strong bond with the cardigan.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Crystal Maze / Meth / Myth.



One thing The Crystal Maze proved is that it's never easy to complete a task with a group of people watching from a window, shouting dubious advice.

Appearing on the show must have been an exercise in patience. I would have been just seconds into my first game before screaming at the other contestants to 'SHUT THE FUCK UP'. Either that, or I'd have crouched in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably.

Completing a brainteaser is never simplified with an audience, particularly one that insists on stating the bleeding obvious. It’s worse when you know that no-one had met before filming. They're not friends egging each other on, but strangers, hell-bent on securing an adventure holiday. It’s survival of the fittest. Weak links had to be sniffed out quickly.

(Did the winners all go on holiday together? Imagine the awkwardness.)

All that unhelpful shouting must have made it difficult to concentrate. You’d also have to blank out Richard O’Brien’s harmonica playing and constant references to ‘Mumsy’ (series 1-4), or distract yourself from trying to remember the name of the band Ed Tudor-Pole used to be in (series 5-6).

I wonder if O’Brien and Tudor-Pole ever meet up to swap Crystal Maze stories. Perhaps Murnaghan and Vine do the same about Eggheads. 

I applied to appear on the kids’ Crystal Maze Christmas Special. I never heard back. I'm still bitter.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Lost in Translation


Sometimes, you'll write something down quickly without considering how it might be interpreted out of context. My favourite example of this was spotted a few years back, whilst flicking through Glyn’s diary.

(He’d authorized my browsing by the way. I wasn’t being nosy.)

We were in the midst of planning a rehearsal schedule, when he asked me to crosscheck some dates in his diary while he popped to the loo. As I leafed through the pages, my eyes were drawn to a fortnight in July that was blank except for one entry: ‘Cock Fun Day’.

I felt the blind panic of a man who’d stumbled across something he wasn’t meant to see. The mental image those three words painted was horrendous. Setting aside time for yourself was all well and good, but this was ridiculous.

What the Hell was Cock Fun Day? The mind boggled. Was it an annual event? Whatever it was, it warranted its own title, plus a clearing of the diary for a week either side of it.

When I questioned him on the subject, his face went blank. He said he couldn’t remember what Cock Fun Day meant, which was convenient. Then suddenly it came to him (no pun intended): a colleague had invited him to an event she'd organised at The Cock Pub in Hitchin. He’d jotted it down in his diary, without considering the onanistic undercurrent.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. Last night, after we'd finished packing up Mostly Comedy, Glyn left a note on his desk at the theatre, saying “Nick money’. He either wanted to remind himself to pay a member of staff with that name, or he’s planning to carry out a criminal act.

Think of the Cock Fun Day he’ll have if he gets away with it.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Who's Been Sleeping in my Bed?


Is it me, or is this bear reclining a little too provocatively?

Flirt.

It probably is just me. I need to get out more. I don’t find it sexy, by the way, just perplexing. Why would anyone want a seductively posing ornamental bear?

She appears to be in the midst of a sultry game of single-player draughts. Why is she wearing a skirt, a necklace, but no top? This bear is pure filth.

The fact she’s wearing some clothing, rather than none at all - as she would in the wild – somehow makes it worse. A bare bear wouldn't be sinister.

All in all, it’s a confusing concept. I doubt anyone will buy it. Not at £6.50.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Chewing the Cud.


I had such a nice conversation with a barista at the Caffè Nero at King's Cross Station this morning that he gave me a discount on my drink; thus proving that it pays to be pleasant. 

Not that I talked to him for that reason. I wasn't after a cheap deal. I just like to make a connection with someone, rather than treating them as if they're not there. 
 
I used to be awful at chatting. I'm a hard-wired over-thinker. It's instinctive. I'd stand in the queue, running through the purchase I was about to make in my head, again and again. I've since realised that working to a script doesn't help; it's better to take things as they come. 

The guy at the coffee shop told me that he was a DJ, but had put gigging on hold since coming to the UK. He said he wanted to make his position at work as solid as possible before going back to his DJing. I told him that I was an actor and we compared job notes. I left the queue forgetting my loyalty card; he shouted after me so I took it. 

I'll look out for him next time I'm passing by. Nice bloke.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pictures of Lilley.


This morning, I sorted out some old clothes to put outside my flat for a charity collection. While I donated a lot, I stopped short of giving them this:

'Trendy'


In case you don't recognise him, that's the Right Honourable Peter Lilley MP. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to iron a transfer of an ex-Tory Cabinet Minister's face onto a t-shirt and keep it screwed up in a bag for six years, there's your answer. He seems to be covered in blisters. He looks like the guy in the painting in Ghostbusters II.

Terrifying.
 

I should probably explain why I have it. In 2008, Doggett & Ephgrave were asked by the Hitchin Rotary Club to do a short skit at a local event. What they wanted was very specific: a sketch based on the lesser-known Who song Pictures of Lilly featuring our MP Peter Lilley.

We might not have said yes, if we hadn’t needed to raise a fortune for our first Edinburgh Festival. Hitchin's excellent Town Centre Manager said we should see it as a chance to pester local businesses for donations. He was right.

The actual idea was clunky from the off. For a start, the song is about wanking; something we'd have to neatly sidestep if we didn’t want to cause offense. Lilley had agreed to take part, but wouldn’t be available for much rehearsal. Whatever we did would have to be simple.

A week before the show we had a burst of inspiration. We'd do it as Portakabin - a fictional experimental pop duo we’d gig as now and then - and use an idea based loosely on Bob Dylan’s iconic video for Subterranean Homesick Blues (the one with all the cue cards). Lilley could walk on at the end and tell us off for doing it.

All was fine until the night before, when I received a phone call from Lilley himself. It transpired that his team had agreed to him doing it without listening to the song. Someone in his office had finally got around to it, realised it was about masturbation and raised the alarm bell. He was understandably worried.

I did my best to reassure him. I told him that we had edited out the verses with the most overt sexual references. I also said that we wouldn’t be sending him up. Our characters were meant to be his biggest fans. If anything, the joke was on us. He put the phone down sounding reasonably convinced.

The day of the show was tense. We were meant to close the first half, but still didn’t know for sure if Lilley would turn up. We were a good forty-five minutes into the performance before he arrived with his wife. We had a brief, stilted conversation, where we explained what he had to do, then we were on.

All in all, it went well. Despite the suspect subject matter and the lack of rehearsal, the Rotary Club liked it. Peter Lilley came off as a really good sport. It certainly didn’t do his profile with his constituents any harm.

He didn’t come off so well with us. No sooner had he exited stage right than he promptly left the building. He didn’t stop to say goodbye or thank us. Needless to say, he didn't get my vote.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Not Fade Away.


I heard Buddy Holly’s version of Not Fade Away in the barbers' this morning, while waiting to for a hair cut. It instantly put me in the mood to listen to more of his work. Such is my long-lasting love for the man and his music.

Buddy’s music has been a recurring theme in my life. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to or played it (not that I was keeping tally). I toured as Buddy in Buddy Holly and The Cricketers for the best – and worst – part of seven years. Most of my actor / musician work gave a nod to it.

While I soon resented life on the road, I never grew tired of the music. I never took it for granted. Buddy was a friend I’d never met. He’d given me comfort through the years. He’d even given me a job.

Me pretending.


The warmth and purity of his voice still touches me. His tragic death still upsets me, even though it happened years before I was born.

Every night, while I waited in the wings for the MC to introduce me, I had a little moment. I’d think of him. I’d thank him. Sometimes we’d play a venue that Buddy had played himself. That was a privilege. The ghosts in the auditorium were with me.

A week today, I get married. True Love Ways will be played at the ceremony. He’ll be with me there too.

Thanks, Charles Hardin Holley. Thanks a lot.

Pretending again.