Thursday, 31 December 2015

...and in the end.


My last blog of 2015 is a cheat, because I’m running out of time, and I don’t want December to be a post short.

While I’m not a fan of Christmas, I’ve always liked New Year. I see it as a chance for a fresh start; to look back on the last twelve months and celebrate the good bits and move on from the bad. 2015 has not been without its personal challenges, but it’s also seen a lot of growth. Not in the sense of height, as I’m still the same 6’1” my Spotlight Profile tells me.


I’m going to sign off now, as I’m about to watch E.T. with my wife. I want to find out it the short-necked long-fingered feller gets home. 

Here’s to a splendid 2016. 2 + 0 + 1+ 6 = 9. Makes you think.

Short & Sweet.


I like a TV listing that cuts to the chase.


There’s no pussyfooting about there, if you pardon the pun. Anyone foolish enough to be looking for something to watch before six this morning would have been under no illusions as to what was on Channel 4 after reading that in the Radio Times. The previous sentence was longer than Id hoped, but I don’t have the same capacity for economy as the world's first listings magazine.

I’m surprised that Small Animal Hospital could stretch out the subject of an ill cat for a - get this - 45-minute television programme, though admittedly, that running time would have included adverts. I guess the show’s producers have to pad things out, now that Rolf Harris isn't available (assuming it’s related to the Animal Hospital of-similar-name).

Radio Times’ brusqueness today was in stark contrast to the most convoluted newspaper headline of all time, which - though it featured in the local press seventeen years ago - has stuck in my mind ever since. The article was about the band Fog Donkey playing Plinston Hall, and was neatly summarised as 'Fog Has Plinty to Bray About'. If you held the page up to your ear, you could actually hear the words creak.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Shaking My Fist at the Planet.


I’m starting to lose patience with the general public.

It’s worse than that: I’m starting to lose patience with everything. I frequently move out of the way to let someone pass me on the street, or hold open a door, to no acknowledgement. I step into busy roads to negotiate my way around couples who fill the entire width of a pavement without consideration of the fact that other people might be using it; far better for me to be knocked down by a car than for them to briefly walk in single file. I wouldn’t want a passer-by to think they don’t know each other (not that they could get past if they wanted to).

For a person who is reasonably laid-back, my capacity for moaning is extraordinary. I can be irritated by anything from a strangely worded / poorly enunciated TV voice-over to the shape of someone’s face. Ironically, the thing that annoys me most is myself; God, I’m an infuriating, lanky, deep-voiced git. It’s no wonder I turn to meditation to keep my anger in order.

I just want to be treated with politeness; it doesn’t take much. If you want to treat me to a trip to Euro Disney, that's even better; the last time I went was in 1993 and Phantom Manor was terrific.

David's Plague Cross.


“…and the prize for the longest running, most mucus-producing cold goes to…”

(Dramatic pause.)

“…David Ephgrave, for David Ephgrave’s Longest Running, Most Mucus-Producing Cold.”

(No-one claps. David produces mucus.) 

Being ill at the end of the year isn’t a shock; it goes with the territory. People who moan that they're suffering from low-level sicknesses, particularly on social media, are also very irritating. Though I know this, I’m still going to say it: “I’m fucking sick of this fucking cold I’ve got”.

("Language, Timothy.")

It’s isn’t even my first cold this month; it’s Cold #2. A fortnight ago, after losing and then regaining my voice, I assumed I was out of the worst. God, was I wrong. By Christmas Eve, the germs had reworked their black magic; so much so that I was back to communicating with Marcel Marceau-like gestures by the 27th of December. I may still be poorly, but I’ve mastered appearing to walk against the wind with aplomb and finesse.

The most frustrating aspect of my contamination is it has forced me to cancel a few gigs and a radio recording due to my lack of voice. I’ve also made my wife ill, meaning I have no-one to take pity on me. There's one plus side though: I'm keeping the UK’s largest producer of balsam tissues firmly in business. It wouldn't be the first time.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

School's In.


I’m looking forward to when my meditation class starts up again next week.

It’s still something I practise most days, though however regularly I do it, there comes a point when I can do with a bit of a teacher-led ‘top-up’. I find it very useful for regulating my mood and bringing myself back into the present moment; a place where my mind is often reluctant to be. I’m always planning and looking ahead, or getting caught up in the minutiae of the past, so meditating is a good way to gently steer myself back to now. It’s also good for centring myself before I perform or helping me focus on the work I need to do.

(*cough* Tax Return *cough*.)

My teacher is excellent at finding new ways to look at meditation, or reminding me of the basics. It’s surprising how often you need to be nudged towards this. The human brain is so used to flitting between multi-tasking and self-judgement that being told that this is okay and normal can come as a relief. Something about my teacher’s phraseology and approach sits particularly well with me and helps to make an internalised topic that could be hard get to grips with surprisingly easy.

The only thing I don’t like about my class is the vague approach to when it finishes. The brochure says it’s meant to end at 8:15pm when in reality it’s often closer to 9:00pm. However much I appreciate putting some time aside for reflection, I also like to eat my dinner.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Old, Older, Oldest.


A moment ago, while making a pot of coffee, I caught sight of a mug that I received as a present for my eighteenth birthday lurking at the back of the kitchen cupboard and came to the worrying realisation that this happened sixteen years ago.


My kitchen is a hotbed for such reminders. My noticeboard has an advert pinned to it that my parents placed in the local paper to mark my 21st birthday, back in 2002. Next to this, a Beatles-themed calendar celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of 'Help!', on which a photo of the band smiles back, none of whom were twenty-five when the album was released. On the adjacent wall, there’s a framed poster for the show in which I made my professional début nearly fourteen years ago. I may as well carry a device that counts down the time to my advancing middle age, reminding me of how close it is at thirty-minute intervals.


I know I’m being melodramatic; I’m not old yet. Plenty of people would scoff as they read this blog and dismiss me as a whipper-snapper; the local paper that ran my parents' advert thirteen years ago said exactly this the other week. While I’m far from applying for an OAP bus pass, it’s alarming to note how quickly time has passed. It’s when I start remarking on how young doctors look that I really have to worry.

Chrimbo Inner Ear.


I listened to tonight’s In Your Inner Ear (which we prerecorded last Monday), so I could tweet the photos we took in the studio to accompany it.

Ephgrave, Halliday and Doggett embody Christmas spirit.

I was pleased with how the show came across. It’s surprising how cohesive it sounds once the music glues together our dialogue. We sound comfortable and relaxed. It’s a better vehicle for mine and Glyn’s personality and humour than any of our other current projects as we’re pushed to the forefront, so it frustrates me that the nature of the set-up and the lack of promotion will mean very few people get to hear it.


David watches Stephen's 'weird science'.

I guess I have to enjoy it for what it is. It’s a chance to hone our radio chops, if that makes any sense. It forces us into a room together, which is difficult these days with our individual commitments. It's also been a springboard for some of my solo material, as listening back to the stories gives me a way into how they could be told in a live set-up. I just feel we have a potential that goes beyond the things we’re often involved with – and with the right people behind us, we could be more than a duo that run a good provincial comedy night / secret internet radio show.

Glyn's ball.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Fanny Craddock-Ephgrave (Leek, Bean & Potato Soup)


I’ve been called many things in my lifetime, some of them libelous, but I’ve never been called a chef.

I’d have been surprised if somebody had, if I’m honest, as my culinary knowledge is pretty limited. I’m not one of those people who tries to apply the ‘I can’t cook’ excuse, as that’s a cop-out. Anyone can do it. It’s a science. Follow a recipe and you can’t really go wrong.

(Cut to a massive house-fire.)

Despite the fact I’m not as ambitious at food preparation as I’d like to be, I do have a speciality, and that’s leek, bean and potato soup. It may only be this in that I’ve learnt the instructions – I didn’t invent them – but in a change to my usual internet bloggery, I thought I’d impart them to you (whoever you may be).

Ingedients:

·      1 tsp olive oil
·      1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
·      2 large leeks, washed and finely chopped
·      1 medium potato, peeled and diced
·      750ml vegetable stock
·      1 tin of borlotti beans, rinsed and drained

Instructions:

1.        Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Sauté the garlic and leeks for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften but not colour.
2.        Add the potato and vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
3.        Stir in the beans and serve with bread. I didn’t mention the bread.

It’s a simple as that. It’s also very tasty. Tomorrow, I’ll teach you how to whittle a bong.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good.


“It’s Christmas time…and there’s no need to be afraid.” Unless you’re playing the Ghostbusters board game, that is.


I spend the day at my sister-in-law’s flat with my mother-in-law, my wife and our friend Richard, who was kind enough to give us the game as a family gift. We settled down to play it after dinner, and like any new board game tackled on a festive occasion, it took some getting to grips with. While the design is excellent, and was clearly put together with fans’ interests at heart, the instructions are unbelievably complicated. You need the Enigma Machine to decipher them. Either that, or some sort of code-breaking degree (though I’m sure there’s no such qualification).

While it left us flummoxed for at least an hour, with Richard taking responsibility – and therefore the brunt – of the instruction manual translation, by the time we’d got our brains around it, it was a lot of fun. I would have happily played it again straight away. What’s great about it is the attention to detail, and the fact you can put the board's pieces together in a variety of formations to keep things interesting. It may not have the clarity of rules of Red Hot round on Big Break (“You’ve got to pot as many balls as you can”), but it’s a good game, good game. Sorry for the game-show catchphrase paraphrasing, but it’s late in the day.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Misnomer & Wine.


For Christmas, my wife was given a box of truffles called Chocolate Delicious that were anything but.


They were bad enough to sue the chocolatier for trade descriptions, and the person they came from for the trauma involved. What hurt most was my wife told me I could help myself, yet I resisted opening them all day while she was at work, as I didn’t think it was fair for me to be the one to do it. For eight hours they sat in my peripheral vision, taunting me with their apparent chocolate deliciousness, and all along it was a con. I was suckered in by an adjective; Barnum was right.

It wasn’t until the evening that I pierced the polythene and got my sticky fingers into the box. I went for the safest sounding flavour first: the chocolate cream. This turned out to be a grave misjudgement; replace the word ‘chocolate’ with ‘cardboard’ and you’d have a more accurate representation of the taste. It was like snacking on dust. Further exploration revealed it was the nicest of the lot. Working your way through a box of Chocolate Delicious is a depressingly bleak experience.

People must have worked on the recipes, fine-tuning them before signing them off. Did they scrape off their taste buds with a scourer first? I wouldn’t wish them on my nemesis.

24601.


I took my mum to see Les Misérables today for her birthday, because I’m a model son.

We watched it together for the first time around twenty-five years ago, with me going again with my dad on a school trip, then again with my friend Chris a few years later. It’s a musical I know my way around more than most; you don’t get a Diploma in Acting & Musical Theatre (albeit from an unaccredited drama school) without being familiar with the score. It took every ounce of my energy not to launch to my feet and do the famous ‘two steps forward, two steps back’ Les Mis walk in aisle, though I wouldn’t have got very far if I did.

Despite the familiarity, there’s no escaping how effective, good and moving the show is; it's run for thirty years for a reason. It hasn’t grown tired, or lost its impact since moving from the Palace Theatre to the smaller Queen’s Theatre down the road. It’s amazing how well Boublil & Schönberg’s book translates from French to English. I’ve never been a musical theatre fan, but then Les Mis is more of an opera than a musical; Summer Holiday, it’s not.

To top the day off, my friend Adrian (who’s Head of Sound on the show) was good enough to give us a tour of the theatre afterwards, which was really very lovely of him. My mum was quite excited to set foot on the stage. Even I got a kick out of walking past the trucks that make up the barricade and onto the revolve, though I stopped short of rolling about on it like a dying Javert. That would have sullied the atmosphere.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

'Nearly Seventy'.


I briefly met up with my mum, my dad and their friend Anne today for a quick drink to mark my mum’s seventieth birthday.

I’m sure she’ll be pleased that I've committed her age to the internet, though to be fair, she uses the line ‘I’m nearly seventy’ so often as an excuse to not do something that it’s become a running joke. I sent her a text yesterday to remind her she only had twenty-four hours left to roll out her catchphrase before it became inaccurate; I’m that kind of son.

Pushing my gentle teasing aside for a moment, my mum is one of the most youthful and active ‘nearly / actually seventy-year-olds’ I know. Her job is demanding, yet she approaches it with energy and humour, and is clearly very good at it. She’s an organiser and a problem-solver; traits I think I picked up from her myself. She’s also - dare I say it? - funny and easy to talk to. I wonder if she’ll lend me fifty quid?

I’m proud of her for all she’s achieved. I’m also grateful for her support. I just hope she comes to realise that, as cheesy as it sounds, her age is just a number – and as long as she stays dynamic and keeps on the right side of busy, save any health problems, she needn’t see this new milestone as a reason to slow down; she’s not old yet. My only caveat is I’d like her to be less competitive at board games, as that’s when her ruthless, merciless, single-minded side comes out. If you’re not on her team, you’d better run for the hills.

Rushed Radio Blog.


We prerecorded Sunday’s episode of In Your Inner Ear tonight; confusingly the show that would have been gone out last week if I hadn’t lost my voice.

The theme was Christmas, which as it will be broadcast the day after Boxing Day should still feel relevant by then. While it started much the same as our other programmes, it became increasingly haphazard as things went on, as we introduced various props and presents we’d brought along to assist proceedings. I don’t want to let out any Star Wars-style pre-show spoilers, but the fact that Stephen came armed with a small bottle of port helped to grease the wheels, so to speak. I’m pretty sure it was an amusing show, though that could be the alcohol speaking (albeit a miniature split between three).

A lot of Christmas songs were played, inevitably, though there were a few unusual selections in the playlist. Tune in this weekend to hear for yourself (though it’s best to have a glass of port at your side.)

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Seven Year Tich.


Why is part of my brain taken up with how Tich of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich spells his name, when it could be reserved for something useful?

You may wonder why this is on my mind, with good reason. Yesterday, I wrote a joke about the obscure band in a friend’s Christmas card – my references are niche – and as I did, I thought to myself, “I’m sure he doesn’t put a second T in it.”

I faltered before committing the moniker (not Monica) to paper so I could do a quick Google and, lo and behold, I was right; I know my Sixties Wiltshire-based trivia.



The strange thing is that while I’m hugely into music from the era and known to go on about it (to the irritation of everyone around me), the work of DDDBMT largely passed me by. I know little-to-nothing about them, save the formation of their excessively lettered name. I can’t help but feel that this usually useless piece of information was gleaned and stored away at the expense of something else.

I even have an inkling of what might be lost. I was watching Home Alone last night (after TichGate) - and as Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern shimmied along a rope out of Culkin's upstairs window in the hope of capturing him in his treehouse, I turned to my wife and said, “Surely they'd know that could only make them very…”

It took ten minutes to establish the word I was hunting for was ‘vulnerable’. I need to adjust my verbal priorities.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Strictly Come Tweeting (19.12.15)


Tonight saw the final Strictly Come Dancing show of 2015 – and therefore, my final evening of tweet after tweet after tweet about it.

See below for the whole shebang. I wasn’t happy with tonight's result, but what do I know about it?

6:34pm: I'm likely to tweet about #Strictly tonight. Apologies to the uninterested. Could be worse. I could be doing the dancing.

6:38pm: Katie Derham's face.

6:38pm: This happens every day at Elstree.

6:40pm: In a lock-up somewhere in Elstree, there's one of those big banners with "Daniel" written on it.

6:42pm: Katie Derham's husband's novelty suit is almost as annoying as Katie Derham.

6:44pm: Bruno said "bollocks". Tess Daly said "breast". What's the BBC coming to? @DailyMailUK

6:46pm: The Jay McGuinness School of Emotion.


6:47pm: I noticed the different My Generation bass solo, #Strictly band bassist. I noticed it.

6:50pm: Jay McGuinness' style icon.


6:51pm: Tess Daly's comfy comfy belt.

6:53pm: Why not have Paul Hollywood take over Alan Dedicoat's voice-overs?

6:57pm: Giovanni could have done his bow tie up. BBC cutbacks? @DailyMailUK

6:59pm: ...meanwhile, Craig's beard is coming along nicely.

7:01pm: 9999. My PIN.

7:05pm: Either Bruno should be wearing Kevin's tie, or Kevin should be wearing Bruno's jacket.

7:15pm: I don't normally say this, but I really enjoyed Anton's performance in that.

7:22pm: Jay & Aliona: so much sex going on there.

7:23pm: Jay did the upside down, spinny, hangy bit to stimulate hair growth.

7:24pm: I'm not really sure what was happening just then.

7:30pm: Imagine how good it would have been with Helen in the final. Just sayin'.

7:31pm: SHE'S GOING TO DANCE BLINDFOLDED? SH*T.

7:33pm: Top marks for the song edit on Fix You, Dave Arch. Top marks.

7:35pm: Lovely storytelling in Georgia & Giovanni's showdance.

7:41pm: Kellie & Kevin's showdance: bloody, bloody, bloody good.

7:44pm: I'd like to watch Kellie & Kevin's showdance again IMMEDIATELY.

7:54pm: Look, ITV: Lenny Henry's there. Oh, sorry. It's Ainsley. SORRY.

7:57pm: Who's got a mantelpiece big enough for the glitterball trophy, anyway?

9:12pm: "He's got the biggest heart in the world". One of the most overlooked health issues in the country.

9:14pm: Let's hear it one more time for Jay McGuinness.

9:20pm: "You burst my heart". One of the most overlooked health issues in the country.

9:20pm: (Monobrow.)

9:23pm: Tens all round for Georgia's last dance, I reckon. Great performance.

9:29pm: If either Kellie of Georgia win, I'll be happy. (If Kellie wins, I'll be ecstatic.)

9:30pm: Danny Dyer: unconvincing as himself.

9:47pm: "Only you can set my arse on fire". Unbelievable lyrics, Ellie Goulding. Unbelievable.

9:50pm: Don't forget the studio where #Strictly's filmed is where Jack Nicholson types 'All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy' in The Shining.

10:05pm: Oh. BOLLOCKS.


10:06pm: (Jay and Aliona's people have just booked them a hotel room.)

10:07pm: Glitterball Trophy: channelling Blue Peter.

10:09pm: ...it's like when the Tories got in, all over again (not an endorsement).