Monday, 31 August 2015

Politi-parp.


If you asked me what my favourite picture of a British Prime Minister pulling a face like they’re making a high-pitched fart noise was, after much consideration, I’d go with this:



It was hard to whittle it down to just one choice, if I’m honest. It was up against some pretty stiff competition. But if I had to pick my gaseously political photographic front-runner, I’d reluctantly - yet assuredly - point you in the direction of the photo above; the only instance in my life in which a Tory gets my vote. 

I have to admire his commitment to his pose. He's striking it with the presence and poise of an experienced world leader – but when you’re standing at a lectern in front of a Union Jack, you can’t pussyfoot about. It’s not a time to show weakness. That's why he threw in a ‘pull my finger’.

(The sound he making, incidentally, is this.)

Say what you like about David Cameron (and I'd like to offer up the phrase “Five-headed toff”), at least he’s got the human touch. He’s not afraid to stoop to the level of the general public. He's even appeared on the odd game show:


The polo shirt and pseudonym didn't fool me.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Clothing-Based Boasts.


The other day I saw a man wearing a t-shirt with ‘Awesome Dad Since 2007’ written on it. I hope his kids are eight.

If they’re older, then he clearly has a brazen attitude to his poor parenting up to that date. What happened in 2007 to bring about a change to his paternal approach? He must have had a road to Damascus moment. Either that, or he just needed a new top.

Maybe his children bought the t-shirt to acknowledge his improvement. It could act as a reminder of both how bad things were and how much better they’ve become. While he may still disappoint from time to time, at least his standards aren’t as low as they were at the turn of the century. You should have seen what was written on his t-shirt back then; the adjective wasn’t ‘awesome’, I can tell you.

What if he has more than one family? If so, do they each have corresponding shirts? Timing laundry to line up with custody would be a nightmare.

Whatever the motive behind the t-shirt may be, I suppose it could have been worse. He could have worn one of these:


Both of them make me want to vomit my own eyes out. Also, get this: no-one cares.

Chatta-Twitter Choo Choo.


I mentioned a few days ago, after using a blog-post as an excuse to collate my many tweets on the subject of buses, that I’d eventually do the same with the ones about trains. This was originally meant to be a joke, but the bus blog was so popular - forty-one views and counting - that I couldn’t ignore the interest.   

So, here it is. If you like concise commentary about public transport, you’ve come to the right place.

I derive far too much pleasure and satisfaction from being the first person off the train and through the ticket barrier.

The man sat next to me on the train who sucked his fingers after finishing his crisps made me feel like I was party to it.

Got to the station earlier than I needed to, so have taken the slow train as a 'treat'.

Woman on the train, complaining that she "Hasn't had no time to wrap anything". I need graph paper to work out the double-negatives.

The train driver just pronounced St Neots 'Stneots".

Businessman on train just said he has a 'number two in the pipeline'. Childish, but amusing.

I HOPE THE BUSINESSMAN ON THE TRAIN CONTINUES TO SPEAK AT THIS VOLUME FOR THE DURATION OF THE JOURNEY.

Everyone in this train carriage is party to the scent of my satsuma.

Man on train talking loudly to his friends about "the singer, Nick Hucknall". Annoying on many levels.

There's a man on the train who doesn't know all the words to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Woman on train: "It's bumpy, innit, on this road"

Unnecessary Overheard Question of the Day: (Child to Father): "Is that a white train?"

Discarded Fruit Gums on the train. Should I or shouldn't I?

Eating chips on the train. Feel like the worst kind of scum.

Just watched a highly-toned fitness fanatic try and fail to open a window on the train. Life-affirming.

Announcement: "We currently have no working toilets on the train; let me know if you need to go & I'll arrange a quick toilet stop at Crewe".
Someone on my train has Love Changes Everything as a ringtone. Questionable.

Strange song for a businessman to listen to on a packed train, Number 1: 'Awimbawe'.

Man sitting next to me on the train, you needn't spread your legs so wide; other people have genitalia too.

The ticket staff at King's Cross can make the word 'Sir' sound like an insult.

On a train full of people going to watch Arctic Monkeys. I'm off to see Angela Lansbury. #CultureDivide

My train has been held at Hatfield Station long enough for me to eat a four-finger Kit Kat.

Toddler (sat on mum's lap on train, as I return to my seat from the toilet): "Did that man just go for a wee?"

Sitting next to a mum reading to their small child. Quite enjoying the story.

There's a man on the train who's dressed like Colin Baker's Doctor Who.

Having just passed through it on the train, I've decided I'd now like to live in Penge. #Penge

Overheard Train Conversation of the Day (boyfriend to girlfriend): "When I saw your dad for the first time I thought 'f**king hell."

Oh, that special tension that only occurs when you realise you're sitting on a train with the wrong type of ticket. #PureFear

If you've been queueing for ages, don't wait until you reach the ticket machine to decide on your destination

Train home. Constant high-pitched note ringing in carriage. It's a top C. This means two things: (1) I might be pitch-perfect, & (2) a dick.

The inspector at Euston Station just scribbled on my ticket. BITCH.

The second carriage from the front of the 22:52 fast train from King's Cross to Cambridge smells of poo.

Me: "Does this train stop at Hertford?". Train Driver, as he steps off train: "Hopefully".

A man on the train just said "Shit" to himself. Passionately, as if he really meant it. I'm trying not to laugh at the man on the train.

There is a man staring at me on the train. He's having a really good look. Perhaps I should stare back.

A woman just got on the train at Stevenage who is the spit of Hitler. She even has the 'tache.

The guy using his binoculars on the platform at Peterborough station is either a train-spotter or a very blatant pervert.

A man just got on the train who jokingly described himself as "drunk and aggressive". Great.

When I just showed my train ticket to the inspector, I got a "Yeah" in return. The guy next to me got a "Nice". What am I doing wrong?

A man on the train keeps referring to Robert Webb as Mark Webb. Can I correct him?
On the train back from London, stopping at all the classics.

The hand dryer at Hitchin Railway Station emits the force of an asthmatic old man's breath.
 ...and the palate cleanser:
Sweetest little baby ever, on the train. Mood restored.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Animal House.


It was a clear measure of my self-control that I left Pets at Home today without a guinea pig.

It wouldn’t have been the first time I'd come out with an impromptu pet. My flat has previously acted as an ark to a pair of zebra finches and Russian dwarf hamsters, and is currently home to two budgies and a cat. I also live with my wife, but she doesn’t count as livestock, except for when we go through passport control. It's the cheapest way for her to leave the country.

I love having animals around me. They’re good for the soul. I may not take my beast appreciation as far as Brian Blessed (who lives with two thousand of them; two thousand!), but I’ll always have a pet or two around the house. They don’t ask for much, save food and attention, and they’re almost always pleased to see you. Except for cats, who often look at you with disdain, but I like to think I can see through it.

Guinea pigs are the next four-legged creature on my secret checklist. I just need a house with a garden. I’d like to own a pair called Nimoy and Shatner: one will have big ears and the other will look like Michael Myers (the character in Halloween and not the star of Wayne's World 2 and other projects).

Friday, 28 August 2015

Tweet Omnibus.


There was a man on the bus today whose sneeze sounded exactly like a police radio.

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve tweeted about buses in the past (because this transition was obvious). You’re in for a riveting ride, but feel free to press the buzzer if you want to get off.

Someone on the back of the bus just made a noise like they were dying.

I like a bus with a stop bell that perforates your eardrum.

This isn't a bus, it's a kiln.

Hot Topic on the Bus: "Do you like Murray Mints?"

Sat on a bus passing another bus on a very tight corner. "That's poor timetabling", I muttered to myself. #DullestThingEverSaid

Boy on the bus, drinking from a family-sized bottle of Coke. Bye bye teeth.

Clean up cat sick. Run for the bus. My life is non-stop glamour.

I'm waiting for a bus. See: I'm just like you.

Hoping to fit on a bus while surrounded by thousands of school kids makes me feel like I'm trying to get a lifeboat on the Titanic.

Me, standing waiting for bus: "Come on, for f**k's sake". Then turning, to see an old lady standing right next to me. #My Life

Listening to a man do a drug deal on the bus from Stevenage. Who says standards are slipping?

(1 of 2) MAN ON STREET (standing with teenager): "Do you know where to get a bus to Letchworth?" ME: "Yes, but you have to walk into town."

(2 of 2) MAN: "Are you heading into town?" ME: "Er...yes." MAN: "Could you take her?". ME: "Well...yes". AWKWARD 20-MINUTE WALK FOLLOWS.

QE2 Hospital bus gossip: 'If you walk into A&E covered in blood, they'll see you.'

It's 17.52. My bus hasn't arrived. A woman just walked past walking two Doberman; is this the replacement service?

Cretins + Public Transport ÷ Alcohol = EVEN BIGGER CRETINS

(Awkward moment when the bus you don't want stops for you.)

On a bus, stuck in traffic. Deathly silent. Deathly, deathly silent.

Waiting for a bus at a crossroads. No blues guitarist. No Devil.

Listening to conversations on the bus makes me think of the Beach Boys song 'I Just Wasn't Made for These Times'.

The bus driver really eyeballed me as he gave me my change. We 'connected'. I think we're married now.

The chavs on the bus go round and round, ALL DAY LONG.

Opened my curtains to reveal a massive Carol Vorderman emblazoned on the side of the Pride of Britain coach. Today can only get better.

Man on bus, talking loudly & confidently on mobile so we're all party to it: your conversation can't be that important; your phone is PINK.

Sticker in the window of a people-carrier, saying "my other car's a bus". No: this car is.

(1 of 2) There's a poster on my bus, advertising driver vacancies, that asks "Are you customer focused?". What does this mean? #CustomerFocused

(2 of 2) It also asks if you're passionate. Would you want a passionate bus driver?

I'd forgotten how awkward it feels to flag down a bus.

I'm on a bendy bus. It's bendy.

There was a boy at my secondary school called Daley Bus.

Join me tomorrow, for ‘Trains’.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Load of Old Bully.


Jim Bowen was only forty-four when he started presenting Bullseye.

Bowen, Series One.

Yes, you heard me right: forty-four. That’s just ten years older than me. While I’m a fan of Bowen and see him as an institution, that doesn’t mean I’d want to look like him a decade from now. If I do, my degradation rate will be similar to Walter Donovan's after drinking from the wrong grail at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

(Classic reference.)

Jim, Circa 1981

To hammer the point home, I’ve compiled a list of famous people who are the same age now as Jim Bowen was then. It’s right at the time of going to press and is pretty comprehensive. Strap in…

David Tennant,
Matt Damon,
Ewan McGregor,
Gary Barlow,
Susanna Reid,
Lisa Snowdon,
Tamzin Outhwaite,
David Walliams,
Pete Sampras,
Ethan Hawke,
Jamie Theakston,
Tess Daly,
David Coulthard,
Melinda Messenger,
Mary J Blige,
Stan Collymore,
Katy Hill,
Sarah Alexander,
Patrick Kielty,
Penny Lancaster,
Zoë Ball,
Neil Hannon,
Des’Ree,
Beth Orton,
Gail Porter,
Jeremy Edwards,
Julian Assange,
Samantha Cameron,
Michelle Gayle,
Derren Brown,

…Amanda Holden. Actually, I take it all back.

"Smell My Knees, You Mother."


For some reason, my cat is fascinated by my left knee.

Whenever she climbs onto my lap, she gives it a sniff – and not just a passing one, but a thorough going-over. She never does it with my right knee, which clearly has no allure; only my left one. It’s a little disconcerting. What is it about the left knee that draws her tiny nostrils in?

This is by no means an isolated incident. She’s sat on me twice since I started writing this, and both times she’s smelt it. I don’t know whether to be flattered or offended. My port-side patella’s scent is either pleasing or pungent. It’s hard for me to judge which, as (1) in thirty-four years I’ve never been more than a few feet away from it (as in ‘unit of measurement’, and not ‘hoof’), and (2) I’m not flexible enough to get close to it. Whatever it smells of, she seems to like it. Am I part catnip?

Perhaps I spilt something tasty on it once that she’s still picking up, but if that’s the case I’d be surprised, as I wash my jeans regularly. Either her nose knows no bounds, or I use substandard detergent. She’s literally started sniffing it again this very minute. That’s three times she’s inhaled my knee aura in the past half-hour. If I was more self-conscious it would give me a complex. Thank God I don’t come into contact with many toddlers, as they’d be at optimum height.

(This is the sort of thing you write about when it’s past midnight. I’d like to remind you that this blog is free, so you haven’t lost anything by reading it.)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Subpar Me.


Yesterday, I had my first casting for a few weeks. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I would have liked. This was due to a combination of not being on form (I have a rotten cold) and the job not being quite right for me. What pleased me most was I didn’t take this to heart.

When you’re an actor, you don’t get a lot of outside affirmation. You have to keep yourself on an even keel when things don’t go well and keep your own standards in check. A director seldom tells you when you get something right, but will give you a raft of notes when you get it wrong. Or maybe that’s just me. The psychological scales are often tipped toward the negative.

(Is that a clear analogy?)

When I left the casting suite yesterday, I didn’t ruminate about the audition (other than keeping it in mind to write this). I knew I hadn’t got the job, but I didn’t let it get to me. It helped that I somewhere to be. Not only that, I came out to an answerphone message from my agent about another audition today. It’s always good to have another opportunity in the pipeline. However it goes, I'll try to approach it with the same attitude – though it would be nice for me to not be as rubbish as I was yesterday. Don’t let it be said that I have high expectations; it's all about small steps.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Driven By Bigotry.


This morning, I was faced with the awkward situation of my favourite taxi driver going all Daily Mail on my ass. 

We were minutes into our trip to the station when the conversation turned to current affairs, including the recent suspected attempted terrorist attack in France and the destruction of the ancient temple of Baalshamin in Syria by IS. It was then that the driver (who I always liken to Tommy Saxondale) stated, "Say what you like, but most terrorists are Muslim". 

It was at this point that I felt I couldn't say what I liked, despite the fact he'd just told me I could. While I disagreed completely, and knew that he’d made a massively sweeping statement that presented a hugely blinkered view, I was also aware of the fact that he was providing me a service - and it's hard to lay into someone for being narrow-minded and then ask for a receipt.

I hate this assumption of collusion by default, particularly in a one-on-one situation like a taxi journey. It's like suddenly being confronted with a dark underbelly of society that only shows its face behind closed doors and being presumed to be a part of it. He may as well have said, “Well, we’re all white here”.

How was he to know I wasn’t a Muslim myself? I didn't have to be to still be offended. When I attempted to diffuse the atmosphere by saying “It's hard to fight terrorists as they only need to get it right once”, he responded with “And they all look the same, with their moustaches and that”.

There are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, of which a tiny fraction are extremists (a pattern repeated in almost every religion). A recent Europol survey states that 99.6% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by non-Muslim groups. The Oklahoma City bombing in ’95, the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in ’96 and the many assaults on abortion clinics and shootings in schools and shopping malls in the US are just a few examples non-Muslim motivated ‘terror’ attacks – and yet the misconception still persists. I blame constant misinformation from the right-leaning media; that, and the taxi drivers of Hitchin. Next time, I think I’ll walk.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Glass, Spider, Spider, Glass.


This was the second most popular story on the BBC News website today. Tomorrow they’ll teach us how to suck eggs.


To be fair, that’s actually a screen-grab of the foot of the article, which was a piece on how the UK's wet summer is causing giant house spiders to head indoors. It read like a plot from a B-movie, only more ‘arachnoristic’ (a term I invented myself, meaning ‘containing a greater spider-to-Jeff-Daniels ratio’). Arachnophobes around the country were probably slamming their windows, bolting their doors and brandishing their slippers with intent, after browsing the website. It’s a call to arms against the many-legged beast.

You could argue the warning was a wise move on the part of the BBC: last year, I ejected a spider from my bathroom that was so big, I was afraid to use the back door the following day for fear of reprisals. It was large enough to be included on the electoral roll. He looked like the one at the end of the TV movie 'Stephen King’s It', only less shit. Or should that be “Sh-It”? Sorry, that's the best I could manage in the circumstances.

Ch-Ch-Changes.


I’ve noticed lately, with some sadness, that my local Caffè Nero is not what it was.

It’s nothing to do with the coffee, the premises, or the way that it’s run. What’s changed is the staff. Literally. Most of the people who worked there when I used to sit in to write have moved on to pastures new. The friendly faces who would ask me how I was and what I was up to have nearly all gone. They’ve been replaced by equally amiable faces (on different bodies: they’re not the same people), but however pleasant they may be, the magic has gone. There’s no connection. What was once a refuge for a frustrated out-of-work actor and comic is now a place to pop in and out of quickly. It’s no longer my Caffè Nero; it’s just another Caffè Nero.

I’ve lost my Cheers, my Moe’s, my Queen Vic. I’m like Frasier boycotting Café Nervosa, due to Elvis Costello – except my Costello is the Costello of the past. What I’m saying is: I miss it.

In many ways, it’s a positive. The staff I used to chat to have left to pursue things they really want to do. To expect them to stay would be selfish on my part – and if I tried to enforce it, it would quickly turn into a hostage scenario. Despite knowing I'm being unreasonable, it’s a shame. They made me feel very welcome, even if they privately wondered to themselves “Is he really going to come in every day?”

Thursday, 20 August 2015

01 811 8055.


I adopted a similar dialing technique when making an appointment today that I used to use when phoning 'Going Live!' in the late 1980s.

Back then, the redial button was your invaluable companion. No sooner had you heard the stuttered beep of the engaged tone than you’d pressed one finger on the hook to hang up and another on redial to call again. This saved valuable handset-in-the-cradle / number-punching time and upped your chances of being connected. You were a step ahead of any kids whose houses still had rotary-dial phones. With one of those, you had no hope: you may as well have sent a letter to TVC.

(...though I wasn’t aware of this abbreviation back then.)

It’s only on looking back that I realise how much of my childhood was spent knelt next to the telephone table by the stairs. It’s probably why I have bad knees as an adult; I may sue Sarah Greene for personal injury. With the rise of mobile phones today, it’s so much easier. To paraphrase the ex-Tory PM Harold Macmillan out of context: children today have never had it so good.

Despite being hindered by primitive technology, in 1987, my dialling technique nearly paid off. I got through to the 'Going Live!' switchboard with a question for Roald Dahl and was waiting on the line while he was interviewed in the studio, ready to ask him direct. Unfortunately, Phillip and Sarah ran out of time before they got to me, and that put paid to the chance to speak to my favourite author. I’d have to use a ouija board now and I’m not prepared to do this.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Covert Ephgrave.


I’ve already discussed my love of overhearing snippets of conversation on this blog.

I don’t seek them out in a voyeuristic, Chuck Berry video-camera-hidden-in-a-public-toilet type way (Google it); they just tend to follow me about. I’m always catching something that sounds bizarre, amusing or mundane out of context, and then tweeting it to remember it.

It occurred to me today that, while I’ve documented some of my favourite unintentionally eavesdropped classics here before, I did it nearly two years ago. Bearing this in mind, see below for some of the best utterances I’ve accidentally monitored - and then less accidentally catalogued on Twitter - since October 2013; that’s very specific.

"No amount of money would make me work on a Sunday. Unless you offered me five hundred quid."

CHILD: "Can we see a clown?"
MUM: "No. Sorry. There are no clowns about at the moment."

"We're going to walk back to the car, have a fairly long journey - and then we can have some ham."

"The longest relationship I had at primary school was two weeks".

"The more I think about laminate flooring, the more I like it".

"I love necklaces, but I don't know what to do with necklaces."  

"He had a book by Adolf Hitler, signed by Adolf Hitler."

"Just because you can do it as an Excel spreadsheet doesn't mean you should."

"She was out all night going crazy: dancing on tables, canoeing, things like that."

"Do you want to buy the Cliff Richard calendar? He's smiling."

"The Euro's different, innit?"

"We don't often sing descant parts at the women's choir as our squeezebox only copes with simple chords."

"Did you know Marcus is circumcised? He actually is."

"No, I can't eat Dairy Milk. It's got 'dairy' in it".

“If you walk into A&E covered in blood, they'll see you.”

"When the three of us met up the other day we managed just ten minutes without talking about aircraft".

"It's all about reputation - and who's got the biggest bollocks".

"She's entitled to her opinion, but her opinion isn't right."

"The horse box costs us about £1500 a year to keep on the road legally." 

"He carried on getting the spots for at least five days."

"She was a bit wobbly, but only balance-wise."

"I struggle to understand Avril's motive for anything. What is she trying to achieve?"

"We told Tim we were lesbians and he actually believed us."

"I don't go for none of that wax shit. I just wash it and blow-dry it, then I'm done".

"Sam, stop it. We do NICE colouring in."

"I'm making a sausage & bean casserole tonight, if I can measure out the beans".

"At the end of the day, each to their own."

"Some camp men are not gay."

"I can smell kippers. Can you smell kippers?"

"The good thing about Hancock Tower is it's reinforced by a central grid structure."

"It's crescent-shaped and you can fit it in the palm of your hand."

"In years gone by, when I was a kid, they used to come up Jackman's Estate and sand it".

"Every ten years, the human body completely rejuvenates its bones."

"I wish it was next Saturday tomorrow."

"This map is shit."

"I'll see you down the alleyway in five minutes."

"At the end of the day I'm not going to miss those DVDs, am I?".

“You can do a wee without doing a poo, but you can't do a poo without doing a wee.”

"...which destroyed trampolining in this country."

I love the general public.