Monday, 31 October 2016

'University Challenged 2016/17: Volume Twelve (31.10.16)'

The overriding theme of tonight’s University Challenge for me - as my tweets will vouch for - was SOAS Edwards nauseous looking face.

Each time he found the confidence to raise his voice, he almost instantly had to hold back the contents of his stomach. To be fair, when faced with Jeremy Paxman’s trademark impatience, we’d all be the same; just ask any of the politicians he’s left in his post-Newsnight wake.

As ever, I gave tonight’s show a running Twitter commentary. Here’s what I said:

Durham Vs. SOAS (31.10.16)
8:02pm: Jeremy Paxman: so weary.

8:03pm: Because someone called Cressida WOULD come from Harrogate.

8:04pm: SOAS: Durham's parents.

8:05pm: Guillou has a slight air of shapeshifter about him.

8:06pm: Brophy's hair is thick and luxuriant.

8:07pm: SOAS's Edwards looks like a character played by Matt Smith.

8:08pm: Edwards looks like he's holding back a little sick.

8:09pm: Edwards is about to projectile vomit.

8:10pm: Holding back the bile: Edwards' post-answer face.

8:12pm: Stenner-Matthews was running so late on the day of recording, he forgot to pack his eyebrows.

8:14pm: Someone should introduce Durham's O'Connor to SOAS' Edwards: their equal edginess suggests they're made for each other.

8:15pm: Edwards looks like he's in dire need of a spittoon.

8:18pm: Edwards shouldn't have eaten that bad chicken.

8:19pm: Did Stenner-Matthews just say "sex" ?

8:19pm: Bostock is my favourite type of sealant.

8:21pm: Stenner-Matthews and Guillou are androids.

8:25pm: No-one has ever gone on #UniversityChallenge to have fun.

8:27pm: Edwards wishes he'd packed the Pepto Bismol.

8:29pm: As far as Jeremy Paxman is concerned, everyone else on the planet is tardy.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Print My Face.

I just did a some close-to-the-wire ordering of posters and flyers for the dates I’m doing at Leicester SquareTheatre next month, to make the most of a 25% discount; I’m a sucker for a bargain.

I took a bit of a calculated risk by forgoing waiting for authorization of a proof from the venue before sending it to be printed, so I wouldn’t miss out on the weekend-only deal and have to pay full price. Hopefully, this shouldn’t be a problem, as I used the right logos, kept within the specifications, and didn’t use the c-word on the artwork once; I’ll keep my fingers crossed this doesn’t lead to a massive controversy resulting me being banned from performing in London / “waitressing in Torquay” again; if it does, I’ll have to revert to my back-up job of trundle wheel adjudicator; no-one recognises a metre circumference quicker than me.

Once again, I was lucky to enlist the services of my artwork designing genius double-act-partner Glyn, who made the few small changes that were necessary to my Edinburgh flyers. See his handiwork below, then come and see the show; the second option would be the most appreciated of the two.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Strictly Come Tweeting: Week Six (29.10.16)

Tonight’s Strictly Come Dancing was a Halloween special, with costumes and make-up galore (and that was just in the Ephgrave Household.)

I tweeted along, as ever, like a teenager on their mobile during a school lunchbreak. See below for my meanderings:

6:45pm: By far the most terrifying fancy dress costume of tonight's #Strictly: the 'Tess Daly'.

6:46pm: Oh audience, you no clap in time no.

6:48pm:'s meant to be like a ghost train.

6:49pm: Is the choice of 'You Spin Me Round' for the group dance an intentional tribute or an accidental faux pas?

6:52pm: Bless Tess Daly for appearing on tonight's show before having the stitches removed for her eyebrow injury.

6:55pm: Louise Redknapp, in her VT: "This is the week I need to seriously grow some b̶a̶l̶l̶s̶ guts".

7:00pm: Kevin Clifton came to tonight's #Strictly as The Joker. Tess Daly has no idea what a joke is.

7:03pm: Judge Rinder has come to tonight's #Strictly with a Rorschach test on his face.

7:07pm: Top marks for Rinder and Oksana's make-up.

7:13pm: Be warned: the toadstools in AJ and Claudia's dance may be poisonous.

7:14pm: My favourite of Claudia and AJ's routines so far...but what do I know?

7:16pm: In tribute to Claudia's apparent wardrobe malfunction.

7:17pm: Brendan has a Rorschach test on his face too. What's with all the Rorschach tests?

7:19pm: Brendan rocking the invisible Segway.

7:22pm: Len: "You came out." (Down a shot).

7:22pm: I've got a very quick retraction.

7:28pm: Danny Mac's got his cummerbund tangled up with Oti Mabuse's dress.

7:30pm: "Danny Mac, when are you coming back?". Let's hope he does.

7:31pm: I want Craig Revel Horwood saying "I loved the appendage" as my text tone.

7:35pm: Winkleman's elixir stand-in looked like an emaciated Ronnie Wood.

7:36pm: Wanting to paint red doors black is an oft-misunderstood affliction.

7:39pm: I can't really warm to Laura. I've got no real reason to think this, but I suspect she's just the wrong side of competitive.

7:43pm: Joanne Clifton's got my teeth.

7:44pm: Ore's a great performer.

7:46pm: Ore's come as Ginger Baker.

7:54pm: Coming soon: all of Tess Daly's #Strictly jokes edited together to make one helluva bleak stand-up DVD.

7:55pm: Greg Rutherford looks good silver.

7:58pm: Claudia Winkleman's so good at her job.

8:02pm: Watching tonight's #Strictly with a cat on my lap makes me feel like Bloefeld on a quiet night in.

8:04pm: Top marks for Daisy and Aljaž's make-up.

8:06pm: Making them run up a staircase after doing their dances is like adding insult to injury.

8:09pm: My life's as awkward as a #Strictly VT.

8:11pm: I'm not quite sure what happened on BBC1 just then.

8:14pm: Ed Balls' dance was like a metaphor for the current state of the Labour Party.

8:19pm: Ed Balls: 48% / 52%.

Friday, 28 October 2016

All Things Must Pass.

As I walked into town today, I passed the former premises of my favourite bookshop, Eric T Moore, to see a builder chipping off its awning with a chisel. This made me reflect with sadness at the amount of independent businesses that have closed nearby in recent months.

Three shops have gone on the same street alone, with a number of others about the town following suit. The card shop I’d frequented for years (not wanting to fall for that Simply Clintons bullshit) shut its doors for the final time not so long ago, leaving me at a loss as to where to buy something other than the Forever Friends and comic-sans-fonted-yet-not-comic-in-content fare that's on sale everywhere else; people who once said how nice the cards I gave them were will probably now receive the selfsame design they gave me on the previous equivalent holiday; we may as well communicate by round-robin.

This is a pattern that's reflected up and down the country, as more and more small businesses struggle to compete with their multinational counterparts. It’s hard for an indie enterprise to get the same exposure as these familiarly-branded beasts, in the same way that I can’t compete with the success of Jack Whitehall (Lord love him).

Hopefully, this trend will settle down with time. Thankfully, the town where I live - Hitchin - still has plenty of individuality to speak of, though they’ll never be able to replace my once-favourite bookshop. It had been there for fifty years, I doubt I’ll even learn to read in that time-span.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

GBBO 2016: Volume Ten (26.10.16)

And so, that’s it. The last BBC series of The Great British Bake Off draws to a close, with an ending more emotional than the final shot of Blackadder Goes Forth spliced with the snowman melting to the tune of Aled Jones.

It’s sad to think it’s done, and the dream team of Mel, Sue, Paul & Mary must part (until the BBC entices the majority of them back with a different format). In the same way that Brexit means Brexit, C4 no doubt means C4. Still, it was fun while it lasted. Who knows?: maybe the move will breathe new life into the proverbial oven; we’ll have to wait and see.

Below you’ll find tonight's live tweets. I’m glad Candice won, though I did mourn the lack of Selasi. How long before he hosts a show with Nadiya? Not long, I hope.

8:01pm: Continuity Announcer: "...but who will be crowned as the winner?" (Answer: Love Productions, at £25million).

8:02pm: Andrew Eddie Red(head)mayne.

8:03pm: Paul Hollywood. Hands in pockets. Cowboy stance. YES.

8:04pm: Paul Hollywood's beard looks a computer mouse.

8:06pm: Please, God, don't let next year's Bake Off be hosted by Tess Daly.

8:07pm: Andrew: "I'm looking for stiff peaks." Aren't we all, Andrew. Aren't we all.

8:11pm: Anyone with a many-layered hairstyle like Jane's should be able to bake a well-rendered meringue crown.

8:13pm: Why isn't anyone making a meringue Westminster Abbey?

8:17pm: To match with the Coronation / Crown Jewels theme, Paul and Mary should be viewing bakers' meringues from a conveyor belt. *Tower of London reference*

8:22pm: Use Jane's head to sweep away those tricky cobwebs from the ceiling corner.

8:25pm: Jane looks like a tousled blonde Beatle.

8:28pm: Candice's inner-monologue when her Victoria sandwich was being judged: "I'll cut yer"

8:34pm: #GBBOfinal is a hairstyle masterclass, w/ Jane's 'Elton John caught in the rain', Mary's 'Thatcher', Paul's 'hard as granite" & Sue's quiff.

8:39pm: Those retro photos of Jane put me in the surprising position of seeing her present-day hair as an improvement.

8:42pm: "...and in the end, the love you take is equal to the cake you bake".

8:43pm: My money's on Candice.

8:47pm: I'm going to have Paul Hollywood saying "The taste of that sausage is fantastic" as my text tone.

8:49pm: The final will end with Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue singing 'Get Back' on the roof.

8:51pm: Who gets Paul and Mary's blue contact lenses when it's over?

8:51pm: Candice. Nailed it.

8:59pm: Congratulations Candice. Commiserations BBC.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Rubber Bobby Ball.

Right now, I should be going to bed, but instead I find myself staring at a yawningly empty page.

Despite keeping my blog up almost daily for over three years now (an anniversary that snuck by without me noticing), there will occasionally be times when I have little to say. To be honest, I’m surprised to have said so much since I began; you can’t always have something of interest to impart.

One thing that was personally notable for me last night was finding out that Bobby Vee had passed away. While I don’t know a great deal of his music outside of the obvious big hits, I actually saw him play once. It was in 1995, when I won tickets to a concert celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Paul McCartney-organised Buddy Holly Week, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, through the McCartney fan club. Looking back, it was a pretty incredible line-up, including the original Crickets, Carl Perkins and Bobby Vee, plus a surprise appearance from Macca himself, who came out to front the 1950s super group with a rendition of 'Rave On!'. For a Beatles & Holly fan like me, it was pretty exciting.

My other run-in of sorts with the singer was less direct: I understudied the part of him in the Bill Kenwright actor / muso musical ‘The Roy Orbison Story’ (a show in which I played Paul McCartney, to add a sense of full circle to proceedings). I only went 'on' once, for one night only, at Sunderland Empire. I came on in a burst of nervous energy, sang a medley of 'Rubber Ball', 'Take Good Care of My Baby' and 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes' and then buggered off; it was probably the least convincing portrayal of the man of all time, but I still did it. How many people can say they impersonated him in Sunderland, damn it?

Monday, 24 October 2016


I had a worrying moment prior to Thursday’s Mostly Comedy, when I couldn’t remember a chord to the song Glyn and I were performing that night.

This wouldn’t usually be a problem, as my musical ability is such that I’d normally be able to plug the mental gap (*smug face*), but the fact I was accompanying myself on the ukulele instead of a guitar or piano and am less familiar with its shapes, plus I'm severely out of practice, made it harder to retrieve the missing chord from the dim, dark recesses of my brain.

The bizarre thing was, I'd remembered the song perfectly when I'd rattled through it the previous day. Then something about the stress of the set-up meant that when it came to doing a sound-check, the second chord vanished from my memory; the more I tried to remember it, the further it wriggled from my grasp. This made me panic, as I was the one who wrote the song; if I'd forgotten it, there was nobody to turn to: it would be gone forever. 

My first port of call was the internet. I looked the song up on YouTube - there’s an old video of me playing it - but despite a lot of squinting, I couldn’t make out the fingering. Then, suddenly without warning, the missing chord came back; thank God for musical mercies. From now on, I won’t leave the house without some manuscript paper, a photographer and a scribe.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Strictly Come Tweeting: Week Five (22.10.16)

My God, I tweet along to the television a lot. Still, at least it keeps me out of trouble, relatively speaking.

Tonight’s Strictly didn’t really set me alight, save a couple of routines (including, strangely, two rhumbas). This didn’t stop me from giving my own running commentary to the show; who wouldn’t want to read the thoughts of an ex-Musical Theatre student with a general mistrust of Musical Theatre, and has zero dance ability? 

See below for what went from my brain to my phone to Tim Berners-Lee’s Internet.

6:37pm: I'll probably tweet about #Strictly for a bit. Sorry.

6:38pm: I've got tension in MY ballroom. It's essentially a muscle strain.

6:41pm: Tess Daly has borrowed Vanessa Feltz's hair for the evening.

6:42pm: Lesley Joseph has come as 1970s Cher.

6:44pm: Judge Rinder is wearing sparkly camouflage, thus negating the camouflage.

6:47pm: Oksana's skimpy outfit is cunningly camouflaging Judge Rinder's moves than his own camouflaged costume is.

6:48pm: Judge Rinder and Oksana were dancing on a pimped up version of the Krypton Factor's Physical Challenge set.

6:51pm: Judge Rinder, after going up the steps to Claudia: "I remembered the steps".

6:53pm: The puppet reading the terms and conditions looked like John Cooper Clarke.

6:56pm: Resisting the urge to draw a graph on Anton du Beke's trousers.

6:56pm: Tonight, Anton looks like David Cameron in drag.

6:58pm: It's time for Bruno's anaesthetic dart.

7:00pm: Each time Len Goodman says "You came out", I drink a vodka shot.

7:11pm: Only Tess Daly could make the words "Get well soon" sound insincere.

7:14pm: No dogs were harmed in the making of Anastacia and Gorka's quickstep.

7:19pm: Tess Daly's mouth: where jokes go to die.

7:23pm: I'm not rhumba fan, but Lhouise and Khevin's lhooked lhovely.

7:27pm: I once shared a train journey with a man who didn't know all the words to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

7:32pm: I'd like to watch Ed Balls do the 'flinging the woman around the floor' move with Diane Abbott.

7:42pm: Try singing Ore Oduba's name to the tune of 'I Will Always Love You'. It works.

7:49pm: Surely Daisy and Aljaž should be dancing in the dark to Dancing in the Dark.

7:54pm: Genesis told Laura she can't dance.

7:59pm: Two rhumbas in one evening that I've liked. I've changed.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Accept No Imitations.

Last night’s eighth birthday Mostly Comedy was pinch-yourself ridiculous.

Doggett, Bremner & Ephgrave at Hitchin Mostly Comedy (20.10.16); photo by Gemma Poole.

If you’d told me when we started we would eventually play host to Rory Bremner, I would never have believed you. He was one of my comedy heroes growing up (without wishing to make him feel old), who played a (John) major factor in my awareness of current affairs. It was largely thanks to his sending up of the cut-and-thrust of the news that I learnt about the key players in world politics.

While Glyn and I were hugely excited about having Rory on the bill, neither of us were prepared for just how lovely, low-key and undemanding he was. Meeting your heroes can be risky, particularly when you book them at your own event and have to shoulder responsibility for their evening. It turns out we had nothing to worry about; from the moment he arrived and we helped him park to when he left after sharing a drink and a piece of Mostly Comedy birthday cake with us and a few late-leaving members of the audience, he was the picture of modest, unassuming niceness. It was the equivalent to when Paul Daniels played the club last November, in terms of level, talent and kindness; it couldn't have been more perfect.

Rory Bremner at Hitchin Mostly Comedy (20.10.16); photo by Gemma Poole.
The whole night was a seamless way to see in our eighth anniversary. Glyn’s and my material was well-received, as was Stuart Laws’ set. It was great to have Stu back; the last time he appeared was at another of our landmark gigs, with Phill Jupitus. Bremner's set was spellbinding, and that isn't hyperbole. Glyn and I closed the first half in exactly the same way as at the first Mostly, with a rendition of Ukulele Girl; any excuse to get Glyn's grass skirt out. 

Doggett & Ephgrave, NSFW (20.10.16); photo by Gemma Poole.

What a night! Here’s to the next eight years (he says, tempting fate).

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

GBBO 2016: Volume Nine (19.10.16)

This week’s Great British Bake Off saw the exit of this series’ Mr Cool (second to Paul Hollywood, of course) Selasi.

It was a shame to see him go, as he’s one of my favourites. I’m in the slightly unusual situation this time around of not disliking any of the people who are left; there’s usually someone who gets under my skin, though thankfully, this time around, they’re all very pleasant. Selasi was the last big character though, so it’s a pity he didn’t make the final.

As ever, I tweeted along as this evening’s baking adventures unfolded. See below for what I said.

8:02pm: I wonder how many takes Mel & Sue's intro took.

8:04pm: Will the £25million fee for C4's version of #GBBO stretch to buying Paul Hollywood a pair of cufflinks?

8:07pm: "Puff the magic pastry lived by the Selasi..."

8:13pm: Jane's hair confuses me.

8:14pm: Lamination's what you need, if you want to be a puff-pastry-baker.

8:18pm: My favourite 1980s singer was Robert Palmier.

8:20pm: Running your hands through Paul Hollywood's hair would scratch off your fingerprints.

8:27pm: When #GBBO moves to C4 next year, every autumn Wednesday at 8pm, BBC1 will broadcast an hour of static.

8:31pm: Andrew's Double Entendre of the Week: "It's rather large, but it will grow more." Candice's Double Entendre of Week: "It looks huge."

8:34pm: Paul Hollywood's Double Entendre of the Week: "Let's see what it's like inside".

8:42pm: Mary Berry's Double Entendre of the Week: "This will go down the hole and the juice will drizzle down the middle."

8:55pm: According to Mary Berry, Candice is "a clever girl" (like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park).

8:57pm: Bye-le Selasi.