Saturday, 31 December 2016

(Just Like) Starting Over.

So 2016 draws to a close, and what a year it’s been.

I’m not going to delve into the political upheaval of the past twelve months as, if I did, it would dominate this blog post and bring the mood down. I also won’t dwell on the sad loss of so many influential figures in the public eye; a list so long, it's very easy to miss people off.

On a personal level, the year has been mixed. The biggest step was taking my second solo show to my first solo Edinburgh Fringe. This was a huge leap of faith that was terrifying to comprehend as it drew closer, yet I came out the other side of that 24-date run largely unscathed, having genuinely enjoyed it. I can’t thank my wife and family enough for their unflinching support as I cycled in and out of confidence, and my friends (and Best Men) Glyn Doggett and Stephen Halliday for their advice, time and feedback; they’re all in my Last Will and Testament, though my estate is such that they won’t wind up with much.

Edinburgh wasn’t the only festival I encountered this year, having also taken shows to Bath and Brighton; I do love my alliterative gigs.

It hasn’t all been great. There were financial and health problems to face, that could have made it all grind to a halt. Again, my wife was my biggest support. I’m lucky to have her, and will rugby-tackle anyone who tries to take her away; I warn you, internet.

This year saw Doggett & Ephgrave’s club Mostly Comedy move to its fourth home - The Sun Hotel - to play host to thirty-three acts across thirteen dates. The roll call is ridiculous; see below for the list.

A lot of people find New Year depressing, but I don't. The fresh start may be arbitrary, but it’s easy to grasp. It’s a chance to wipe the slate clean. Here’s to 2017; let's hope Donald Trump doesn’t fuck it all up.

Friday, 30 December 2016

University Challenged at Christmas (10): Grand Final (29.12.16)

All good things must come to an end; so it was for the 1970s Briers / Kendal vehicle ‘The Good Life’, for the Libyan revolutionary Colonel Gaddafi (say it out loud), for the lesser-known Nelly Furtado song and for this year’s Christmas University Challenge.

Where will we be without my daily written commentary? Where would be, indeed. Well, essentially we'd be in the same position as we are now, only with five hours of my time and whatever-time-matches-your-reading-speed better off. Still, it kept you busy for a bit and it kept me off the street.

See below for my coverage of the final between St Hilda’s Oxford and Leeds. After that, your time’s your own. Use it wisely, my friend(s).

Leeds Vs. St Hilda's Oxford (29.12.16)
7:30pm: It's the Final (#UniversityChallenge) Countdown. 

7:31pm: Ahmed looks like a Jeff Goldblum / my-friend-Ash hybrid.

7:32 Steve Bell is what would happen if Robert Palmer swallowed Noel Edmonds.

7:33pm Daisy Dunn looks like a girl I went to college with. Just sayin'. 

7:33pm: Daisy Dunn sounds like a sex symbol in a 70s US cop drama. 

7:34pm: "Daisy Dunn Dunn, Daisy Daisy Dunn Dunn". (Sung to the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

7:35pm: A round on gaps and pauses should really have a question about Pinter.  

7:36pm: Ahmed is a picture of comfortableness and self-assurance. 

7:37pm: I had my actinides taken out to ease my sinuses. 

7:39pm: Think-tank? No; too many characters. Kitchen sink? Nope. Bugger, it's 'Kitchen' (I was so close.) 

7:40pm: I like words: I know at least ten of them (count). 

7:41pm: Caldicott, you're a psychiatrist. You should know this. 

7:44pm: "A poll of leading conductors". Surely all conductors lead?

7:46pm: I liked Bell when he wore twee jumpers whilst hosting Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. 

7:47pm: I should have known the Caryl Churchill one. 

7:48pm: Unger-Hamilton was Graham Coxon in a past life.

7:49pm: "I have a dream"; I knew the answer. 

7:49pm: “Sans teeth, Sans eyes, Sans everything”. I missed “taste”: I'm tasteless. 

7:53pm: We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel? Nope.

7:55pm: Special mention to the constantly rotating University Challenge Gobo lighting effect; I've noticed. 

7:57pm: “Pater”. I knew this. 

7:58pm: Ah, the awkward 'making them all stand at the end' bit. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

University Challenged at Christmas (9): Semi-Final Two (28.12.16)

As the festive season - and 2016 in fact - nearly draws to a close, so does my relentless coverage of the Christmas series of University Challenge.

Admittedly, I’ve not been so organised as to live-tweet every show - I do have a vague semblance of a social life - but I have been good enough to at least go through the motions as if I had, by catching up on the few episodes I missed and noting down what I would have said if I’d watched them when they were broadcast.

Some might ask why the hell I’ve done this. Those some can go to hell. This is just the sort of thing I do (plus it gives me a bit of a break from posting a prose blog every day which, as another year of doing this comes to an end, is much appreciated; it’s much easier to think in 140-character bursts.

See below for my commentary on the final semi-final (poor choice of wording) between St Anne’s and St Hilda’s Oxford; it’s a veritable roller-coaster ride, of course.

St Anne's Oxford Vs. St Hilda's Oxford (28.12.16)

7:30pm: Haley’s pronounced “Hahl”, Jeremy P? Surely Haley’s pronounced “Hey”? Cheeky Jeremy P.

7:31pm: An all-female University Challenge? Think of all those aligning periods (actually, don't). 

7:33pm: Caldicott's massive broach. 

7:34pm: Jeremy Paxman always acts like he has somewhere else to be. 

7:35pm: Paxman isn't fussy. Paxman's happy with "any human breast". 

7:36pm: (1) Palin. (2) Palin. Bugger, Idle. (3) Frenchman John Cleese. Disappointingly iffy on my Python, it seems. 

7:38pm: St Anne's Archer's jacket looks like a floral version of a collarless early-Fab Four suit. 

7:39pm: I'm a little in love with McDermid and her manner. 

7:41pm: The graphic on the map looks like a massive hot-air balloon. 

7:42pm: Based on how often they answer, I think the series final should be a Val McDermid / Paul Ross face-off (no Nicholas Cage) 

7:44pm: Heh heh. Jeremy Paxman said, “Perineum”. To a load of women too. 

7:46pm: I said Mrs Beeton; one point for me. 

7:48pm: St Anne's had better buck up. 

7:49pm: There's nothing quite like a Paxman "". 

7:53pm: The Cherry Orchard. Yes. 

7:56pm: Twenty-six minutes in = the first time Dunn spoke.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

University Challenged at Christmas (8): Semi-Final One (27.12.16)

Tonight was notable for two reasons: (1) I managed to watch and tweet along to the University Challenge Christmas special, which I keep missing and not doing ‘live’ over the last few days, and (2) for the debate that kicked off regarding the beasts on Paul Ross’ shirt.

On first glance, I was certain his outfit was covered in rams, but soon found out they were actually dogs, which was a shock to the system, as I’d never had difficulty distinguishing between the two species in the past. How will I ever be able to trust my own instincts again, when I so clearly made such a grave misstep tonight? How often to I get my creatures mixed up? Thank God I’m not a veterinary surgeon, or I’d be responsible for some terrible, terrible things.

See below for my tweets and for the clothing debate; enjoy.

Kent Vs. Leeds (27.12.16)
7:31pm: Paul Ross: such a Kent.

7:33pm: Shiulie Ghosh isn't gauche.

7:37pm: Paul Ross' shirt has a 'Ram On' it.

7:38pm: Deep Blue...something?

7:39pm: Wasn't Any Human Heart a song by Cilla Black?

7:41pm: "It's bottom, or buttocks." - Jeremy Paxman (2016)


Oh you've made me doubt (Doughty) everything.

7:45pm: Leeds' Bell looks like a weather-aged Noel Edmonds.


To me, it looks like a ram with a bulldog-like stance.

7:49pm: Unger-Hamilton came as an angora Dennis the Menace.

7:51pm: I think we have an answer to the #UniversityChallenge Paul Ross Ram / Pug / Bulldog Debate.

7:52pm: Sidney, of Sydney Opera House fame.

Thank you. Appropriately for tonight's show, 'ram with a bulldog-like stance' sounds like a dinosaur name translation.

7:55pm: Roger Tiling bloody loves his job. He bloody loves it.

7:57pm: Jeremy Paxman, irritated about his tardy dinner: "Come on. Let's have it, please".

7:59pm: Someone needs to tell Tiling his mic will pick him up perfectly.

University Challenged at Christmas (7) (26.12.16)

Today sees another Twitter summary - this time on yesterday’s festive edition of University Challenge - that was posted without the use of the aforementioned social media site, due to missing the episode’s broadcast.

See below for what I'd have cattily posted, had I been watching the show when it went out (which is ironic, as it was compiled whilst cuddling and fussing over a neighbour’s ridiculous cat).

How’s that for a back-story? 

Bristol Vs. Nottingham (26.12.16)

6:22pm: When it's cold, Kate prefers to sleep with the Quilton. 
6:24pm: Hawkins looks like he’s enjoyed the odd Early Breakfast. 
6:25pm: Spalding's sporting a Murray mint necklace. 
6:26: “You stunted fir”: a great insult. 
6:27pm: I enjoyed Hutton's evil post- Frankenstein laugh. 
6:28pm: Krestovnikoff / Krestovnikon. 
6:29pm: This show's a lot less fun with real, well-rounded adults.
6:30pm: The answer’s Pet Sounds. 
6:31pm: Bob Dylan. Blonde on Blonde. 
6:31pm: It’s by Simon and Garfunkel; I don't know the album title.
6:32pm: It’s The Beatles’ Revolver. How could Tomorrow Never Knows be on a pop album like A Hard Day’s Night? Ridiculous.
6:32pm: “’Cos I’m the Paxman. Yeah, I’m the Paxman…and you’re working for no-one but the BBC.”
6:35pm Which impressionist? Rory Bremner?
6:36pm: Monet Monet Monet.
6:36pm: Thunderbyrds Are Go! with the rock band The Byrds.
6:36pm: Joe 90
6:37pm: Something in the early 60s.
6:38pm: Clearly Captain Scarlet; I know my Supermarionation.
6:40pm: If Hutton listened to Myerson, rather than plainly blanking her, they’d do better.
6:40pm: Hutton’s a rude dick.
6:45pm: That's clearly Edinburgh. 
6:46pm: Paxman, chastising a late dinner: “Come on. Let's have it, please”.
6:47pm: Hutton’s more rudely dismissive than Paxman.

Monday, 26 December 2016

University Challenged at Christmas (6) (25.12.16)

In my keenness to cover yesterday’s Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special on Twitter, I neglected to do the same with the same day’s Christmas University Challenge.

As with Friday’s show, which I missed when it went out and then covered in a iPlayer-and -smart-phone faux-Twitter simulation, I watched my forgotten episode today (see below). It seems my last blogs of 2016 will be mostly tweet summaries, which is a laidback way to round things off; next year, I’ll post just a single word here a day.

Magdalene - Cambridge Vs. St Hilda's - Oxford (25.12.16)
6:45pm If you’re lucky, I'll show you my distinguished alumni.

6:46pm: Note Paxman gave Patrick Moore the prefix 'popular’, while Brian May was just 'Queen guitarist'. 

6:47pm: Film producer Newell doesn't look very happy about it. 

6:47pm: "Clemency". Of course.

6:48pm: Imagine how high pitched a Jimmy Somerville college would be.

6:50pm Geras: member of a ‘local’ team for ‘local’ people. 

6:51pm: Caldicott's hair is like an unkempt Father Ted. 

6:54pm: Someone's been at that poem with Tipp-Ex. 

6:55pm: Paxman described the poem mash-up question in a similar way to Partridge’s World Cup draw system in The Day Today. 

6:56pm: Anna Karenina always sounds like an exclamation. 
6:57pm: Nick Hornby?

6:57pm. Not Nick Hornby. Bugger. 

6:58pm: Geras' necklace is made from humbugs.

7:00pm: The Gift of the Gorgon was by Peter Shaffer. I knew this. 

7:00pm: Black Comedy. I knew this too. 

7:00pm: Sleuth. I knew this too. I know my Peter Shaffer. 

7:01pm: Was it Little Wing? 

7:01pm. Not Little Wing. Shit. Seems I know my Shaffer better than my Hendrix. 

7:03pm: Gentleman Prefer Blondes. I know my Marilyn Monroe better than my Hendrix and nearly as well as my Peter Shaffer.

7:04pm: West Side Story. I forget the name of the actress. 

7:04pm: Newell should tell his face. 

7:05pm: Fairytale of New York. 

7:06pm: East 17: my favourite boy band / postcode. 

7:08pm: McDermid correcting Paxman. Few would dare. 

7:09pm: Which ruler? A metre ruler. 

7:10pm St Hilda's have 200 points. Wowser. 

7:12pm: Mark Gattis. 

7:12pm: Wolff looks like a Nazi war criminal. 

7:13pm: Well, now Newell’s all laidback.

Strictly Come Christmas.

So, once again, Christmas has come and gone, bringing mountains of food with it.

While I ended up missing most of the Chrimbo telly, I did manage to catch the Strictly special, which made for an enjoyable break from my one-man mission to bring on obesity. As ever, I tweeted along with proceedings. See below for he gritty details.
6:51pm: I bet this is prerecorded.

6:53pm: Another trophy made in the Blue Peter studio.

6:55pm: What you don't realise is they took the Christmas tree to that care home in August.

6:56pm: Neckless Harriott.

6:57pm: Ainsley's medication has just kicked in.

6:58pm: Ainsley Harriott: never has a celeb warranted a "You came out" from Len Goodman.

6:59pm: Craig got the short straw when it came to costumes.

7:01pm: Pigs in Blankets: "Comedy".

7:05pm: Gethin has good posture...but what do I know?

7:07pm: Gethin's outfit reminds me of @glyndoggett as Buttons.

7:09pm: "@glyndoggett was thinking that same thing." They must have been so confused, the poor old dears. "But I'm sure it's Summer." "No, Phyllis. It ISN'T."

7:10pm: "I love a choir at Christmas." Tess Daly couldn't have sounded more insincere...and that's saying something.

7:13pm: Pamela Stephenson came from the same egg as Monty Python's Carol Cleveland.

7:15pm: ...Darcey Bussell's aged.

7:17pm: I don't have the heart to tell my mum her TV's on the wrong aspect ratio.

7:19pm: Loving Craig Revel Horwood's blond highlights in the flashbacks.

7:21pm: The plus side to my mum having her telly on the wrong aspect ratio is it makes Anton du Beke's face look less long.

7:23pm: Anton's hair dye is the same colour as a Heather Mills-era Macca.

7:32pm: I'm compact and perky too.

7:33pm: Tess loves a happy ending; INSERT YOUR OWN PUNCHLINE HERE.

7:33pm: Perfect 10 (like the song).

7:35pm: They should have got @gempoole to write the script for this; she's a dab hand at cheese jokes.

7:37pm: Frozen came out before I was born.

7:38pm: 'Deep Freeze: some things are better left FROZEN'

7:40pm: That song reiterated to me that I needn't watch Frozen, ever.

7:41pm: I've got a seamless exit.

7:44pm: I do love Ainsley's Harriott, but there's a definite shade of Fester Addams about him.

7:45pm: Tess Daly's hair is the same colour as her face.

7:47pm: Admiring the sparkly wedge Matt Goss is using for foldback.

7:49pm: Why did they paint on Ainsley's mask?

7:54pm: I missed the dance that won as I was in the loo.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

University Challenged at Christmas (5) (23.12.16)

While I missed yesterday’s University Challenge, the completest in me couldn’t leave it at that.

You can’t tweet along to every other show in the Christmas series and leave one out; well, you can’t if you’re me. So instead, I decided to watch it on iPlayer, documenting what I would have blurted on Twitter had I seen it when it went out. See below for what might have been...

Edinburgh Vs. St Catharine's - Cambridge (23.12.16)
7:01pm: The university of Clark Kent. 

7:02pm: The name Cockburn: no comment. 

7:04pm: Next to these people, I've achieved ZILCH.

7:04pm: Ears.

7:06pm: "Teaching fellow,” as in "Teaching chap"?

7:06pm: Wothers Originals.

7:07pm: I had a Stirling Cockburn once; my GP referred me to a specialist, because it hurt when I Pidd.

7:08pm: I said Chrysler Building too; I'm a genius. 

7:09pm: The red mark on the French map looks like a Gorbachev tribute.

7:12pm: "Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred…” Rent fans.

7:13pm: Manchester? London surely
7:14pm: Fezziwig wasn't fuzzy, was he?

7:14pm: Hot piss.

7:15pm: That sounded like Grieg, arranged for orchestra hit.

7:16pm: Roger Tiling decorated the studio tree while Jeremy Paxman looked on disdainfully.

7:18pm: Paxo's in far too good a mood for my liking. 

7:21pm: The answer's Brecht; again, I'm a genius.

7:22pm: John Houston, we have a problem. 

7:23pm: That's Susan Hill and The Woman in Black. Not funny, just fact. 

7:24pm: If this is Confucius, am I confusing you?
7:25pm: Wothers is a poor man's Henning Wehn.