Star Wars A Solo Story

Hello there, I hope that you and your families are safe and well. It is a very unusual situation we still find ourselves in, I trust that you are dealing with it the best you can. I am still somehow coping with it all much better than I thought I would. I am finding plenty of things to keep myself amused and entertained. I might be going a little bit stir crazy but it is hard to say as I was quite inventive and productive before this all began.

Alan Partridge and Neil Quigley

Last Monday it was Star Wars Day, as it is every year on the 4th of May or as the Americans say May the 4th, which makes it fit much better with one of the movie franchises catchphrases and supportive salutations. I am a massive Star Wars fan, so I do always try to mark this occasion in some small way. This year I produced a video of me on a Star Destroyer pretending to be a Jedi on a fact finding missing, as you do. I assure you this is perfectly normal behaviour for a man in his forties.

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

I have watched all of the Star Wars films and enjoyed them, although the three prequels that were made in the middle not quite as much as the others. I think that is more to do with the fact that the original characters are ingrained in me from that first film I saw as a Kid, so they resonate with me more. Plus the final three were shot more in the same style as the initial trilogy. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker but fear in reality I am probably more of a Han Solo.

When I was a child I had a huge Star Wars toy collection including all the main characters, a Millennium Falcon, Jabba the Hut’s Throne, a Speeder Bike and an AT AT. I sold them all at a Car Boot Sale about ten years ago, just before they announced a new movie featuring some of the original cast. It is all in the timing, if I had waited a bit I probably could have sold it all for a lot more. But it went to a good home and let us face it I was getting a bit too old to play with it.

I own a Star Wars T-shirt with all of the main original characters on it. A few years ago there was a big Exhibition at the O2 with lots of items from the films like costumes, models and other memorabilia. It was ace. I had a brilliant time. I had never been that bothered about going to Disney World before. But now that they own the franchise and have a Star Wars themed area called Galaxy’s Edge where you can go on board the Millennium Falcon, I now have to go there!

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

I am missing the live theatre at the moment. Sadly it looks as if it may not be back-up and running in London’s West End until next year at the moment. Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming some of his shows on his YouTube Channel every Friday Night at 7pm. I have seen a few of them and while it is not the same as actually being there. It is the closest experience to it we can get at the minute. If you are a fan of musicals I would recommend watching these, they are all great to be fair.

School of Rock
School of Rock

I mentioned this last time but The National Theatre is also showing some of their productions on their YouTube Channel. Last weekend I watched their version of Frankenstein starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. There were actually two versions to choose from as they alternated the two lead parts between them. That is not only unusual but meant they both had twice as many lines to learn. I saw the performance with Jonny Lee Miller as the Monster and Benedict Cumberbatch playing Dr Frankenstein.

I am not normally a fan of horror but this is very nicely done and not too scary or gory. What I did not realise is that it is more of a story about society, perceptions, responsibility, accountability and love. Than it is a creepy and frightening play. It does really make you think and lots of the dilemmas and misconceptions that exist within it are sadly still relevant today. I found it very interesting and I am glad I watched it. The cast were great. It is well worth seeing if you have a couple of hours spare at the moment.

Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks funny take on the story.

I have just started reading Timmy Mallet’s new book. It is a diary of a cycling pilgrimage he did in memory of his brother combined with an autobiography of his life story. He has a degree in History and The History of Art therefore it also contains a lot of interesting historical facts. I discovered that the supposed mummified hand of St James, one of Jesus’s Apostles is actually at St Peters Church in Marlow, which is just down the road from me. It is also near to him to, which makes things a bit strange when you know that the final destination for his trip is to see the burial site of St James in Santiago in Spain.

The book is excellent you do get an insight into Timmy’s upbringing and career, you discover more about his love of art and history. But it is actually more than that. It is quite philosophical and inspiring. I am really enjoying reading it. I have been lucky enough to meet him a few times in the past. He is such a friendly and lovely man who is happy to chat to anyone. Yes he is a bit for want of a better word wacky but he is a really good guy. You always feel better for having run into him.

I ordered my copy directly from his website and got it personally signed with a message from the great man himself. While I was on there I noticed he also had Pinky Punky’s available, his little Mallet friend on Wacaday. At that point the big kid in me took over and I had to have one! Therefore I got myself one along with the book. When it all arrived the first thing I did was take a picture with it. In fact I also made a video pretending to be Timmy at the start of a game of Mallet’s Mallet. In my defence we have all been stuck in our homes a lot at the recently. I am really looking forward to finishing the book.

Neil Quigley

For the last couple of Tuesdays I have been hosting a Pop Quiz live on my Facebook page. I was just doing it for a bit of a laugh and to give people something to do of an evening. I delivered the questions and then the answers just leaving people at home to play along how they wanted to. They could use my scoring system of one point for every correct answer or create their own. The idea was that it was a bit of fun for people to get involved with.

I had fun writing, producing and presenting it. I called it Quigger’s Plays Pop and even made a theme tune slightly ripping off the old Chegger’s Plays Pop theme, thank you Keith. They are still available on my Facebook. Each one lasts around thirty minutes. The idea was for them to be short, sweet and amusing. I am not sure if I am going to do anymore or not. I think I might continue doing them during the rest of lock down, if people want me to.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Yesterday was 75th Anniversary VE Day. I still find it impossible to truly imagine what it would have been like to live through and be involved in the Second World War. Not to mention the feeling of joy and relief when Victory in Europe was achieved. I hope you marked the occasion in any way you could and saw fit to. We to will be able to party and celebrate when this particular situation will currently face passes, which it will.

VE Day 75th Anniversary

I am currently presenting on Saturday afternoons between 2pm- 4pm on Radio Ninesprings. It is lovely to be back on the air in the Somerset area. You can listen online at www.radioninesprings.co.uk

Neil Quigley Presenter
Neil Quigley Presenter

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil.

Home With A Phone

Hi, I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and being good responsible members of the community by following the guidelines and new rules currently in place. It is quite strange spending so much time at home at the moment. However I have settled in to it better than I thought I would. Mainly due to modern technology which like many people means I can do most of the things I need to do from the house anyway.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I appreciate not everybody has this luxury currently. I would like to thank the amazing NHS staff who are doing a tremendous job often in stressful and testing situations, we all appreciate what you are all doing for the country. Thanks of course to all the other key workers and volunteers who are helping to keep elderly and isolated people safe as well as food supplies maintained for the rest of us. These are odd times but together we can and will get through this.

I am a big supporter of the Royal Family and in particular the Queen. I think she is an amazing person. She has lived through and dealt with so much during her reign. Like most of the country I watched her one off special address to the nation. She spoke with so much authority and compassion, delivering a concise, honest and positive speech. A lot of high profile public figures could learn a lot from her. I do not know about you but I felt calm, positive and even a little bit emotional when she finished talking.

The Queen

She is of course not the only person to make additional appearances at the moment. A fairly large number of celebrities are doing either live broadcasts or home videos on social media. These range from them chatting to fans, to running quizzes, to doing exclusive live performances, to fitness classes.

In fact at the minute you can I think pretty much take any class or hobby you can think of live via various apps and social media platforms. I have resisted the urge to start my own daily Instagram videos so far, but these may start to happen in the future depending on how long the lock down continues.

Neil Quigley & Russell Brand
Neil Quigley & Russell Brand

I am a massive fan of the theatre and obviously I cannot go at the minute. A lot of theatres and production companies are starting to put out certain already recorded performances of shows online. For example The National Theatre is showing a new one every Thursday night at 7pm on their You Tube Channel. The first one was the other week. As it happened it was one that I really wanted to see when it was actually on. But sadly I missed it when it was on in London and also when it was performed at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury.

The play in question was “One Man, Two Guvnors” starring James Corden. I always like to support Buckinghamshire talent. He grew up in Hazlemere just outside High Wycombe and went to Misbourne School in Great Missenden. When I see a new play for the first time I never read anything about it. I like to be completely surprised by and oblivious to the story line. Therefore other than the title I had no idea what to expect.

It did seem a bit odd watching a full theatre show at home on my computer, but I was actually quite excited when the curtain went up and it started. It is a farce comedy play with a few musical interludes. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance. It is just silly fun with a lot of comedic set pieces. There is a plot and a story line to it, which is easy to follow and makes sense. The cast are excellent and all play their individual roles perfectly.

Personally I thought James Corden was fantastic in the lead role. It involved a lot of physical comedy, accents, audience participation and of course perfect comedy timing. It was a pretty demanding part which he truly put his own stamp on. There were some laugh out loud moments and a couple of nice unexpected twists.

It was almost three hours long, so it was a whole evening’s worth of top quality entertainment. It was not quite the same as actually being there at the theatre but at the moment it is the closest thing to it. Therefore I will definitely be watching some of their future online productions.

Neil Quigley

Last weekend I would have normally been up in Liverpool for the Grand National Festival. But it like many other events this year did not happen. However for the previous two years ITV have done a Virtual Grand National on the day before the actual race. As there was no race they moved this to the Saturday and showed it in place of what would have been the real race, if it had gone ahead.

You could bet on the virtual race but all the Book Makers agreed that all the money made from it would be donated to the NHS, which in the end was more than £2.6 Million.

Aintree Race Course

I watched it and must say the graphics and the work that went into producing it were astonishing. It looked amazing! I did have a bet on it but my horse did not win, which was totally fine as my money went to a very good cause. I am quite in to my horse racing and do follow a few jockeys and trainers on Twitter.

One of the best things about the race was the humour and jokes from the racing community. It was all computer simulation but during the race some horses and jockeys fell. The Jockeys were explaining what happened and confirming they were alright and the trainers were all doing the same with the horses. It was just a bit of light-hearted fun that led to a bit of good-natured banter, which was very amusing.

Neil Quigley and Paul Nicholls OBE

Obviously due to the current situation it is difficult to make new TV Shows as they would normally be put together. For example Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which would normally have been live with a studio audience, for the last two week’s has been them in their own homes introducing some great moments from its archive. It does give the show a very different feel but that is the only way it could have happened under the current restrictions. Luckily it was still funny and entertaining, if thirty minutes shorter than usual.

Today they return in the new already recorded before the lock down Britain’s Got Talent auditions. If you do happen to watch keep an eye out for any familiar faces you might see in the audience of any of the London auditions. You never know who you might spot. It is set to be another wild and wonderful series with a huge variety of acts of all different abilities shall we say. But rest assured I am not on the stage performing, I promise.

Britain’s Got Talent

Have I Got News For You feels very odd at the moment. The host and the panellists are all at home basically on their computers. It is fair to say some of their cameras and microphones are not really of a broadcast standard. Conversation and chat comedy does not sadly I feel work as well in this way as interaction is stunted and they spend a lot of time talking over each other. Also of course there is no studio audience to punctuate things with laughter. It is great that they are keeping it going but it does not quite work well enough for me, sadly.

The Mash Report was also produced in this way and in my opinion it worked much better as it is mostly scripted comedy. Therefore they can just record their lines individually. Then put it all back together in the edit. However again it does feel pretty odd with no audience, but there is nothing we can do about that at the minute. I almost did not recognise Nish Kumar after he had to shave his whole beard off after a home trimming incident. Television like radio is still carrying on the best it can. I still believe laughter is still one of the best kinds of medicine, even in times like these.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

After an eleven year break I have recently started doing a radio show in the Yeovil area again. My old boss at Ivel fm and Midwest Radio Steve Carpenter is now at Radio Ninesprings 104.5fm.

I am now delighted to announce that I am on the station on Saturday afternoons between 2pm- 4pm. It is great to be back on air in the Somerset area. You can listen online www.radioninesprings.co.uk

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil

The Return From Oz

Well I thought I would give you a bit of time to soak up my four part Australian adventure. I had a brilliant time there but obviously since I have returned to England things have become a little bit strange. I have certainly never experienced anything like this in my life before. The shear global scale and impact on the United Kingdom of the new Coronavirus pandemic is quite hard to comprehend.

I think personally that we have to listen to the experts and all of the people on the front line battling this thing and do as they say. There are so many mixed messages and incorrect pieces of information on the social media networks. I actually find that scarier than the actual virus. If we do what is asked of us we can all get through this thing together in the shortest possible time.

The plan at the moment is basically to try to control the number of cases in the country. In the hope that we can give the NHS a chance to give the required treatment to anybody who needs it. I appreciate staying in when you feel fine seems ridiculous but no one is exactly sure how long before symptoms show that you can transmit it. We know it spreads very quickly and is a nasty thing as it attacks the respiratory system. That as an Asthmatic is obviously something I am quite concerned about.

We just need to be sensible, follow instructions, social distance and look after each other. The aim of the game is to ease the pressure on the health service so if you or anybody you know requires their help. They will be in a position to be able to treat you in Hospital how you would expect if taken there in an emergency. If this thing continues to spread at the rate it has been they may struggle a little to achieve that, so let’s stick together and help each other out.

Stay at home if you can. If you are a key worker keep doing the brilliant job you are doing. We all really appreciate it. We can win this with a bit of common sense and some big self discipline. Stay safe and more importantly keep joking and having a laugh to.

Neil Quigley Presenter
Neil Quigley Presenter

Right that is the serious bit over but I felt I could not really ignore it and pretend that it was not happening. I would like to also point out that the things I am writing about and the things I have been to were actually a minimum of three weeks ago now before everything was cancelled. I have been closely following the government advice since it was made. Even though I find it slightly difficult to take someone who used to host Have I Got News For You and who got stuck on a Zip Wire seriously but sometimes needs must.

Neil Quigley

I went out for dinner in Berkhamsted about a month ago now. I was invited to a Turkish Restaurant there by a friend. We both wanted to have a few drinks. Initially I was going to get a taxi from where I live to Tring get the train to Berkhamsted and then do the same journey in reverse at the end of the night. However as it turned out the taxi would cost the about same amount as staying at Pendley Manor Hotel, which is within walking distance of Tring Railway Station. It seemed like a complete no-brainer to me, so a night away it was.

I had been to a few works parties and conferences at Pendley Manor but I think this was the first time that I had stayed there. It is a very regal looking building set in beautiful grounds. I cannot think of to many places where Peacocks wander around freely. I am not sure why I see that as a big selling point but for some reason I do. Once I was checked in I did the first thing I always do when I walk in to a hotel room I checked the bathroom to see if it was a shower or bath. I rarely have baths at home now so see this as a hotel room treat. It had a bath which I did take advantage of during my stay.

I walked from the hotel down to the station, which I will confess was slightly further than I thought and caught the train to Berkhamsted. It is only about an eight minute journey. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early but went in and got our table which was booked for six. My friend then arrived we ordered some wine and got the menu. It was the first time I had been to a Turkish restaurant. It is a bit like Tapas in that you order a selection of dishes to share. I must confess as a general rule like Joey from Friends I do not share food but I do make exceptions for these occasions.

Neil Quigley

The food was amazing. The variety of the dishes was fantastic. We had delicious Chicken, Lamb, Halloumi and Butternut Squash dishes. All washed down with a little more wine. I am not saying the portions were generous but it is very rare that I am too full to have dessert. It was a place called Tabure and I would certainly recommend it. When they gave us the bill my friend and I both double checked it as we thought that they had undercharged us. It was not cheap as such but I would say very reasonable for the standard and the amount of food plus the drink prices were fair to.

We left the restaurant about eight o’clock and went down the road to the Kings Arms. We were just chatting and having a few more glasses of wine when suddenly it was one in the morning and they were closing the bar. That is the sign of a good night by the way, if you can suddenly lose five hours in the same pub with no gaps in the conversation.

We said goodbye I got the train back to Tring and then strolled back to Pendley Manor for a good night’s sleep. It is a grand hotel but might be getting a little bit old now. It was a wet night and they had lots of buckets around catching water from the leaks in the roof. However it is still a nice place to stay, it has a cool look and feel to it.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Again several weeks ago now I went and saw my mate Mike Sterling do a show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Thames. I always like to catch his performances when I can. It was a bit of a mad dash to make this one as I was watching Tottenham play Wolves at the Spurs Stadium that afternoon. (Yes it was that long ago Premier League football was still being payed). I made it to the theatre about fifteen minutes before curtain up. That gave me time to order a beer before it started and the same again ready for the interval.

It was a new show he was performing for the first time. He was celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein and more. He was joined on stage by his long time friend and musical director Toby Cruse, who accompanied him on the piano. It also featured Joanne Pullen who was his “Christine” when he starred in The Phantom of The Opera. They performed versions of these great songs produced by the legendary composers and lyricists as well as explaining a bit about the history of the songs and the relationships of the people behind them.

Mike Sterling

There was also a cameo appearance at the end of the first half from the superstar that is Vince Hill. He did a few songs including the big hit song he had his version of Edelweiss, which was stunning. He is eighty-five years old but his voice, stage presence and mic control is still first class. What an amazingly talented and very lovely man. The whole show was excellent. It is a while since I have been to a concert featuring just a piano and the singers. It does produce a very raw and real feel to proceedings.

I managed as ever to catch up with Mike for a quick chat and a drink after the show at a little bash at one of the wine bars in Henley. I had a busy day the following day, so could not stay to long but it was nice to see him. I also got to have a brief conversation with Toby who had been working the hardest by far as he was playing the piano all night. He is another extremely talented and nice fella. I now look forward to seeing them both perform later in the year, when it is safe and acceptable to put such things on once again.

Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley

I had been to the Globe Theatre during their summer season in the past and always had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I also had a tour around there once I got to see everything apart from one small part as there was something going on in there.

That missing piece of the jigsaw was The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe. It is a smaller inside version of the main theatre in the same style and modelled on a venue of the same era. It is very compact, made of wood and candlelit. The room itself looks stunning!

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

I went and saw William Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew. I never studied the “Bard” at school so I am slowly getting around to seeing some of his plays in later life. The Wanamaker Playhouse is a great setting to watch these productions in to get a feel of what it might have been like seeing them the first time that they were performed. The Staff there are lovely and you can bring drinks in with you, which is handy as the first half of the play was an hour and fifty minutes long.

It is bench seating inside no individual seats so you will have to be a bit close and cosy with your fellow audience members, also there is nowhere really to stick your coats. I ended up sitting on mine. It is worth it though as it is such a lovely setting. The play was brilliant, the cast were amazing. I think it is a good sign that when the near two hour long first half ended I was like is that the interval already? The time flew by. It is a comedy so there were plenty of laughs to.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The second half was equally as good. I can also confirm for the wine connoisseurs amongst you that they serve a very nice large glass of Rioja in there. It was a wonderful evening, the show, the location and the company I was with. I would happily go back and see something else there in the future.

The night out was rightly rounded off with another drink around Baker Street before we headed home. I fear this looks like the last show I will be seeing for a while, so it was nice to go out on a high.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil

Australia Part Four Sydney Reprise

Just as I arrived at Melbourne Airport and stepped in through the double doors I got a text from Qantas telling me my flight had been cancelled. That is not ideal news to receive at five o’clock in the morning. I went and spoke to someone at the desk and discovered they had now put me on a flight an hour later than the one that I was scheduled to be on. I now had a bonus extra sixty minutes to enjoy the departures lounge, so I ordered a nice big breakfast to pass a bit of the time.

It was only another short flight back to Sydney. When I arrived and had collected my luggage I took the train to meet up again with Phil on the outskirts of the city. For the first time since I had arrived the Sun was out in Sydney. And there was a certain thing I wanted to do where the nice weather would make it more fun. Therefore I threw my suitcase in to the boot of his car and we headed straight there. The place where we were going was not far from where he lives.

You cannot make the journey all the way to Australia without seeing some of the native animals of the country. It was with that goal very much in mind that we arrived at the Koala Park. I must confess I was again possibly way more excited than I should have been for a man of my age about the joys of this attraction. We paid our entrance fee and went in.

The Koala Park

Phil had been quite a few times over the years so knew his way around the place. We started off looking at the Lizards and Turtles, before we progressed on to the Snakes. It was at this point that he reassured me that in all the years he had lived there he had not seen as many deadly snakes in his garden as you might think. He did say he had seen a few Lizards but as they are harmless I was totally fine with that.

Lizzard

I then encountered my first Wombat, although I did not get a really good look at him as predictably he was asleep in a confined space. I had my picture taken with a lovely red breasted bird called a Flaming Goliath. Yes that is kind of where Alf from Home and Away’s famous catchphrase comes from. Next we found the Dingo enclosure. That is basically a wild dog as far as I can see. David Attenborough’s job is perfectly safe from me, I think.

Neil Quigley

We also saw a Kookaburra, which is a stunning looking bird by the way. There were some Cockatoo’s on display but they are actually pretty common and I had already seen some of them in Phil’s garden and at the roadside. Next came one of the creatures you have to see if you are in Australia the Kangaroos. On the way in to the park Phil purchased some Kangaroo food.

There is a special enclosure where you can join them and feed them. They are lovely animals and in case you are wondering, yes I did get a few of them to take some food from me. That was pretty cool.

Neil Quigley

We continued the animals you would expect to see in the place tour with the Emu’s. Phil decided to feed one of them. I am not sure if you are meant to do that to be honest, but what can I say the man is a bit of a maverick. I saw an Australian Eagle to. That is quite an imposing bird but I would say friendlier looking that its American counterpart. They also had a few goats in there. Who also got some food from Phil. They were more tongue and less beak than the Emu’s. I felt it was less likely he would need any medical treatment if things went wrong here.

Emu

There was just one more animal left to see, which you really should have worked out if you can still remember the name of the place that we visited. I mean it is illegal to go to Australia and not have your picture taken with a Koala Bear, surely. This is not as easy as you may think though, as the cute little things sleep for an average of twenty hours a day. Therefore getting a photo with their eyes open can be a bit of a challenge. But I have got a picture of me and a Koala, which is something I really wanted from this trip. Result!

Neil Quigley

After I had spent a lovely morning taking pictures of lots of amazing animals at the Koala Park we went back to Phil’s place. In his garden I then ended up feeding a stunning Rainbow Lorikeet. They visit on a daily basis and he always feeds them. As they do with the two Bush Turkeys who also regularly appear. We then had a quick bite to eat. In the afternoon I went exploring the local area. I got dropped off at the local Metro station. I just went one stop down the line to visit a new shopping and entertainment centre. I had a look around some of the shops.

Neil Quigley

Then I spotted a Bavarian style bar that was doing a happy hour where beers were only five dollars each. It was a lovely and sunny afternoon, so I found myself a seat outside the bar to catch a few rays on while enjoying in the end two happy hour schooners. It was a very relaxing way to finish the afternoon. It did seem that German themed bars were pretty popular around the Sydney area for some odd reason. I then managed to find my way back to Phil’s place all by myself on the Metro and the bus, which I was pretty pleased about.

Neil Quigley

That evening we had my favourite Saturday night dish of Sausages, potatoes and beans for dinner. We then watched a bit of A-League Soccer. Enjoyed a couple of beers and then video messaged my dad. We both had a short chat to him. Technology is quite good nowadays we were on opposite sides of the world and talking to him from the future. It was Saturday night in Australia but still Saturday morning back in England. Notice I did not video call any of the family at home until the rain had stopped and I had enjoyed a few days of sun. First I needed a bit of a tan to show off.

On the Sunday which was my final full day there. Phil’s son David and his wife Helen had very kindly agreed to have dinner with me. They booked us a table at a great rooftop bar overlooking the sights of Sydney. The Meal was booked for midday. Phil and I let the train take the strain to get into the city. We got there nice and early so we walked to the pub grabbing a hot drink on route. The pub they chose was perfect and clearly a popular place as it was packed. We had a lovely lunch there with some food and a couple of beers. We were lucky with the weather as it was a hot and sunny day.

Neil Quigley

It was great to spend some time with David, Helen and their two kids and so nice of them to suggest and organise it. I really did appreciate it and had a lovely time. Phil then had to go off to see his wife Jenny, who unfortunately could not join us for dinner. After he took me for a walk along the famous Harbour Bridge first, he then let me loose on my own to spend the rest of the day just exploring Sydney. While picking up a few souvenirs to take home.

Neil Quigley

Well as soon as I was left to my own devices the first thing I decided to do was to have another beer. David suggested a place almost next door to where we were called The Australian Hotel, so I had a quick schooner there outside in the sunshine. I will be honest I possibly could have stayed there for the rest of the day, but thought I should see more of the place while I was out there.

After a little bit of sightseeing around the streets I was drawn to a pub where I could hear some live music. It was called the Fortune of War and it is Sydney’s oldest pub, therefore it would have been rude not to go in there for a beer, so I did. The place was rammed and the duo performing were great. They were doing a mixture of pop and country classics. They had the whole bar singing along. It was ace. Luckily they stopped playing about the same time that I finished my drink. That made it a lot easier to leave and continue with my tour.

Oldest Pub

Then I decided to do quite a bit of walking. Firstly I visited Darling Harbour. I had a good look all around there. It has a lot of different attractions and a seemingly endless amount of restaurants and bars. After that I continued around the coast line going back to re-visit Barangaroo, this time in the sunshine. I then found myself back in an area of the city called The Rocks known for its bars. I found one that had some live music on. I stopped there for some light refreshment or to put it another way a beer.

Neil Quigley

Once I had finished that I decided to take my final look at Circular Quay. They have quite a bit of street entertainment in that area. I stopped to watch some traditional Aboriginal music, singing and dancing for a bit. As well as housing the ferry port this area is in the middle of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. There is a bar on the waterfront between the two. As the sun was about to set I had my final Australian beer between those two famous landmarks. Having already picked my presents for home on my travels earlier I then made my way back to Phil’s place for the final time.

Street Entertainment

We had a lovely evening relaxing, chatting and spending a bit of quality time together before I had to head home the next day. My flight was around four in the afternoon, so I had to be at the airport for around one. That meant I did not have that much time really on the day of travel. I said farewell to his lovely wife Jenny and then Phil dropped me off at the airport ready for my long journey home. It was brilliant spending time with all the family out there.

Phil and Jenny looked after me so well and made the whole trip a lovely and memorable experience for me. It was also wonderful to see David and Helen and Stephanie and Michael and their children. Everybody made me feel so welcome. I would like to thank them all very much for that. I hope I was a good house guest.

Quigley Family

Once again I was not particularly looking forward to the long flight but England is my home and I do quite like the place. It was the same journey but in reverse, so first I flew to Singapore. On this leg of the journey I decided to have a bit of a Bruce Springsteen fest. I watched Blinded by the Light. It is a true story about a young man from Luton who was inspired by the Boss’s music. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character was around my age, so it reminded me of my younger days a bit. Plus it does feature what I would say is a surprise cameo from Rob Brydon.

I also watched Western Star, which is a film Bruce made about his most recent album. It is basically him performing it with a complete Orchestra in a barn on his farm. There are clips of him explaining the songs as well as some old home videos. It is fantastic, he is such a great song writer and live performer. It was a bit strange hearing him play just acoustically. But he did that for over a year on his one man Broadway show that sadly I never got to see. Needless to say both of these films passed some of the time of my journey away nicely.

When arriving back into Heathrow I had made back up the eleven hours I had lost when I originally arrived in Sydney. I left Australia Monday afternoon travelled the best part of twenty four hours and still arrived in London early on Tuesday morning. That did feel a bit odd. I collected my luggage, found my taxi and went home, bringing to a close my great Australian adventure. I had a really brilliant time. Who knows if I will ever make it back there again in the future, I would like to. I did feel pretty at home when I was out there.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and I will speak to you soon. Cheers Neil

Australia Part Three Melbourne

This time at the airport I decided to just have a light breakfast not wanting to make the same mistake as my previous flight. However for this trip my ticket did not include any food, so I had to splash out and buy my own cup of tea. The journey was also delayed slightly we were due to land at one thirty but did not arrive until after two. I had only a short amount of time in Melbourne as it was, so losing an hour was a bit annoying.

I have no idea why this is but my bag always seems to be pretty much the last one off the plane. Therefore by the time I had got my airport transfer I did not arrive at my hotel until just after four. There were a few people I actually knew in the City. The first of these was a bloke I used to work with at Wembley Stadium called Michael Cornell. He is now the owner of his own tour company in Melbourne. He met me at my hotel as soon as I had arrived and took me on a two hour walking tour around the place.

Neil Quigley and Michael Cornell

The sun was out and it was a lovely afternoon. Melbourne is a pretty vibrant and multicultural city. It has lots of high rise buildings and a fairly compact central area. We managed to do pretty much a circuit of the entire place.

Like London they have an area alongside the river known as the South Bank with lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It has a really fun feel to it. He also took me past the famous Flinders Street Station, along one of the mural filled side streets and pointed out all of the key buildings to me.

Melbourne

He then had to go and do a few bits and pieces and as it happened I was meeting someone else I knew from London for dinner. They met me outside my hotel which was the lovely The Savoy Hotel. We then walked down to the South Bank and found a nice restaurant there. In the evenings they pump music along the river which creates a great atmosphere as you stroll around. I had an excellent meal. The place we went to only used local produce so it was a pretty traditional dish that I enjoyed there.

After dinner we went for a little walk so I could take a few pictures of the City lit up for an evening. We then found this great floating bar on the river where I sampled some more of the local Australian beers. My dinner friend had to leave but Michael met us in the pub and me and him stayed on board for another beer. He then took me on a bit of a mini pub crawl through some of the bars he knew. Like all big cities there were plenty of options and I could only sample a very small cross section of them sadly.

Neil Quigley

I must confess I was happy to keep most of my Australian adventure nice and loose and generally just go with the flow. But there was one tour that I booked before I left England. When I was a child the show that used to mark the end of kids television and the start of the more grown up programmes was a Soap Opera called Neighbours.

I used to watch it every week night. At that time it featured Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce, Craig McLachlan, Anne Charleston and Stefan Dennis amongst many others of course. I once interviewed one of those stars when I was at Ivel fm in Yeovil. Sadly for me it was not Kylie Minogue but the lovely Anne Charleston who was great.

Ramsay Street

Now I have not really watched Neighbours since I was about fifteen, which I think it is fair to say was a long time ago. However I do have fond memories of Ramsay Street as I was growing up, so I thought it would be rude not to visit it. They run an official Neighbours Tour, so I secured my place on it before I had even packed for my holiday. It just felt like something that I had to do. It is always good fun looking around television studios and sets, I think. On my way to the tour I found an amazing cafe for breakfast. The menu was excellent and I had the Eggs Benedict on Sour Dough, which set me up very nicely for the day.

I met the branded Neighbours Tour Bus and our guide Kellie in the centre of Melbourne. There were about twenty of us on it in total. We then headed out on the forty minute drive to the studios. On the way Kellie was telling us a few fun facts about the show. She also dropped the bombshell that sometimes there is a meet and greet with a cast member depending on the filming schedules. As we were nearing our first destination we were treated to a selection of songs from former stars of the programme. Who had gone on to have music careers, to be fair there have been quite a lot of them over the years.

We then arrived at the complex, cleared security and got our very first taste of being around one of the world’s longest running series. We leapt out of the bus and had our picture taken with the welcome to Erinsborough sign. Next up the Tour has its own special area at the studio where there are various exhibits and photo opportunities, not to mention tea and biscuits. It was while we were here that we found out that we were getting a meet and greet. As one of the cast was very kindly giving up part of their lunch break to see us, which I thought was an extremely nice thing for them to do.

Neil Quigley

We were just tucking in to our tea and biscuits when the assistant production manager arrived with Olivia Junkeer who plays Yashvi Rebecchi in the show. She was fantastic, really smiley and fun and happy to pose for a picture with everybody. We also got the chance to ask her some questions about her career and what it was like as an actor in Neighbours. I did of course get a few questions in myself but I was a bit worried about it turning in to an interview, so I did in the end back off a little bit and give some other people a go.

She then had to dash off to finish her dinner and return to set. They do work them quite hard and are pretty strict on filming schedules. It was really lovely to meet her and you never know she could be the next Margot Robbie.

Neil Quigley and Olivia Junkeer

Sadly because they were doing a lot of interior filming we were not able to have a look around the sets. We did however get to see all the outside locations that they have at the studio complex including Lassiters, Harold’s Cafe, The Waterhole and Back Packers, as well as Paul Robinson’s and Dr Karl Kennedy’s back yard’s.

I also got to have a picture taken in Sonya’s Nursery. This section brought to a close the studio side of the tour. We all climbed back in to the bus and headed off to a road called Pinoak Court or to give it the TV name it is better known as Ramsay Street.

Neil Quigley

We turned into a fairly nondescript Australian suburbian estate until a recognisable little Cul-de-sac suddenly appeared on our left. As we parked up I could see all the fronts of the houses that I had seen the stars of Neighbours go in and out of as I was a young child watching at home in England. It was quite weird just walking around Ramsay Street.

It does attract a lot of visitors so they have a full time security guard stationed there. People do actually live in the houses so you are told to stay out of their way and of course not to trespass on their property. I did get to have my picture taken with the Ramsay Street sign outside one of those famous buildings. That was possibly the highlight of the whole tour for me.

Neil Quigley

As we were driven back to where we started in Melbourne we were given old call sheets to look at, to see the filming schedules and some of the directions for the actors. Then we were shown a DVD made to mark the show’s 30th Anniversary, although this year it is thirty-five years since Neighbours first appeared on our television screens.

It was a fun thing to do and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I am glad I did it. I was met off the bus my Michael as he had arranged for me to do another tour that I also wanted to do if possible while I was there.

Melbourne

We hopped on the Tram to take us a little closer to where we needed to be. As we had to be at the place for a set time and my Neighbours experience had overran slightly. We then got off the public transport and walked the rest of the way. As a big sports fan while I was in Melbourne I had to look around the MCG. We arrived there in time to go on the last guided tour of the day.

It is a wonderful stadium. It holds one hundred thousand people. That makes it bigger than any venues we have in the United Kingdom. It is mainly used for Australian Rules Football. Those are the matches that attract the biggest crowds. Cricket is also played there fairly often. The Australian soccer team have also played some of their World Cup Qualifiers there in the past.

Neil Quigley

The tour was great. We got to see all the different stands, including the corporate areas and their Long Room. We also saw the changing rooms and the press conference room. It has a lot of sporting history attached to it and was the main stadium when Melbourne hosted the Olympics.

The tour finishes in the Cricket museum that they have there. I would have liked to watch a game of something there, but maybe I will get chance to do that in the future.

Neil Quigley

Next to the MCG is the home of the Australian Open Tennis Finals The Rod Laver Arena. Well that is the main court there are also quite a few other courts that are used. Thanks to Michael I managed to get on one of the outside courts that is used as a practice court before the tournament starts. It would have been rude not to get a cheeky picture there, so I did. I actually fancied a game at that point but rain again stopped play.

All the sports stadiums are nearby each other. I also saw the outside of the Melbourne City FC Stadium. Then at the airport the next day I actually saw a few of the Melbourne Victory players.

Neil Quigley

I said goodbye to Michael and thanked him for showing me around. He is actually moving back to England shortly so I will be able to see him again pretty soon. I made my way back to the hotel to change my clothes before heading out for dinner. I had completely forgotten it was Valentine’s Day so when I arrived at the South Bank for food it was a lot harder finding a table at one of the restaurants than I had thought it would be. However eventually I did actually find one that had a table for one.

First I ordered another local beer which was great. All through this trip I had been trying to eat different things and have native dishes for a lot of my meals. On the menu I saw what was described as a whole Barramundi, which was curried, cooked in banana leafs and served with rice. I figured it must be a fish dish, so I thought I would give it a try. When it appears it literally is the whole fish including the eyes staring at me. The waitress puts the plate down and then says to me I will just get you a dish for the bones, I just smiled like I was expecting this without trying to look too confused.

I had never had a fish served complete in this way before. I carefully picked my way through it trying not to choke on any bones. When I got half way through I managed to lift out the head and most of its skeleton, which I was strangely proud about. Anyway I managed to eat it without dying which I suspect you have already worked out. It tasted really good, although it was hard work. I think I might I have used more calories eating it than I gained from consuming it.

Neil Quigley

After dinner I found another bar similar to the previous night that was on the waterfront. I got a beer and found a table facing the river. I had a table of four all to myself so this group of three ladies and a guy came over and asked if they could join me. I of course said yes.

They were all mates who were single on an anti-valentines night out. I had a good laugh with them and they very kindly bought me a drink, which was really nice of them. I had a really early alarm call for my flight back to Sydney the next morning, so I said goodbye to my new friends and walked back to the hotel.

Neil Quigley

I had a quick drink in the hotel bar and then headed off to bed. I was being picked up at four o’clock in the morning so I had a relatively sensible early night.

This did mean that I could not party as much as I would have liked to in Melbourne, which is a shame as it seemed like a fun place to hang out at night. I was up in plenty of time to grab a shower and check out before the car arrived to take me back to the airport for the next leg of my journey.

Neil Quigley

Part Four coming soon…………

Neil Quigley Presenter