Australia Part One Sydney

In nineteen-ninety a film called “Quigley Down Under” was released starring Tom Selleck. I received a little bit of ribbing about it, mainly due to the fact I think that was the first time my name had been used in anything relating to the arts. I must state now however that I have never watched the film. This possibly highlights my lack of ability to watch them, as I could not even motivate myself to see one that had my surname in its title. But as remakes are now very fashionable out in Hollywood I decided this year I would create my own version.

Neil Quigley is ready for Australia
Neil Quigley is ready for Australia

I have some family who live in Sydney and have done so now for a long time. I have seen them at various times over the years, when they had been visiting England. For their last couple of visits I had been saying to them that I would like to go and experience Australia for myself, making the trip to see them for a change. The plans just kind of fell in to place for me to be able to achieve this aim recently. It worked out that I had a couple of free weeks available during the football winter break, so I booked the trip last November.

I will be honest I found the thought of being on a plane for just under twenty-four hours pretty daunting. My previous longest flight had been a mere twelve hours and this journey would be nearly double that. But if you want to go and explore the other side of the world it is what you have to do. I arrived at Heathrow Terminal Five nice and early for my British Airways flight. I checked in, cleared security, had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant there and then got a pint in. I do not normally drink before flying but I hoped that one might help me get some sleep on the plane.

Having got myself psyched up to spend a whole day in the sky I took my seat on the air craft. Just as we had made are way to the runway and were about to take off, sadly someone was taken ill and we had to return to the gate. Thankfully they were fine and were met by the medical staff. However it did mean the flight was delayed by around two hours, which did mean I had an extra one hundred and twenty minutes on the plane on top of what was already quite a long stint. There was a stop-over in Singapore to refuel the plane. Then it was back on board for the remaining seven and an half hours to Sydney.

I did manage to get some sleep during the journey. I also watched a couple episodes of Fawlty Towers, Friends, Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory. As I was literally a captive audience I did unusually for me actually see a film. I watched the new Judy Garland biopic called simply “Judy”. The movie itself was pretty average it did not really have much of a story line or tell me anything I did not already know. But Renee Zellweger was sensational in the title role, portraying the icon perfectly. I can totally see why she won the Best Actress Oscar for this role, she was fantastic!

I landed in Sydney, Australia at seven o’clock in the morning, only an hour later than planned in the end. My dad’s cousin Phil very kindly met me at the airport. It was great to see a familiar and friendly face after travelling all that way. We hopped straight on the train and in to the heart of the city. Within an hour of arriving I found myself in a coffee shop between the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
They both look so distinctive. It is an almost magical view. What an entrance to a place from the water. The first thing you see when you sail in on one of the many huge Cruise Liners that seem to dock at the port daily.

Sydney

I had a bit of a look inside the legendary music venue. We then had a walk around the Quay area before we went back to Phil’s place, so I could get rid of my luggage and settle into his home, where he and his wife Jenny were very kindly letting me stay while I was in town. They live in a suburb about forty five minutes outside of Sydney. It is in a lovely area.

He took me out for lunch at a local members club, he belonged to. There I had my first taste of some real Australian beer and food. Both of which were excellent. I must at this point concede that the weather was not what I was hoping for. I had been looking for some winter sun and normally this would be a safe bet. But I had arrived during four days of forecast heavy rain.

Sydney

On the way back from lunch he took me for a drive around a totally breath taking gorge. The sights were amazing. Mother Nature is quite simply astonishing sometimes. One of things it took me time to get my head around is that some of the Australian trees not only shred their leaves but shed their bark, which of course is something I have now discovered was also fuelling the bush fires.

When we got back “home” another surprise was waiting for me. The wild birds are amazing there, the colours are spectacular. My favourites were the Rainbow Lorikeets but I also saw Cockatoo’s roaming free. Also a Bush Turkey was a regular visitor in the garden.

Sydney

After a great night’s sleep in the guest suite it was time for my first full day of exploring. Sadly the weather was wetter than it had been the day before. But undeterred Phil had a fantastic day for me lined up. We got the bus into Sydney in the morning. Firstly he took me to see some of the many Quays, then for a walk around a coastal area called Barangaroo. This led us past one of the oldest existing houses in the city to the Ferry Wharf. He was taking me across the water to see a place called Manly Beach. Sadly it was not a day for sunbathing but the promise of a nice pub lunch overlooking the harbour there sounded very appealing to me still.

I am not saying it was a bit of a rough crossing but I am sure the boat was almost sideways at some points. You do get to sail out and then back in between the Harbour Bridge and The Opera House though, which is quite something. It is a very pleasant forty-minute journey. On arrival we made our way to said pub. I sampled yet another local beer which was again lovely. As I was keen to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible I had an Australian Burger for dinner. As far as I can tell that is basically a normal burger with some beetroot thrown in.

Sydney

After lunch we did have a walk to Manly Beach, which looked great. But owing to the fact it was still hammering it down with rain I did decide not to go in for a paddle in the sea. We got the ferry back to Sydney Harbour before getting the train back “home”. We had a nice relaxing evening chatting over dinner with a few glasses of wine and a couple of glasses of a very nice port just to round things off.

We also watched a bit of A-League football on the television. Phil is a season ticket holder with Sydney FC. He had managed to get me a ticket to the Sydney derby that weekend, although due to the rain the game was under threat.

Manly Beach

As it turned out while I was over Phil’s son David and his wife Helen were throwing a first birthday party for their son. I had seen David a few times over the years. When we were kids we played football one afternoon in England. That turned in to a match between Quigley’s and the rest of the world. I am pretty sure we won. The last time I had seen him was when he visited the UK after the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

He and his wife very generously let me gate crash the do. They have a lovely house on the outskirts of Sydney. It was a morning affair. As a result of which I ended up drinking a few glasses of Prosecco from ten-thirty on a Saturday morning, which I think is a great way to kick start the weekend. I blame David and Helen’s friend Debs who was I must say very good at keeping people’s glasses topped up. All their friends chipped in to help out with everything. That was great to see and shows what a wonderful group of people they all are.

It was nice to catch up with the whole Australian family in one go. I managed to see Phil’s daughter Stephanie and her husband Michael both of whom I had met before. Like David and Helen they also have two children of similar ages, it was lovely to see all the generations of cousins getting along so well. I was also able to meet some of Jenny’s family to, which was really nice. In fact everybody there was so friendly and easy to chat to. It was a lovely party with some very nice birthday cake, which tasted great despite the birthday boy literally putting his foot in it.

Sydney Familiy

It was while we were at the party that we found out that the Sydney Derby had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. It had not stopped raining since I set foot in Australia. It was a real shame as I was looking forward to sampling my first taste of A-League action. It would have been great to go to the football with Phil. To make up for it he took me on a bit of a sports stadium adventure.

We went to the Olympic Stadium the ANZ Stadium. While I was there I got to see the flame from the 2000 Sydney Games. We also looked at the list of the volunteers who helped out with the games which did include a familiar name on there. On the way back to his place we stopped off to have a look at the new stadium for the other Sydney team Western Sydney. That night we went out to a local pub for a great meal, I had the world’s largest pizza and sampled a few more of the local ales. That once again did not disappoint, they tasted great.

Sydney

As I woke up on my fourth day in Sydney the city was expecting its worse storms since nineteen ninety-eight. Therefore we decided it was the perfect day to visit the legendary Bondi Beach. Before we even left the house a large part of a tree had blown down and fallen in to the garden. The rain was also the heaviest it had been all week.

I had really wanted to go to Bondi and in my head before I made the trip I imagined a bit of sun bathing on the beach then some mocked up pictures of me surfing. However what I got was some pictures of me in the car park overlooking the beach, while the rain continued to fall.

Bondi Beach

Sensibly we then decided the best plan of action for a day like this was to find a pub in which to have a few drinks and some food. Just across the road from the beach was the Bondi Beach Bar. We spent a couple hours in there having a beer or two and a nice meal. I was off to the Gold Coast the next day.

My flight was early in the morning so I had booked a cheap hotel at the airport for the night. On the way to my accommodation Jenny gave me a bit of a tour around the coastal areas and showed me some buildings that featured in her past. Even in the rain some of the views were stunning.

Bondi Beach Bar

They dropped me at the hotel the rain still lashing down and the wind blowing. I checked in and went up to my room. I was watching a bit of television and wondering what to do for the evening when all the power went off. It had just got dark and there was not much to do with no electricity, so I just went to bed.

The power came back on at about eleven thirty. I know this, as I had left the TV and the lights on so they all sprang back in to life. I was up early to catch a flight to the Gold Coast for the next stage of my Australian adventure.

Part Two coming soon……….

Entertainment Mask

The longest month of the year is now over. Although it has the same amount of days as March, May, July, August, October and December. January does always seem to drag a little bit. It may be as a result of a post festive season lull, the fact that it still gets dark pretty early or because a lot of people are on health or fitness drives during it. If you are not drinking alcohol or eating meat that could make the days go by more slowly, I guess. I have by my standards had a fairly low key start to 2020.

I did manage to complete my own mini health challenge. I succeeded in going the whole month without eating any bread, cheese or crisps. As part of this I did step up my daily exercise routine slightly, adding in a few extra routines and extending the time of some sessions. This sacrifice did not make any massive difference to how I felt or looked. But I have toned up a little bit, which was the plan and my reason for doing it. I am really looking forward to a cheese and crisp sandwich.

My plan to only drink on nights out that were already booked in my diary did not go quite as well. I think I ended up having at least one alcoholic drink on five more occasions than I was planning to during the month. In my defence, if you cannot enjoy an impromptu drink with some friends, what is the world coming to? I never said I was doing dry January. It was always going to be more of a damp one. Normal service will now be resumed for the rest of the year.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I got a lovely mention on the Early Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 recently. Nicki Chapman was sitting in for Vanessa Feltz at fairly late notice. It just happened to be her birthday. She was asking for weird ways people had spent their special day in the past. Many years ago when I was working at Ivel fm in Yeovil I ended up doing a gig with the Drifters on my birthday. It was for a Christmas Party Night at The Westlands Leisure Complex. The guests had a sit down three course meal. I was the DJ for the evening and the Drifters were the group.

BBC Radio
BBC Radio

Therefore I spent most of the evening hanging out backstage with the band. I went on first and did half an hour or so to get the crowd warmed up. I then got to introduce the legends on to the stage. They were as you would imagine brilliant. I had a wonderful time watching them from the wings. They did all their big hits, naturally. When their set was over I came back on and finished the night off, so technically I headlined for The Drifters.

It was a great way to spend my birthday, it was great fun! Anyway that is the story I sent her, which she then read out. I have been on the radio myself for years but I will be honest I still get a huge thrill from hearing my name read out on air. It was nice to at last make my Radio 2 debut as well. I will forgive you if you missed it as it was on the wireless just after five o’clock in the morning. It does just go to show though you never know where I am going to pop up next.

Sarah Parish started the Neil Quigley Fan Club

For my birthday this year my sister bought me a ticket to see Frank Skinner. I love comedy and like a lot of comedians but he is still my favourite. The ticket was to see his latest tour show, which is on in the West End for a limited time at The Garrick Theatre. I went to see it the other Friday. Fair play to my sister as the seat she had got me was on the second row. Therefore I had a brilliant view of the great man but was also perfectly safe as he only normally chats to those in the front row.

Waiting for Frank Skinner

It was a classic London theatre trip for me. I got there nice and early to get to the bar before there is a queue. I ordered a pre-show glass of wine and the same again ready for the interval. I can never see the point of waiting to buy a drink during the break, when it can already be poured and waiting for you. Feeling refreshed and slightly giddy I took my seat. He had a warm up act with him, who I must confess I had not heard of before. He was called Pierre Novellie and came on and did around twenty minutes, He was really good, as you would expect anybody supporting the “Don” for an entire tour would be.

Then before the main attraction we had the interval. I politely went past all of the people queuing at the bar to collect my glass of wine from the side, before returning to my seat ready for Frank Sinner. One thing I will say about his audience is that he clearly attracts a nice mixture of polite and friendly people to his gigs. That is a bit surprising bearing in mind some of the topics he covers on stage. Needless to say he was hilarious from start to finish. My jaws were aching from laughing so much by the end. He is so quick and razor sharp, great to see a full show of his live for the first time. I had a totally brilliant evening.

Frank Skinner

It was all very last minute but I ended up going to see one of the BGT Audition sessions at The London Palladium. I got a decent place to watch the proceedings from. There is quite a bit of waiting around before the warm up man Stuart Holden appears and gets the crowd ready for what is ahead. Then the atmosphere is ramped up when the show’s hosts’ Ant & Dec are introduced coming on to Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. They have a quick chat on stage. It is really the only time you see them as of course during the auditions they are mainly back stage interviewing all the acts’ before and after their performances.

BGT

The judges then arrive. Simon Cowell gets on the microphone and addresses the audience. Then they get started. It is a bit strange as all the acts just randomly wonder on to the stage. The judges then chat to them before they do their thing. Obviously I do not want to give away any spoilers, but needless to say there were the normal combination of great and terrible acts, as well as a smattering of interesting back stories. All pretty classic reality television show stuff.

BGT

It was good to see Floor Manager supreme Alan Conley running things. As a rule he seems to work on all the biggest programmes in the country. He always seems to be jolly with a big smile on his face. That is quite an achievement in itself with the conditions in which he is working. Next time you watch a high profile programme look out for the titles at the end. There is a decent chance that you will see his name there. Also if you think his surname is familiar his brother is Brian Conley.

I do not view myself as a harsh or even tough person but I do always seem to agree with Simon Cowell when he is commenting on all the acts. This was again totally the case on this occasion to. Even more worryingly on the afternoon I was there we were both pretty much wearing exactly the same outfit. I have no idea when the latest series of BGT goes out but it is only fair to warn you to keep an eye out for my face, just in case it appears on screen, apologies in advance.

Blues Brothers
Neil Quigley

While we are on the subject of crazy television shows I am still a fan of The Masked Singer. It is totally mad I will grant you that, not much of it really makes any sense but I am desperate to know who all the people in the costumes are. I have not guessed any of them correctly as yet. But I am taking great comfort in the fact that I am at least a lot closer than Ken Jeong. I must watch the American version as if you go by his guesses the line-up and quality of stars they get must be amazing.

I think I might have worked out who the Fox is but then half the UK also seems to have cracked that one. It has to be Denise Van Outen right? I still think the more clues they give you about each person actually make it harder not easier. It does appear to be the only thing Rylan is not in at the moment unless he is in one of the outfits. (I am just joking, I like him, he is ace!). The only thing about it though is I really do not care who wins it, I just want to know everybody who entered it. And also who makes the costumes in case I get invited to any really good fancy dress parties this year.

Sun Studio
Unmasked Singer

For her Christmas present my sister wanted to go and see Sandi Toksvig perform her current live tour show. Therefore I took her to the Wycombe Swan last Thursday to watch “National Trevor” Both my sister and I first became aware of Sandi when she presented the ITV Saturday morning children’s programme No 73. Therefore we have known of her for a long time. She is now of course the host of QI. I have been to a couple of the recordings of it and she is fantastic.

Her stage show is a mixture of comedy, great stories, amazing facts and audience interaction. It is of course excellently and intelligently put together. She has such a lovely way of talking to you, which is inclusive and friendly. But she can still be quite cutting when she needs to be, years on the comedy circuit around the world will do that to you. The show does give you a good insight into her life and also how technology and our lives have developed over the years. Not always for the better.

It is a funny show with plenty of laughs. It is expertly crafted and put together. You leave feeling like you could sit down with her and have a really good chat over a cup of tea. It is also a positive and uplifting performance. You will not believe some of the titles of books that she has in her collection. They are hilarious! It is educational as I said earlier, she gives out lots of facts. This is a good one I think, out of all the people that have ever lived 95% of them are dead. We are in the exclusive 5% of people actually alive at the minute. This I believe is a good inspiration to live life to the full and enjoy every single minute. We really are only on this planet for a very brief amount of time.

Sandi Toksvig

Tottenham Hotspur’s season continues to flatter to deceive. Every time it looks like we have turned a corner the next game makes me think otherwise. Somehow there are lots of teams around us in the league with similar issues. We are still sixth, six points behind fourth place and that coveted Champions League spot. That it would seem we still have an outside chance of claiming. That seemed a ridiculous notion a few weeks ago. I will however be at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to see us play Manchester City tomorrow, which obviously will not be an easy match. It would be great to win it though.

We are still in the FA Cup just, after drawing away at Southampton. The replay is this coming week. It would be great to keep the season alive with an extended cup run. It will be a tough one. But if we can win it would be nice being able to dream of Wembley at least for a few more weeks. I think we are overdue a win in the competition. I am not saying it was a long time ago but I was only fourteen when we last won it!

Neil Quigley with FA Cup
Neil Quigley with FA Cup

In other big Spurs related news we have an actual brewery at the ground (insert your own jokes). It is owned by the local beer maker Beavertown. Their beer is already served there of course. But in the last couple of weeks they have launched a new exclusive Tottenham Hotspur beer created solely for the club. It is called “One Of Our Own”. I have sampled it and I can confirm it is a decent pint. I am sure I will enjoy some more of it between now and the end of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur Beer

Have fun and we will catch up again in a few weeks. Cheers Neil.

Kick Start

I must confess I am on a little bit of a January health kick. There is no real reason for it other than it being just a small challenge to myself. I generally do eat reasonably healthily and try to keep fit and in shape, which for the record does become slightly harder every year, as you get older. The popular thing to do during the first month of the year is to have a break from alcohol, but with several fun events already in the diary. That was a non-starter.

There is seemingly a new angle this year with some people choosing not to eat any meat for a month. I fully understand the logic behind this but it did not really appeal to me. I have to admit while I often have and enjoy vegetarian meals I am happy to go on record as being a meat eater. I decided to see if simply cutting out three things that I really enjoy eating just for one month would make any difference to the way I feel and look.

I usually on a daily basis will have bread, cheese and crisps. This is a staple part of my routine lunch break during the day, every day of the week. For one month only I am trying not to have any of these items at all and also limit the amount of chocolate I eat. The way I am doing this is instead of having my standard midday meal. I have got myself some Kale, Spinach, Celery, Cucumber, Kiwi Fruit, Avocado, Banana and Coconut Water to make a green smoothie thing. That I am drinking instead of the bread, cheese and crisps.

I am doing alright currently and have so far managed to keep this up all month as it stands. It is actually quite enjoyable and I have even started experimenting slightly with other ingredients for the drink. I have also stepped up my exercise routine ever so slightly adding in a few extra sit ups every day and some sprint training. The key I feel to these things is to not constantly check results, as everything you do takes around the whole month to become a benefit. Therefore I took some readings at the start and will then do the same when the first month of 2020 has ended. It is nice to test yourself at the start of a new decade, I think.

Neil Quigley

In December I went to the Doctors about something very small and just as a precaution I was sent for a blood test. As I said earlier I do try to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit in my diet plus take Vitamin and also Cod Liver Oil tablets. Much to my surprise when the results came back I got a call from my Doctor to tell me I had a slight Iron deficiency. I did not have any symptoms, so it did catch me out a bit. I checked to see which foods supply the best source of Iron. Weirdly as it happened I was already having most of the top ten suggestions regularly.

They gave me a short course of iron supplement tablets to take. That if you have never taken them without going into graphic detail will greatly alter the colour of something we all produce, which for the record was a bit of a shock at first. Anyway I finished the course of tablets. They did another blood test and I am now back operating at the right levels. This is not the reason for my current health kick by the way I had already decided I was doing that before this arose. I do not feel any different now my iron levels are back up but I do make a much better noise when I go through the airport security scanner.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The first Saturday of January 2020 I went to a good mate’s fortieth birthday party. That was a major factor in me deciding not to take a month off the booze to be honest. The very first day I met him was when I started a new job, where he worked and we ended up in the pub afterwards for a quick pint. Therefore it would have been totally wrong not to mark this occasion with a few beers. I must say it was a very classy and fun do at a bar and restaurant in Beaconsfield that I had never been to before. That is quite an achievement as I am not sure there are many pubs in the whole of Buckinghamshire that I have not been to at least once.

It was great to see him and a few people I had not seen for years, as well as meeting some fantastic new people. He does not really like or eat cakes, so his other half had the genius idea and making one from a mountain of doughnuts. They still put a candle on it and sang happy birthday but instead of having to cut it up afterwards, people could just help themselves to a doughnut. However as the evening went on it did turn into a very sweet inspired game of Jenga. It was great fun celebrating a top bloke’s landmark anniversary. He is slowly catching me up at last.

Doughnuts

I was out when the first episode of The Masked Singer was shown on a Saturday night. I was aware it was happening but had no idea what it actually was. As I was travelling home I was reading on Twitter all about it and it sounded totally mad. Just for the launch weekend of it they had an extra episode on the Sunday night. Intrigued by what I had heard about the previous night’s show, I decided to watch it.

Within the first couple of minutes I was thinking what on earth is this? It felt like I was tripping with the lighting, the look of it and those ridiculous costumes. Then add to that the bloke from the Hangover films, Davina McCall, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross all playing an impossible game of guess who. You have got one of the strangest programmes I think I have ever seen. The even weirder thing is I then got sucked in to it all and was then desperate to know who all of the Masked Singers were.

It is I would say one of those shows like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here where it is more fun to watch the show while being on say Twitter. There are plenty of good observations and jokes on there, which I found added to the enjoyment. Plus you were getting all sorts of celebrities having to go on there to deny they were on the show. I think my favourite was Peter Crouch having to come out say that he was not the singing tree.

I did also like how the panel were guessing the acts such as say Jamie Foxx, Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Samuel L Jackson and so far the celebrities that have been un-masked are Patsy Palmer, Alan Johnson and Justin Hawkins.

No offence meant to anyone involved but I do think that may be the panel should lower their expectations ever so slightly. It is all just good silly stupid fun. Even when I cannot watch it I still need to know who the latest celebrity to be revealed on it is. I suspect that will be the case until the end of the series now.

Masked Singer?

I appreciate Ricky Gervais is somebody you either tend to love or hate with very little in between. Personally I like him and do think he is really funny. I have watched most of his stand up shows and also seen him live twice. Doing some warm up gigs for his various tours. He is also pretty good on Twitter to. A lot of the things he says about people being offended by things make sense to me anyway. You have the right to not find something funny, but just because you do not, it does not mean you have to be offended, just do not laugh that is fine.

The reason I mention him is because he hosted the Golden Globes in America recently. It is a huge awards ceremony which covers film and television in the United States, much like the BAFTAS do in the United Kingdom. It was the fifth time that he had been asked by the organisers to present it. Therefore nobody should have been at all shocked and surprised by how he decided to play it. It was a room full of the Hollywood elite. I have only watched his opening speech but it is in my opinion brilliant!

He makes it clear right from the start he is just there to tell jokes and poke fun at things. There is no agenda or plan to score points. He is up there telling jokes that he thinks are funny or that amuse him. It is fair to say judging by the reactions on peoples’ faces some of them were possibly more able to laugh at themselves than others. Which is again fine, we are all different.

There were some excellent, clever and funny jokes in there. The tone was about right for how he had set himself up to be, the annoyed host who almost begrudged being there, all just part of his shtick to make his material work better.

The fact that he was hosting and the way he did it attracted a lot of media coverage and interest. That is exactly why the organisers of this event would book somebody like him. That is what they want for their thing to be talked about as much as possible. As is the want of the newspapers, several of them took different angles, some went down the line of him being a hero for telling the truths to the film industry. Some accused him of hypocrisy. All he was doing as he said right at the start of his monologue was telling some jokes. You either find them funny or not. A lot of them made me laugh out loud and no body died!

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I paid my first trip of the year to White Hart Lane to see Tottenham get beaten by the Premier League Champions elect Liverpool. If I am honest prior to the game I was worried we would get thrashed, but as it happened we put in a much improved performance. I thought we were possibly a bit unlucky not to get a draw. Between me and you I would have taken a one nil defeat before the game. Next up in the league we are away to Watford today in a game we must win to I think stand any chance of qualifying for Europe this season.

Happily Spurs are still in the FA Cup after we managed to get past Championship side Middlesbrough at the second attempt beating them in a reply at our place. It was nice to go one up after just three minutes for a change, however despite another fairly early goal we still managed to make very hard work of the victory.

We travel to Southampton next weekend in round four. That will be another tough match. If we can get through that then we are suddenly only two games away from a big Wembley semi-final, which would be brilliant. But as ever I will be taking one game at a time, especially the way things are going this season.

Neil Quigley with FA Cup
Neil Quigley with FA Cup

I am very excited for this coming week I am going to see my favourite comedian Frank Skinner in the West End. My sister got me the ticket for my birthday.

He is fantastic live, although I am a bit concerned as I am in the second row and he does like to chat to people does Frank. I will let you know how it went next time we speak.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil

Happy New Year 2020

The Monday before Christmas my mum and I went to The Royal Albert Hall to see a performance of their Annual Carol Concert. It was actually one of her presents from last Christmas. She had not been to the famous venue and wanted to go, I said I would take her and gave her the choice to see whatever she wanted there. She then opted for the carols, which meant in the end she had to wait almost twelve months for this gift.

We arrived at the iconic building forty minutes before the afternoon show was due to start, having walked up there from the High Street Kensington tube station. It does look very imposing from outside. I made sure we had some decent seats, so for the first time ever when I have been there I walked down the stairs on entry to the floor level. Then we enjoyed a glass of wine each, well we had to loosen up the vocal cords before all the singing.

The Royal Albert Hall

We took our seats ready for the concert to begin. On them waiting for us was the words to all the carols and songs, that we would be invited to join in with. The music for the afternoon was provided by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Cooke. It goes without saying that they were amazing.

It was all hosted by the wonderful Greg Beardsell, who did a totally brilliant job of it. There was a mixture of performances from the Orchestra on their own along with the two choirs involved. But then for certain songs we all would stand up and join in, sometimes conducted by the Maestro.

The Royal Albert Hall

The show was in two halves with an interval in the middle. During which, yes I did have another glass of wine, well it was Christmas. During part two Joe Stilgoe came on and did a few swing numbers with the orchestra, which were great. We also had the Royal College of Music perform on the hand bells and Bugle players from the Royal Grenadier Guards Band. The Orchestra were really getting in to it. A special mention to the two members who dressed up as Rudolph and a snowman, you were both hilarious!

It was a fabulous afternoon spent at one of the best places for music in the world. It was lovely to see my mum really enjoying herself. She was joining in with all the carols and songs, having a brilliant time. It is a beautifully presented show and feels very Christmassy. They set it perfectly for it, the lighting and the trees are wonderful. Full of the spirits for the festive season we had a very nice meal at The Potting Shed opposite Marylebone Station, before we got the train home. It was just a totally joyful day spending quality time with my mum.

The Royal Albert Hall

It was a pretty text book Neil Quigley Christmas this year. It started with the traditional Christmas Day fried breakfast, which I find does set the day up nicely. We then got together and gave each over our presents, while enjoying a nice cup of tea. I did very well this year, I got a Spurs coaching team top, a luxury wine tasting evening, copies of Elton John’s and Billy Connolly’s new books and a voucher for the Tottenham Hotspur Club Shop.

Neil Quigley

We then toasted the day with a nice glass of Champagne, before I went to the pub to meet my Uncle and Cousin. That is something I have been doing since I have been old enough to drink. I have a few pints, which I find puts me in the perfect mood for the rest of the fun ahead of me. I always like to walk to and from the pub as it is the only exercise I do on the day. Plus I think it creates more space ready to fully enjoy the Turkey with all the trimmings dinner that we always have. My dad was head Chef this year and the meal was splendid. It was washed down with a very nice red wine. All finished off by some Chocolate Cheesecake and lastly Cheese and Biscuits.

Once the food had been digested it was then time to get the games out. My dad had looked out the old Wii for us to play, although he could only find one working controller and two games for it. They were Ten Pin Bowling. That we could all play against each other on. I think we each won a least one game. And a table tennis game which we had to take turns battling the computer on. I do not think any of us managed to win against it. We were all clearly a little bit out of practice. I reckon we probably played these games for a couple of hours. One thing it proved was that we are a very competitive family, although to be honest I think we already knew that.

Neil Quigley (The Wii version)

After my dad and sister had taken her dog for a walk we played a new game that I had purchased specially for the occasion. It was the “Who Am I Game”. You take a card and put it on your forehead then you have to guess who you are by asking the rest of the family lots of questions. It was a good laugh and if I do say so myself I reckon I was the best at it.

We had a nice early supper while we were watching the Christmas Special of Strictly Come Dancing. I thought the lovely Debbie McGhee and Kevin Clifton were the deserved winners by the way. This pretty much brought to a close another fun and dare I say successful Quigley family Christmas.

Neil Quigley

I have been a massive Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. As a child I used to have a huge collection of Star Wars figures that included a Millennium Falcon. I am still a bit gutted that I decided to sell them about five years ago, to be honest. I have always loved the original three films.

I dutifully watched all the prequels even though for some reason they did not have the same feel as the other films. Then in the last few years they gave us two new films continuing the original story and for me crucially featuring some of the original cast members and characters. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi made me feel just like a little kid again, when I watched them. The nostalgia there was real!

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

Therefore when the final ever Star Wars film The Rise of Skywalker was released I had to see it on the very first morning. I had booked a ticket in advance to see it at eleven thirty at the Odeon Cinema in Aylesbury. I was feeling very excited when I bought the ticket, so I pushed the boat out and paid the extra two pound fifty to have a deluxe seat, right in the middle of screen. I did not know completely what to expect as I had avoided all the gossip about it, so I could see it with no preconceived ideas.

Star Wars Exhibition
Star Wars Exhibition

I am not going to give any spoilers away. I really enjoyed it as it was in the same style as the previous two and original three films as far as I am concerned. The thing they all have in common is that despite all the adversity that is going on there is a nice humour that just runs through it.

There are some nods to all of the original films in it. It is a little bit like a love letter to the brand in lots of ways. There are a few twists and turns that I must admit I did not see coming. The ending for me was perfectly acceptable. It was never going to be an easy thing to try to tie up after nine films spanning over forty odd years.
It is a shame it has all come to an end in a way though. But all good things must come to an end at some point!

Star Wars

I enjoyed going to watch Tottenham play Brighton on Boxing Day despite the early kick off. That meant there was no lie in for me. The game itself was not brilliant but we won and I had a few drinks with some friends, which is always a winner, at this time of the year. We then managed to draw away to Norwich and lose at Southampton, which leaves us in sixth place in the Premier League at the moment.

With a bit of luck we could have been a bit higher up but we could of quite easily been a bit further down it to. A week today I will be at the Stadium to see us play the Premier League Champions elect Liverpool. That is going to be a very tough game to say the least.

Tottenham Hotspur

In between Christmas and New Year I was at home one evening when I suddenly started hearing some loud bangs. I was curious as to what it was, so I opened my front door to have a look. For probably about twenty years now Jay Kay from Jamiroquai has lived in the same area as me.

He is known for occasionally throwing some quite lavish parties. I suspect he was that night, as I stood outside for ten minutes watching the most spectacular fireworks display. It was amazing and as good as you would see anywhere on New Year’s Eve itself.

New Years Eve
New Years Eve

A mate of mine is a big Wycombe Wanderers fan so I went with him to see The Chairboys play Coventry over the festive period. We did make a day of it and had a few drinks in High Wycombe before and after the match. That as it turned out was the highlight because the home team did not play very well at all. They went one down early in the game, got back to one all then gifted the visitors a goal about a minute later. The Sky Blues went on to win the contest comfortably.

It finished one – four. It was the second time I had seen them play this season. The previous time they beat Southend United and deserved to. Since then they have gone on to top the table and even after a testing Christmas period are still four points clear in League One. I do feel that to maintain that position they need to play better than in the last game I saw. But I understand they are missing several key players through injury. It would be an amazing achievement if they did reach the Championship. I wish them luck for the remainder of the season.

Wycombe Wanderers

I did not really do much for New Year’s Eve this time. I met up with a friend and we just had a few drinks in a couple of local pubs. It was a decent night joking around and listening to music. At midnight we all did the traditional Auld Lang Syne bit. Then we wished everyone a Happy New year, before heading home. I will be honest when I did get in I actually ended up having a couple of glasses of wine, while listening to music, so I still did not get to bed until gone two. It was for me the perfect way to see in the new decade. I totally enjoyed it!

New Year’s Day I cooked dinner for my parents and sister. We ate in the evening. I rustled up a roast beef dinner. That was pretty good. I would not say I am a brilliant cook but I can put together a decent meal. I was particularly impressed with my roast potatoes light and fluffy on the inside with a slight crispness to the outside. Before the food I opened a bottle of Champagne, so we could properly toast the New Year. Start as you mean to go on, drinking bubbly. Cheers!

Personally I have not made any big plans or set any real goals for the next twelve months. I aim to eat a little bit more healthily in January, to normalise slightly after Christmas eating. I guess I do plan to be a better person than I was the year before. I do like to try to progress and improve as time goes forward. I want to see and do as much as I possibly can. I want to do lots of things that I enjoy and that make me happy. Resolutions normally get broken, while I think loose goals can always be met, just to different levels of success, depending on how you do. Whatever you want to achieve this year, I wish you all the best with it and I know you can do it!

Neil Quigley

Tonight I am going to an old mate’s fortieth birthday party. We first met when he was just eighteen years old. The strange thing is that he always looked older than he was, so all these years later he does not actually look any different. It is sure to be a fun night, hopefully with a few familiar faces that I have not seen for a while there. Plus who does not like an excuse to actually go out on the first weekend of the New Year.

Neil Quigley

Have fun, Happy New Year all the best for 2020. We will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.

Birthday Fun

It was my birthday a few weeks ago. It was not a landmark one, so I did not do anything spectacular to mark the occasion. I started off the day with my usual morning work out before opening my cards and presents with a cup of tea, proving once and for all that I am the king of rock and roll. I got a bottle of very nice red wine, which I have already enjoyed. My sister got me a ticket to see one of my favourite comedian’s Frank Skinner in the West End in January. I am obviously really looking forward to that.

I had a quiet and relaxing day at home. Then in the evening I went for a meal with my sister and my parents. Nothing to fancy we just went to a local pub for some food. We only had a main as I had been given a chocolate cake, so we had that for pudding after. I then went for a few glasses of Rioja with my sister at our local Wine Bar, bringing to a close possibly one of my most low key birthdays ever. When you consider I have been at Pantomimes, on a River Boat cruises and also out gigging with “The Drifters” on previous ones’, it was certainly quieter. I had a fabulous day though, which is what it is all about.

Neil Quigley

The night before my birthday I was at a charity event at The Comedy Store in London with a friend of mine. It was in aid of the MS Society. Ivo Graham organised it and he was the compere for the night. It is something close to his heart as his mum is affected by the disease. He had managed to put together an excellent line up. The comedians were all performing for free. It was nice to see them support a fellow comic in this way. Despite what you might think about most wanting a rival to fail, so they can seem better, in my experience everyone is helpful and very supportive of each other.

This may seem a very obvious thing to say but The Comedy Store is a perfect venue for comedy. The closeness of the seats to the stage for starters makes you feel part of things. The stage is just the right size to focus your intention but still feel inclusive. Even the sound system in there is brilliant, so you can clearly hear everything, which trust me is not always the case at Comedy Nights. Add to that the fact it is one of the most iconic venues for the genre in the country. It is a real goal and honour to get the chance to perform there as a comedian.

The Comedy Store

Ivo Graham came on and started the night talking to the audience as all hosts should and do. He was fantastic throughout. First on it was the lovely Catherine Bohart. I had heard very good things about her recent Edinburgh show, so I was looking forward to seeing her. She was excellent, original and funny with an inclusive friendly style. I would definitely see her again. Then it was Russell Howard, who I have seen several times before and who I really like. He was on top form. He is so good at making topical jokes that are relatable to his audience. As always he was extremely funny. He has brilliant energy while on stage. He almost hypnotises you.

Next up it was a man who I had previously seen perform in the final of the Musical Comedy Awards earlier this year. His name is Huge Davies. He has a massive keyboard strapped to him to provide his own musical accompaniment. He is different and unique in his style. He was great, if you have not heard of him yet, I expect that you will soon. The final act of part one was another comedian who I had seen before Rhys James. I really like him and think he is very funny. I like the way he covers a lot of topics, sometimes some very dark ones with a smile and cheekiness. That enables the audience to relax and enjoy the jokes, a very clever and funny man.

Neil Quigley

After the interval or as it should be called at comedy gigs the chance to go to the toilet and get a drink without being singled out by the person on stage. I took the opportunity to have a pint of Goose IPA. Well it was the night before my birthday. There is always a decent atmosphere at The Comedy Store. It seems to attract a lot of people who know and really understand comedy.

The act that kicked off part two was someone I had been looking forward to seeing, having enjoyed watching them on television for many years. It was Alan Carr. He was predictably brilliant. His life is quite mad with the people he knows and the circles he moves in. He has some fantastically funny stories. I am pleased to have finally got round to seeing him.

Next on the bill it was Sarah Keyworth, who I had seen there before. She was good, as she always is. She is another comedian who talks about difficult subjects in an inclusive way. The penultimate act of the night was Alfie Brown, yet another comic who I was aware of but had not seen. He does have quite a purposeful awkward style, which for whatever reason did not quite catch fire on the night. That said he handled it all expertly and got quite a few big laughs. I liked it and he seems like a top bloke. I mean he was doing the gig for free to help out a mate’s charity night. That is plenty good enough for me.

Neil Quigley

The headline act was a man who had recently run into a bit of bother at a charity dinner. You might well have read about it, as it became a big story. Nish Kumar had a bread roll thrown at him while doing a lunch for the Lord’s Taverners. As a comedian you have good and bad gigs. They finish and you just forget all about them, however sadly for Nish this one ended up all over social media. A reaction he found staggering, admittedly it did not go well, but as it turned out they were not really his audience and it would seem made up of some rude individuals. He was talking about the incident on stage and of course joking about it, as that is what all comedians do, tell jokes.

Nish was quality as he always has been when I have seen him live. He does do quite a bit of politics and social stuff. His style of comedy can I guess be quite angry at times, but that is just part of the act, simply to try to get bigger laughs. He closed the show perfectly, although he did possibly still seem a little bewildered by recent events.

It is alright to not find something funny or not agree with it without you being offended or getting angry, just do not laugh, that is fine. People are allowed different views to you. That is one of the things that is so great about the world. It was a hilarious night at arguably one of the best comedy venues there is.

Neil Quigley

I have been very lucky over the years to work with some wonderful and very talented people. I do not always speak to them or see them as often as I would like, but it is always lovely when I do meet up with one. The other week I managed to have an overdue lunch with Amy Lewis.

We met while we were both working at Ivel fm in Somerset. She is an exceptional journalist, who has deservedly worked at Sky and now is at ITV. I remember going with her once to interview a large group of travellers who had moved on to a local cricket pitch and set up camp. That is the nearest I have been to feeling like Ross Kemp.

I was also very proud to help produce in a small way some audio that led to her winning an award. Anyway we met up in Marlow the other week. It was great to see her and her son. It seems odd but when you have worked with someone at a radio station, you do always seem to have a certain bond.

It was fantastic catching up on each other’s lives. Towards the end of the meeting we worked out that we had not seen each other for around fifteen years. Although neither of us of course looked old enough for that. We have said we will try not to leave it so long next time.

Sarah Parish started the Neil Quigley Fan Club

I had my annual trip to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park last week. I think I have been every year for about the last five now. This time I met up with one of my cousin’s there. I arrived a little before him, so had a quick walk round the place. I am not really a fan of fairground rides, so I avoided them.

There are lots of other stalls and attractions to look around. It is free to enter the site and walk about. It does cost more if you want to ice skate or go into some of the specialist areas. While I was waiting I got a snack. I found a place that did fresh mini pancakes. That I had with lots of Nutella. Let me tell you, they were amazing, so nice.

After my food I then went in to the Bavarian Village. That is the main reason I go there. I was starting to feel a bit Christmassy plus it was a little bit cold. Therefore the first thing I did was treat myself to a nice mulled wine. I must say that certainly warmed me up in every sense of the word. It was lovely.

Neil Quigley

I then got myself a pint of Bavarian Gold, the lager that they serve there. You can have it out of a cheap plastic glass or pay a five pound deposit to enjoy it out of a slightly thicker plastic glass with a handle. I went for the latter option. As I was drinking that, my cousin arrived and got himself one.

Neil Quigley

We mainly hung around the German area having a chat and a drink. While enjoying a live band that were playing in a kind of Oom-Pah group style. Lots of party songs, shall we say slightly re-imagined. We left the Bavarian Village for a stroll as my cousin had not been there for a few years. He also thought he had spotted a better bar but when we got to it, we had a beer there but both felt where we were originally was more fun. We went back there for some food. I had the classic Bratwurst and chips. That I must say was very nice.

Winter Wonderland

After dinner we found another bar area where a man wearing some leather trousers and an earring was performing classic reggae tunes. I know I had enjoyed a few beers by this point, but I am not making this up, it actually happened. It was pretty good for the record. He was getting the crowd going. I think we left about nine o’clock to beat the crowds away, as it closes at ten. I had a top time there. I do enjoy it and it is always a good giggle. I do fully expect to go and visit again next year.

Neil Quigley

I have talked before about my Christmas Shopping regime. As far as I am concerned Christmas does not exist before my birthday, so I do nothing for it until at least the eleventh of December. I always pick one day to do my entire present shopping. I then compile a list of everything I need to get. Lastly I pick a place that I am going to go to get everything. This year I went to High Wycombe. And in just under three hours I completed all my Christmas Shopping. All I have to do now is wrap everything. Yet again another triumph for this plan!

Neil enjoying a Mince Pie
Neil Quigley

I went to see the Pantomime at the legendary London Palladium last week. It is the third year in a row that I have been and once again it did not disappoint. I do not know this for definite but I think it must have the biggest budget for any Panto in the country. They really do throw everything at it. For starters the lights, sets and the overall staging are themselves spectacular. You will not see a better looking show anywhere. It looks so bright, fun and Christmassy. I make no secret of the fact that I am a big kid and love panto. However this production is as much for the grown-ups, as it is for the children.

London Palladium

It is Goldilocks and The Three Bears this year. Not that the narrative of things is ever that important in this show. The whole thing is just one huge variety show, perfectly fitting for the venue in which it is being performed. The cast are all exceptional. This year wonderful Paul O’Grady plays the baddie. A role he has played brilliantly for a long time now in his angry and fed up way. He is just so good at it and knows how to get the “boos”. While still also getting plenty of laughs, which is no mean feat. Paul Zerdin is back in the comedic role with him and his puppet Sam, doing several very funny routines during the show. He is a total star.

Gary Wilmot returns as the Dame. He is such a talented and amazing man. Every year he has his own bit, which he writes and produces. It is always a big highlight. These have included a song featuring all the London Underground Stations and one with many of the legendary stars who have appeared at the Palladium. This year he did his own special medley of songs from the musicals. He has a fantastic voice, the range of which was fully demonstrated during this song, it was
mesmerising. I lost count of how many well-known tunes it featured. He rightly got a huge round of applause at the end of it. Brilliant!

London Palladium

Matt Baker from Countryfile and The One Show was also in it. He was excellent. It is based in and around a circus, during the show he has to ride a unicycle, juggle and walk the tight rope, as well as the normal acting and singing of course. Nigel Havers appears as Daddy Bear. He is in it every year and happily sends himself up and is very funny. Baby Bear is played by Lauren Stroud who tap dances. Then Mummy Bear is played by Janine Duvitski from Benidorm, who is great. Goldilocks is Sophie Isaacs, she is an excellent all round singer and dancer.

The cast is completed by the innuendo queen that is Julian Clary, who plays the Master of The Ring, insert your own jokes here, he certainly does. His outfits get more outrageous as the show goes on. He is just so good at making everyone laugh both the audience and many of his fellow actors. There is one part where he, Paul Zerdin and Paul O’Grady have a long chat about a pleasant plucker and I am sure you can guess how that goes. They also do one of the best and funniest Pantomime set piece song routines I think I have ever seen.

This show also includes a roller skating act, an amazing magician and four motorcyclists who do the wall of death on stage together. You will not see another show anything like this, anywhere in the United Kingdom over Christmas. It is totally brilliant. It is such a good laugh. I really felt that a visit to this properly kick started my Christmas. I already know I will be back to see next year’s show because simply why would you not go and see it.

London Palladium

I watched the Strictly Come Dancing Final. It has been another ace series. There have been so many memorable dances from lots of the contestants. The last three standing were the correct choices in my opinion and all deserved to be there on merit. I personally felt the right couple won. Kevin and Oti have been sensational. I have been entertained and impressed by all of their performances. They have been brilliant and thoroughly deserved the Glitter Ball, so well done to the both of them.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Amazon have certainly picked the right season to make a behind the scenes documentary about my club Tottenham Hotspur. It has been full of drama with many twists and turns so far. Despite an annoying defeat against Manchester United. Somehow we find ourselves fifth in the Premier League, just three points behind Chelsea, who we face at home tomorrow afternoon. Add to that the fact that we are in the knock out stage of The Champions League. You could say that things are not going that bad.

If you had told me we would be in this position by now, six weeks ago, I might have thought that you were crazy. As it is we are! I am looking forward to being at the match tomorrow and seeing what happens next. I mean if we could end the Christmas period in the top four, which would be amazing. Either way I will have a fun couple of trips to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium over the Festive period.

Neil Quigley having a go at conducting the Orchestra
Neil Quigley having a go at conducting the Orchestra

Have a very Happy Christmas and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.

Neil Quigley Presenter