Tag Archives: football

Entertainment Connoisseur

Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really good couple of weeks. Mine have been predictably very busy but lots of fun. Two weeks ago today. My dad and I attended a Wine Tasting in London. It was a gift that I had bought him for Fathers Day. That just happened to be an experience for two. So therefore I joined him for it. Solely to aid his fun and enjoyment, of course.

It was run by the company Wine Cottage. Who supply a lot of the big London hotels and restaurants with all their exclusive wines. It was held at the luxurious Number 8 Northumberland Avenue. Which is a pretty classy venue, to say the least. We got there a little early, so we treated ourselves to a little drink in the bar. To get us warmed up for the main event. Like the total professionals that we are.

When it is time to get things underway. You are shown in to a stylish function room. Where you are welcomed at the door by the person hosting things. Who then shows you to your seat’s. There are several round tables of eight laid out. Already set at each place is a selection of glasses, cheeses and chocolates. Ready for the tasting. We were sat with two lovely married couples and two friends. We all had a nice chat before and after the event and also during any gaps in the proceedings.

Red Red Wine
Red Red Wine

It is all presented by Kam Zadeh. Who is the Managing Director and Wine Adviser of Wine Cottage. He was fantastic.  And gave basically a beginners guide to all the things you need to know about wine. And the wine making process in general. I found it really interesting. Plus I actually learnt quite a lot. His assistant then goes around and pours the drinks. While he is talking to the group. You get to try six drinks. A champagne, two white wines and three red wines. Each one has either an accompanying cheese or a chocolate to enjoy with it.

My dad and I both thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours. That it lasted. All the wines and food were great. We met some top people. And I know a lot more about wine, than I did when I walked into that room. They even present you with a little certificate. To prove that you have attended. Sadly I am not quite a wine  connoisseur but I can assure you I only drink the right amount of red wine for a gentlemen.

Wine Certificate
Wine Certificate

I went along to see The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. I am like pretty much the rest of the planet. A big fan of their music. The red wine there was perfectly acceptable by the way. And I did have to have two glasses of it. Just to make sure. The show was exactly as you would expect from the title. There was a full band on stage. Then the  two main performers. Sam O’ Hanlon who is Paul Simon and Charles Blyth who is Art Garfunkel then take centre stage.

It is more of a music tribute show than anything else. The cast take you through all of the duos classic back catalogue of songs. While using the video screens on stage and narration in between to tell their musical story. So unlike for example Buddy (The Buddy Holly Musical) it is not a play about their lives. It is just a fitting tribute to their music with a nod to both their personal and their professional relationship.

The cast are great. The two leads look and when they are singing sound like who they are supposed to be. It is all nicely presented. In a chronological order. Which leads you through all the aspects of their career.  Therefore if you are a fan of Simon and Garfunkel and their music. Then this show is definitely worth seeing.

The Simon & Garfunkel Story
The Simon & Garfunkel Story

I recently paid my first visit to the Waterloo East Theatre in London. To see a former colleague of mine from Wembley Stadium appear in the play called The Greater Game.

It is a true story about a group of footballers from Leyton Orient. Who all went and fought in the First World War together. And all ended up being involved in the Battle of the Somme.

Waterloo East Theatre
Waterloo East Theatre

It focuses on the then League club’s first team. Who all signed up together to help the country’s war effort. As you can imagine the whole thing is an emotional roller coaster. We follow them from the dressing room banter at home to their experiences on the front line at one of the bloodiest battles on record.

It really does bring home to you the helplessness and huge cost of wars. Both to the people who were doing the fighting and those who were left at home. It is I suppose quite laddish in many ways due to the football element. But so poignant and thought provoking at the same time. Especially when you remember all the characters in this piece are real people.

The cast are all excellent. As well as my mate Jack Harding, who I thought was fantastic. It also features Michael Greco, probably still best known for playing Beppe Di Marco in Eastenders. And James Phelps, who was in the Harry Potter films. The entire recent run of this play sold out, so I was very lucky to get a ticket. If it does return to the stage. I would certainly recommend that you do go and see it.

Jack Harding and Neil Quigley
Jack Harding and Neil Quigley

I am hoping this does not shatter too many illusions. But sometimes even during live television shows. Some sections will be recorded in advance. This can be for a number of different reasons. If you were watching Children In Need this year. You might have seen Sheridan Smith singing her latest single on it.

That performance was actually recorded the day before the event. In the Children In Need studio at Elstree. And I was lucky enough to be there, when it was. I have been a fan of her work for quite a while. In fact I did try to see her when she was starring in the musical Funny Girl in the West End. But she was not performing on the night. That I managed to get a ticket.

Funny Girl
Funny Girl

Seeing her live has been on my to do list for a while. It was great to finally see her in person. A group of us filled the front of the studio by the stage. She came on with her band. And then performed the song twice. Accompanied by the audience clapping and dancing around each time. When the director and producer were happy with what they had. She then left the studio, as did we.

Then on the night that was inserted in to the programme. If you did not know, you would not realise that she was not there on the night. Well unless you spotted me on camera dancing. As I was no where near the place on the actual night. It was lovely to see her looking and sounding so good. After her recent and well documented issues. But she is back with a new album. In a good place in her personal life now. And I suspect ready to come back and win more awards.

Children in Need itself was another huge success this year. Since it started it has now raised over one billion pounds for charity. Which is an amazing achievement. As ever there were some excellent and unusual collaborations. The team behind it have done another top job once again. Yet they still do not appear to have raised enough to get Pudsey’s eye fixed.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I managed to get myself along to a small and exclusive gig recently. Russell Brand this week has been performing a three show run of a new theatre show at The Old Vic in Bristol called “Russell Brand My Life by William Shakespeare”. The Friday before that very first show. The comedian decided to do a full rehearsal of the “play” at a secret venue in High Wycombe.

The day before this was due to happen I got hold of a ticket for it. There were about forty of us in this relatively small room. When the unmistakable figure of the actor and presenter walked in. It was a pretty informal affair. He had a chat to us all. Before explaining what he was doing. And a little bit about the show we were going to see.

He is naturally very funny, extremely cheeky and to be honest very self deprecating. The show is simply him telling his life story. Then linking each major part to a speech from a Shakespeare play. It is all very honest and upfront about the problems he has faced. And how he has dealt with them. The explanations he gives are of course very funny. Then he pauses to perform each one of these classic pieces of English literature, perfectly, with such poise and meaning.

It is worth seeing just for the way he performs these segments. He totally immerses himself in them and that really shows. He is such a good orator. And When he speaks he is mesmerising and some what hypnotic. You just cannot take your eyes off him. He does have a real presence about him. The whole show just works perfectly. And for me because he is such a great wordsmith the Shakespeare parts do fit in so naturally.

It went down a storm with forty odd people on a Friday afternoon in High Wycombe, so I suspect when he performed this in that theatre in Bristol. He probably took the roof off the place. At the end I did manage to grab a quick chat and a picture with him. He was great, such a nice friendly and welcoming person. I suspect this show may be back for more performances at some point in the not to distant future.

Neil Quigley & Russell Brand
Neil Quigley & Russell Brand

I was at Wembley for the last two England games. Therefore I got to say farewell and thank you to our record goal scorer Wayne Rooney during the game against USA. I was also at the game when he passed Bobby Charlton’s goals tally.

I was sitting behind the goal in to which he scored the penalty. To claim the title. He came on as sub against America and did not look out of place at all. That said it was good on the night to see a few new young England players making their debuts. We scored three good goals. It was a decent win.

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney

This was actually my first time sampling an International game in the Club Wembley area. I really liked it. Before and after the game there are a couple of nice bars. Where you can get some drinks and food. While also enjoying some live music. Plus you do get a padded seat to sit on while watching the match. The bars are open for an hour after the final whistle. Which means you can relax in comfort as the crowds and queues to get home disappear.

I was back at the National Stadium again in Club Wembley, just a few days later. To watch England progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA  Nations League. After an exciting two-one victory over Croatia with a certain Harry Kane getting the winner with five minutes to go. It was a good afternoon. The atmosphere at the end of the match with Three Lions blasting out was brilliant.

England V Croatia
England V Croatia

I had a nice day out and catch up with my good friend Andy Holmes in London last weekend. In almost a very elaborate remake of the West Wing. We went on a sight seeing walk. While having a good old chat about everything and anything. We walked from Westminster to Marylebone via Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, The Globe theatre, Fleet Street and Leicester Square.

On our travels we managed to clock up a rather impressive fourteen kilometres. Powered only by a Subway and a cuppa. Until just before catching the train home. We had a nice meal in Zizzi’s, just off Baker Street. It was a relaxing afternoon. I like strolling around the capital because there is so much to look at. You do not realise how far it is that you are actually travelling.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

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

Rock and Roll Lessons

Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really good couple of weeks. Mine have been fairly busy with lots of fun stuff going on. I have once again spent quite a bit of time at Wembley Stadium. But this time I was not watching Tottenham Hotspur. A friend of mine invited me along to the two recent England friendly internationals. I got to see England face Germany.

Which is always a decent fixture. And one which I have good and bad memories of from over the years. The big disappointment of losing that game in Italy in 1990 on penalties. Then there was the delight and amazement of the five-one win in Munich. When Michael Owen got a great hat-trick and even Emile Heskey got one. That was a great night. Not least because a week or so after it I was at Oktoberfest in Munich for the first time and it gave us the football bragging rights at the time.

England V Brazil
England V Brazil

The most recent game between these two world giants was exciting but goalless. It was end to end stuff but with few clear cut chances. We got to see a lot of young England players making their debuts. Plus we had brilliant seats. As we were sat in the Bobby Moore seats. They are the comfiest seats in the stadium and the view from them is ace. I like to watch games from a position around the half way line, personally.

It was nice to see a Spurs player, Eric Dier captain the team. It was an enjoyable evening catching up with a few people I had not seen for a while. It is always good to get behind the national team, I think. There was a decent sized crowd there. It was good fun and nice to clock up another cap as an England supporter.

I was back at Wembley a few days later sat in exactly the same seat to see England take on the might of Brazil. It is always a colourful occasion when they are in town. Those iconic yellow shirts and blue shorts are unmistakable. It is amazing that generation after generation they just seem to produce exceptionally talented footballers. Who are just so skillful and always great on the ball.

It was good to see Neymar in action and close up. Although this game also finished goalless, you could see in glimpses why he is the most expensive player on the planet. The England back four did very well against him. I will be honest it was not as exciting as the German game but it was still a good night at the home of football. If you cannot enjoy yourself when the Brazilian Samba band are playing. There is something wrong with you.

England v Germany
England v Germany

The England manager Gareth Southgate is being quite positive about the fact that we were not beaten by two of the best teams in the world. How much you can really base future performances on these kind of friendlies, I am not sure. World Cup Final games come with much more pressure and there is a long way to go till the summer. But I am happy to follow his lead. There is no point even turning up if you do not believe you can win it, so why not.

With a bit of luck who knows. And if not remember the final of the 2020 European Finals is being played at Wembley Stadium, so that is a great incentive for that tournament. I will hopefully get to at least one of the World Cup warm up games in the new year. Before we send the squad off to do battle on our behalf in Russia.

England
England

I went to a great music gig a couple of Monday’s ago at Bush Hall in Shepherds Bush. A lovely little venue that has hosted quite a few big acts on their way up the ladder. In the toilets they have old gig posters plastered all over the walls. While I was in there I spotted Lily Allen, Adele, Amy Winehouse and Florence and the Machine to mention just a few. It is a very cool, classic and old fashioned building with a bit of a school hall feel to it. Which I actually think adds to its charm.

I was there to see a new American group called Cactus Blossoms. When we arrived at the venue me and my friend spotted a gentleman at the side of the room who looked scarily like the leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn. I do not think it was him but my mate thought it might be the lookalike they use on the Last Leg. Whoever it was they were just casually dressed and blending in to the background.

Cactus Blossoms
Cactus Blossoms

The support act was an Irish guitar playing singer/songwriter called Louis Brennan. He was very good, played well and had a good voice. His songs are quite mellow and a bit bluesy. But one thing I will say the songs and the lyrics are very specific to him and his life. Which for me will not give them universal appeal, as I would suspect it would be difficult to relate to them. But I am happy to be proved wrong on this, if he does suddenly become a huge success.

Before doing one of the songs he did actually reference Jeremy Corbyn. I will confess at this point I did glance at our suspected look-a-like to see if there was any reaction from him. If only just to acknowledge that he himself was aware of his resemblance to the man in question. But alas nothing.

The main reason we were there the Cactus Blossoms were brilliant. They are a guitar led band with two lead singers who also play guitar. If that reminds you of any famous American groups from yesteryear. Then it should, as they are called the modern day Everly Brothers. A title that is well deserved when you hear them sing the harmonies to their songs. It really does sound amazing.

This is not meant to sound patronising or derogatory but they could easily be the greatest Everly Brothers tribute band ever. That is meant as a compliment. I would love to hear them do their classic songs. Their own songs are good but possibly not good enough for what their musical talents and their voices really deserve. They are really likeable people. It was a nice gig, very enjoyable. They are a band you should check out if you get the chance.

Cactus Blossoms
Cactus Blossoms

I went to see the brilliant School of Rock at the New London Theatre last Monday. It has been a show that I had been meaning to see for a while. As I had heard nothing but good things about it. Unusually for me I had actually seen the film starring Jack Black when it came out. Which bearing in mind I watch an average of two films a year that is quite a coincidence.

This version is based on the film. It is produced by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Who wrote the music for it. Proving that he can write some decent rock style songs. But on reflection I guess there was evidence of that from his first ever show Joseph. There is an announcement from the good Lord himself just before the show starts basically confirming that all the children are playing their own instruments during the performance.

School of Rock
School of Rock

From my memory it is fairly true to the film and the story line and situations are similar. As you would of course expect. It is a clever and uplifting experience highlighting the importance of emotional development and family life versus the need to be educated and learn as much as you can.

It is a classic when two worlds collide and both help each other out kind of scenario. Firstly the adult cast are great, they all do a top quality job and as you would expect from a West End musical the singing and dancing is as ever sensational. They really drive the show forward.

School of Rock
School of Rock

The stars of the show of course are the children. They were all amazing and so talented. The acting, singing and dancing was spot on. Then you come to the members of the cast who actually make up the band.

Those kids are super talented. The girl on the drums is just amazing, the bass playing girl is perfect, the lad on the keyboards was so good he could give Vince Clarke a run for his money. Then there is the boy who plays lead guitar. He is ridiculously good. I would guess they are all somewhere between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

School of Rock
School of Rock

Like all West End Musicals there is a band. Who you can see above the stage to the right. As sometimes there are songs when the kids do not have instruments. But I really cannot stress how good these kids are. They are so good that despite the announcement at the start you do wonder are they really playing. Then when they perform at the end the Orchestra are all standing up watching the kids play and clapping along.

They are all amazing. It is such a good fun show and well worth seeing. It could actually be launching the careers of several up and coming rock stars in real life for all we know. Another nice touch is that during the encore they say you can at this point take some photos as long as you tag the show in on social media. Which sounds like a fair deal to me. Brilliant fun and another triumph for the king of musicals Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.

School of Rock
School of Rock

I was lucky enough to be able to go and see Harry Hill do a work in progress gig at the Soho Theatre in London. It is a great comedy venue with a really nice bar there to use before and after you watch the show you are there to see. It is the sort of place where a lot of comics catch up with each other in the bar or watch their peers new shows. So it is a good place to potentially bump in to your favourites.

Harry Hill was brilliant. He is well known of course for hosting television shows but he is a great live performer and joke teller. He does a lot of clever one liners and as you would expect there is plenty of silliness throughout it all. It was a top night seeing a great comedian in a small room trying out some great new material. I expect him to do a full tour on the back on these gigs probably in the second half of next year.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is back on television for this year. I always say it, Ant and Dec for me are the best TV presenters we currently have. So great to see them back together where they belong. They dealt nicely with Ant’s enforced summer break. That is why we like them because as an audience we are always in on the joke.

I am looking forward to seeing how Shappi Khorsandi gets on in the show. I interviewed her a few years ago and she was lovely. I know we are only in the very early stages of this series but I would like her to win it. Here is a bit of the conversation I had with her around five years ago.
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/shappi-khorsandi-interview/id1236437663?i=1000394847020&mt=2

Neil Quigley

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

Bat Out of Hell

Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really nice couple of weeks. Mine have been fun and interesting. In a world where we all just seem to be getting busier and busier it is important to make the most of your free time. Therefore the other Monday I did just that, as I enjoyed another evening at the Horse Racing at Windsor. I am a huge fan of the sport and it is always a good fun way of spending a few hours. I like the whole experience from the dressing up, the arriving and getting a race card to try to find the winning horses, to the looking for the best odds in the betting ring before each race.

I generally have mixed results on selecting the horse that is going to shine and be successful in each race. But let me tell you when your horse is in contention coming in to the final furlong that certainly gets the adrenaline pumping and raises the excitement level. It also gives you a nice rush when your horse does win. Sadly for me on this last visit I was not troubling the bookies at all. I did not pick any winners. But it was a great evening of racing with some exciting contests. Which included one race which was won by a horse whose odds were eighty to one. Trust me we all wished we had put ten pounds on that one afterwards but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The atmosphere was good as ever. As Windsor is quite a small course it is very easy to move between the parade ring, the grandstand and the winners enclosure. So you can really follow the story of each race and feel very involved. Plus they do tend to theme each of their events and often put on live music after the racing has ended. This time it was a sausage festival, which I did have to get involved with and sample a few of the flavours on offer. Well it would have been rude not to.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The first football team I joined after begging my dad to get me in, as he knew the manager was Risborough Rangers, my home town team. I was seven years old. I played for them pretty much from the Under ten age group through to the Under sixteen’s. Then I played for the Aylesbury United Youth Team for a couple of years before returning to play for the reserves at Rangers and then going on to make a few appearances for the first team. Before I found radio and swapped football pitches for studios. Now the reason I bring this up is the other week I actually got to watch the first ever club I played for, play in the FA Cup.

They were at home in a FA Cup Extra Preliminary replay against Cockfosters. Who they had drawn with at their place the previous Saturday. It was a Tuesday night and I was free, so I thought I would go down and cheer them on. They play at a ground called Windsors. A pitch that I have played on and scored on many times over the years. It is a really nice set up down there and is a very friendly club. They have two small seated stands for fans and the playing surface is in excellent condition. Plus they serve tea at the tea bar in proper actual cups, which is a huge plus point for me.

Risborough Rangers
Risborough Rangers

Before the game it was great to bump in to so many people I knew. I saw my first ever football manager who would have picked me for my first ever match when I was a kid. He was also the manager of the reserves when I played for them. I also caught up with my manager at the Aylesbury United Youth Team, who then went on to manage the Risborough Rangers first team for many years. He is now the stadium announcer there. While his son has replaced him as manager. I ended up watching the game with my Uncle and another former player, who we had both played with. It was great reminiscing about the old days and talking about how things had changed since our time.

Needless to say none of the players I knew are still playing, so I did not know any of the current side. And it was the first time that I had ventured down to watch them for years. The game itself was very entertaining. It was a competitive and close fought encounter until the away side grabbed two late goals at the end of the first half to lead two – nil going in to the break. Bearing in mind Cockfosters were a league above Rangers, it looked like a big ask for the home side to get back in to the game.

However Risborough pulled a goal back about twenty seconds after the restart. This gave them the momentum and hope to keep going and they were creating some decent chances but were unable to take them. Until they were awarded a penalty with about twenty minutes to go. Which was emphatically converted much to the delight of the home fans. And but for one exceptional save from the home keeper Risborough had the better chances but just could not get the ball in the net. So it went to extra time and penalties. Risbourough lost four-two in the shoot out. But it was a good performance and the town can be proud of the team and players for the effort they put in. I had a nice night, so I might even try to get down and see a few more games there this season.

Risborough Rangers
Risborough Rangers

The Premier League football season is now also underway. It was an interesting and exciting opening weekend with a few surprising results and plenty of goals. It was good to see Tottenham start the season with a win. We have been very slow starters the last couple of seasons, which may have cost us a little at the business end of things. Plus Newcastle’s last game in the Premier League before they were relegated was a big home win against us, which led to Arsenal over taking us in the league on the final day. So I felt we owed them one. Although it does still seem that Harry Kane is unable to score in August. Hopefully he can change that this weekend against Chelsea.

With Spurs playing at Wembley Stadium this season I am hoping to get to as many games as I possibly can. Annoyingly I am unable to attend our first two Premier League matches but I will definitely be at the Swansea game. I am trying to organise a weekend in Liverpool for the Everton away trip to. Whatever happens I am sure it will be a fun and exciting season. I am looking forward to it. Plus who does not like a season that also ends with a World Cup to enjoy. It really has never been such a good time to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Last week I went and saw Bat Out of Hell The Musical at the London Coliseum. It features the music of course of Jim Steinman and many songs that were made famous and originally performed by Meatloaf. It was initially written as a musical before it was then turned in to the classic album that we all know and love. Which this October will celebrate its fortieth birthday. Packed full of big rock anthems, all performed in Meatloaf’s unique and distinctive style. It was huge.

The musical is very futuristic and American in setting and story line. It did remind me a little bit of We Will Rock You in places. But it is very high energy with exceptional staging with great use of props and video imaginary. You can really tell it is a Steinman production. Featuring moments created on stage with occasional nods to Meatloaf videos or his classic performances or even his famous ribbon on his microphone. It is basically a very complicated love story set in a post-apocalyptic world.

Bat Out Of Hell
Bat Out Of Hell

The cast are brilliant and each get their chance to shine performing one of the big songs from the show. All the songs fit in nicely with the story and the narrative. And if you were in any doubt as to exactly what some of the songs were about the way they perform them and act them out. They make it pretty clear.

They have kept the arrangement of the songs as close to the original versions as possible in most cases. So it is basically just a rocking good night out. A top show that got a deserved standing ovation, as the cast and audience joined together for a version of its title song to end proceedings. So Rock and Roll dreams can come true.

Bat Out Of Hell
Bat Out Of Hell

Up in Scotland currently it is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This is an event that somehow I have never been to but would absolutely love to. I really must get up there one year to experience it or may be even get the chance to perform up there.

There are so many great comedy shows and comedians there currently it is ridiculous. I know a few people who are up there doing shows. These include Silky and Olaf Falafel, who I gigged with at the Roving Comedy Night in Tring last month. They are both brilliant, so if you are at the Fringe you should definitely go and see them.

Silky at Roving Comedy Night
Silky at Roving Comedy Night

It seems such an inclusive, wide and varied festival. As you have so many high profile and established comics performing their brand new shows for the first time. Normally before they take them out on a nationwide tour. But you also get so many acts trying to make their mark on the comedy circuit. They hire small venues and put on daily free shows, in the hope they can build an audience or that one of the many industry people there spot them and want to make them the next big thing.

So many comedians have said that Edinburgh really launched their careers and opened lots of doors for them. I would ideally like to spend a week up there and see how many different comedians I could watch a day. I like to laugh as much as possible every day, so I think it would be an amazing experience and most importantly lots of fun. I would imagine you would also meet a lot of fun and interesting people. I will get round to it one day I am sure. I am a great believer of trying to do as many different new things as possible every year and going to this would tick a big box for me, personally.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Did you see any of the World Athletics from the London Stadium? There were some great performances and magic moments.  It was lovely to see the place full of people enjoying the athletics. It was a little disappointing to see Usain Bolt and Mo Farrah both bow out of track running with defeats. But you know what, that just shows you how tough it is to achieve what they have and to maintain the level of performance that they have through their careers.

Sport is unpredictable and there are no guarantees. Two legends moving on to other things. Nothing lasts for ever. Enjoy your successes, live in the moment. And if you have given your all except the times when it is just not quite your day. So many good lessons in life can be learnt from sport. I have always thought this.

The London Stadium
The London Stadium

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

Barcelona

Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really nice couple of weeks. Mine have been very busy with lots of fun things going on. The main thing in particular was a visit to a European city that I had never been to before. So as the United Kingdom was getting ready to remove itself from the European Union I was finally embracing a new area of it. For my fortieth some friends of mine clubbed together and got me a travel voucher, which I used towards a long weekend away in Barcelona. So that is where I was last weekend.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I flew out very early on the Friday morning from Luton airport. As I was only going for a couple of nights I decided I would only take hand luggage on the plane with me. This was the first time I had ever done this and ended up losing my deodorant and face wash at security control. As they contained over one hundred millilitres of liquid. Which is not allowed seemingly. I never even thought of that issue. To be fair to the good people of Barcelona I did replace those items as soon as I arrived in the city.

I had a pleasant flight there with Easy Jet. They looked after me well and were all happy and friendly. When I landed in Barcelona I decided to take the train to my hotel. I will be honest it did take me a little while to firstly find the train station there and secondly work out roughly where I needed to get off. I took the train in to the centre and then I used their Metro network to get nearer to the hotel. I was impressed by the fact that on the underground trains there is full 3G available. This proved very useful when I got a bit lost and had to re-check my route. As I could do that while still sat on a Metro train.

Barcelona
Barcelona

My hotel was situated in the Gothic Quarter of the City. It was just off La Rambla, which is a very vibrant and busy street with lots of places to eat and drink. The street off it where the hotel was where I was staying, was very easy to find as the start of it was between a Mcdonald’s and a KFC. Two places which I am very familiar with. So it made the place I was staying very easy to find.

When I arrived it was bucketing it down with rain. But even so after I had  checked in to the hotel. I thought I should still try and do some exploring and sight-seeing. The architecture and style of some of the buildings is breath taking and I took a look inside a few of them that were open to the public. In fact not long in to my walk I stumbled across a statue showing St George standing over the dragon. I have not done any research on this, so I have no idea why they have a tribute to our patron saint on display, may be he was actually Catalonian.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The rain then got the better of me for a moment, so I went in to a coffee shop to sample the local tea. I am not saying that it was not very good or up to my normal standard but that was the last time I attempted a tea until I got home. After sheltering for a bit I headed back out in to the wet and continued looking at the great Cathedral’s and regal state buildings. As well as the very narrow and populated old streets.

I was trying to stay out of bars and restaurants for as long as possible, as I did not want to start drinking to early. But the rain was not easing and I was getting wetter and wetter. So I gave in and found a lovely little bar to stay dry in. I had my first glass of Spanish red wine. With my motto for the weekend being to try new local things only. I had a stuffed peppers dish followed by a green raspberry cheesecake. All of which was fantastic and which may or may not have been washed down with a second glass of red.

Barcelona
Barcelona

When I left there the rain had become so heavy it was practically biblical, so I decided it was not worth trying to see anymore of my surroundings. So I made the executive plan to just visit a few bars close to my hotel for the evening. They were all very nice and friendly and thankfully for me with my terrible language skills. They all seemed to speak English or in some cases have English staff.

The atmosphere was relaxed and I got chatting to many different people from all over the world during the course of the night. It did seem that there were quite a few Americans visiting, which I do not know why but that surprised me a bit. I then headed back to the hotel at a reasonable time, as the next morning I was going to go and do the thing I wanted to do most while I was there.

Barcelona
Barcelona

I am a big football fan. I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of big stadiums over the years. I spent some time working at Wembley Stadium. So as I was in Barcelona for the weekend. There was one place that I had to visit. The stadium with the biggest capacity in the whole of Europe. I am of course talking about the Nou Camp, the home of the epic Barcelona Football Club.

I was way too excited for a man of my age as I got off the Metro Train, walked down towards the ground and got my first glimpse of it from the outside. It does look pretty old and basic as you approach it. But then when you get a bit closer and see the colours and massive pictures of the star players on it, it looks very impressive.

Nou Camp
Nou Camp

I arrived and got my ticket for the Tour Experience after a slight scare, as at first the machine was not working so I could not get one. But happily it was swiftly fixed and I was heading towards the entrance with my ticket in my hand and a big smile on my face,

The first thing they do is take a welcome photo against a green screen, which they let you see at the end, against a selection of different back drops. There are several other photo opportunities as you move through the tour, which I will tell you about later.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Then you head through to the Barcelona FC museum. That is just sensational. They have so much memorabilia on display including some ridiculously old and original shirts. They also have a signed Maradona shirt, the boots Ronald Koeman wore when he scored that winning free kick at the old Wembley in the European Cup Final in 1992 and a shirt and pair of boots belonging to Lionel Messi.

And then the trophy cabinets are immense. They seem to hold every trophy the club has ever won. Including the trophy’s they currently hold. And their five Champions League Trophy’s. I have done the Tottenham Hotspur tour and it puts our trophy room to shame, that is for sure.

You then get to head out in to the stands, it was nice to finally be inside this great home of football. From there you can make your way down to the press room and on to a replica of the away dressing room. The whole tour includes lots of great pictures and interactive video displays as you walk round.

Next they give you chance to walk out that famous tunnel. Which does actually have its very own elaborate chapel. You walk up some steps to get pitch side. Where you can take some photos and sit in both the home and away dug outs. The pitch looked amazing, although they did appear to have a bit of a problem with pigeons there bizarrely. Next up it is the corporate areas and then the press box. Which I have to say offered a great view of the pitch.

Barcelona
Barcelona

Heading down from there, they give you chance to have your picture taken with a replica of the Champions League Trophy with the Nou Camp in the background. I have got my picture and it is brilliant. I also have a picture of me celebrating with the team after the 2011 Wembley win, one with the current team and one of me and Lionel Messi with our arms round each other.

The tour was brilliant. I would definitely recommend it if you are a football fan. It is a spectacular and historic stadium that has been graced by many of the world’s greatest players at some point or another.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Now happily the weather on my second day was much better, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. So after I left the Nou Camp I headed back to my hotel to drop off all the pictures from my tour. I then decided to head out for a walk to try and find the Barcelona beach. I mean the city really does have everything.

To get to the beach I had to walk past the port. Which had some of the most amazing Yachts I had even seen moored there. It would appear there is obviously money about. It was a nice stroll and being as in my head I was on holiday I treated myself to an ice-cream.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I eventually found the beach. It is fair to say the sea was a bit lively and was actually full of surfers catching some waves. I found myself a beach side cafe overlooking the sea. Where I treated myself to a glass of Sangria and some Tapas. Both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, while listening to the sound of the waves in the background. I returned to the hotel to get changed before heading out for a traditional Spanish meal.

So I found a nice restaurant in which I tried my first ever Paella. I never take pictures of my food but for this big occasion I made an exception. It was lovely and accompanied by a glass of red wine. I then hit a few more different bars in the area for the rest of the evening. Like in England the clocks also go forward, so technically I lost an hour when I was there.

Barcelona Paella
Barcelona Paella

On my final day I did the typical tourist thing of taking a City Bus Tour, which lasted about an hour and an half and was very interesting and educational. They really do have some stunning looking buildings. Much like London there are old style ones mixed in with brand new ones. They also have a huge aquarium which I visited.

It has a part of it where you walk through a special tunnel with different species including Sharks swimming alongside and above you. It was fascinating and the closest I have been to a  shark. All to soon it was time to come home late on the Sunday. Again another lovely flight with Easy Jet led by a funny and amusing cabin manager. All in all it was a great weekend in a city that I would be happy to visit again in the future.

Barcelona
Barcelona

Next weekend I am looking forward to my annual trip up to Liverpool for the Grand National Meeting at Aintree. I always have a great time when I visit the place. But there is always something special about these four days.

We normally just go to the course for Ladies Day on the Friday but there is talk of possibly making it on the day of the big race to. Either way the atmosphere in what is always a party city is electric. It will be a lot of fun. I will tell you all about it next time we speak.

Grand National Weekend
Grand National Weekend

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

Thoroughly Modern Me

Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really good couple of weeks. Mine have been fairly busy with some fun stuff going on. Now as I have mentioned before I am a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing. One of my current favourite dancer’s on the show is the brilliant Joanne Clifton. So when I discovered she was going to be starring in the new touring version of Thoroughly Modern Millie. And that it was coming to one of my local theatre’s. I decided that I had to get along to see it.

Therefore a couple of Tuesday’s ago I did just that at The Swan Theatre in High Wycombe. I have to confess that although I am a huge fan of musicals, it was not one that I had seen before. I did not even know what the story was about, which actually made a nice change. Seeing something that was completely new to me. I was genuinely surprised and absorbed by the plot.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Happily and conveniently for the show’s title I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. The whole cast were fantastic. The songs were great. It featured a live Orchestra, which always enhances any performance, I think. It is quite a high energy, fast moving show with a relatively small cast, so some of the actors have to play a couple of different parts. It is fair to say that everyone is working hard while on and also off stage. As ever, like with most musicals it has a story line that looks at perceptions, decisions and morals with an element of good versus evil. But there are a few clever twists in it, which I really liked.

Now we come on to the main reason I went in the first place. The gorgeous Joanne Clifton, who shines in the lead role and carries the whole show so effortlessly. She really has not taken the easy option here for her first big production. As this part requires her to do an American accent. Which she does perfectly. She seems to have an aura around her, which attracts your attention and means you cannot take your eyes off her. Which I believe demonstrates star quality.

It really is a stunning performance. She has a great voice and really belts out those big numbers. Her acting is believable. And there is of course no need to question her dancing, she is a world champion in that arena.

She is definitely going to go on to star in more musicals. And I would be amazed not to see her in the West End sometime soon. Right at the end, as the curtain was falling, after the play had finished. She and one of the other actors gave us a little bit of a classic jive to enjoy, which was ace. She was giving it her all right to the very last second. She seemed to be loving it and I must admit I loved watching it to.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I also spent another night in High Wycombe recently checking out a new shop that has opened there. It is called the Brewery Shop. And it does what it says on the tin. It is a shop serving a huge selection of different beers from lots of various independent and local brewery’s.

It does also have a decent bar area with a huge selection of different guest craft ales on tap. So you can sit in there and try lots of different drinks. It seemed nice and friendly in there. Plus the selection of drinks they had was impressive. I tried a couple of them while I was there. I would imagine that I will be going back there again to sample some more of them at some point.

Beer
Beer

Saturday Night Take Away is back on television for another series. And once again I am really enjoying it. It is one of the maddest show’s of the year. With the two Geordie geniuses acting as ring masters to the huge Circus. I have said this before but they have cleverly taken all the best bits from every Saturday night entertainment programme that there has ever been. Put them all together and adapted them to their own unique style.

I went and watched a show live in the studio last year and that was brilliant. The atmosphere in that studio is electric. It is just like one big giant party. The ninety minutes go so quickly. It is fun seeing them get things ready and set things up  during the advert breaks. It is just plain old fashioned silly fun and very entertaining.

Saturday Night Takeaway
Saturday Night Takeaway

The two of them are in their element and are given a bit of freedom to ad-lib and create magic moments in this inclusive and live environment. Now while they are not comedians, the relationship and comedy timing that exists between them does at least slightly remind me of Morecambe and Wise. They certainly have that connection together and the ability to make the audience feel we are all in on the joke with them.

I like the new weekly serials that they have added over the last two years. They are both ridiculous and hilarious, full of silly and amusing jokes. And feature some great cameos with the lads very happy to send themselves up in them. Plus the end of the show show is of course always a winner. And in many ways the idea behind that, seems like another nod to the two comedy legends I mentioned earlier. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the series. It is simply fun, which is what the world needs more of in my opinion.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The Nightly Show has now started on ITV1. I went to see the pilot version of it. At that time I felt it still needed a bit of work to get it right. And three weeks in I have to say I still think it does. It is the type of programme that the United Kingdom has been missing. They have been doing this kind of show very well in America for a very long time. Now I do really want it to work and for it to become a regular thing. But having watched a couple of episodes over the first few weeks. I think it is trying a bit too hard, it all seems a little too forced and they are trying to pack too much in, making it quite a difficult and awkward watch for me personally.

Although I appreciate it is not easy writing funny and topical material to order, every single night. But for me the opening monologue’s do need to be better. To set the tone, get the audience on side and give it that sense of the day. To make it unique and up to the minute. If you want to do a nightly topical show, it does need to be just that. Some of the guest choices have been a bit odd to. And I am not totally convinced the quick games with members of the public really add anything to it either.

I saw via social media that Danny Baker has offered his services to mould this show and build it up. Now love him or hate him. He has got form with this sort of thing from his past TV work. Which suggests he could may be give it the kick start that it needs. I do really want it to work and for it to be good. I hope they can tweak it and find the right vibe for it. That said the viewing figures for it are pretty good for a new show at that time, but I genuinely think it can be better.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Last Friday night I went with my dad to the Official Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Association Dinner at Adams Park. The home of the football team it assists. Both he and my mum are season ticket holders at the club. And members of the aforementioned organisation, as am I. It was a very pleasant evening including an enjoyable three course meal. That featured the best chocolate mousse dessert I have had for a while.

Since it was formed over twenty five years ago. It has donated over seventy-five thousand pounds to the club. It was good to see the manager Gareth Ainsworth there supporting the event. They auctioned off Myles Weston’s shirt from the FA Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur, which was signed by the whole squad. Plus there was a raffle in which I won a bottle of red wine, which topped off a very enjoyable evening, very nicely.

Wycombe V Barnet
Wycombe V Barnet

Talking of the mighty Tottenham Hotspur our season has been going through another quite decent spell. Well if you completely ignore crashing out of the Europa League that is. Certainly in the Premier League, things have been looking good with wins and good performances becoming the norm.

Still cannot see us getting past Cheslea though, I think they have the title sewn up already. The most exciting thing for me though is reaching the FA Cup Semi-Final. It has been far too long since we have been in one. Although we do now have to get past Chelsea in that to get to the final.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

My only ever trip to Old Trafford was to see us lose to Newcastle in a FA Cup Semi-final, several years ago now. I have always loved the competition and it has been to long since we have had a shot at the final of it. When you consider that we have not won it since 1991 and that was the last time that we were even in the final.

We must be due another appearance, I hope. If for no other reason than Chas N Dave can release a new Spurs song for the occasion. I can’t wait for the Semi-final it is going to be huge. And if we get to the final I will have to try and get a ticket for that somehow. Come on you Spurs.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Yesterday it was the seventeenth of March and therefore of course St Patrick’s Day. I do have a surname of Irish origin. My Granddad was born there. Plus I have been over to Dublin four times. So as far as I am concerned that qualifies me to be able to spend this very special day in a pub, having a few drinks. This year was no different. I went to my favourite pub in London.

Which just so happens to be an Irish Bar called Waxy O’Connor’s. Where I enjoyed a few pints of Guinness. The atmosphere in there is always top quality. To add to the flavour of the occasion they have music playing all day plus a traditional Irish Trio performing live a few times during the day to.

St Patrick's Day
St Patrick’s Day

Last year I won a competition on social media for my photos of the event. That prize pack included T-shirts from the place, which I really like. I was tempted to wear one of them this year but then I realised that I would look like the staff and end up having to serve people pints or tell them where the toilets were all day.

It was brilliant fun as ever and made even more entertaining by the fact they showed the Cheltenham Gold Cup live on the big screen. For a second during the race it almost felt like I was there. I always enjoy this day, every year.  It was lots of fun celebrating with a great group of people.

St Patrick's Day
St Patrick’s Day

I am looking forward to next weekend visiting and exploring somewhere that I have never been before. For my fortieth birthday some friends of mine got together and got me a travel voucher as a present. So I have used that to enjoy a weekend away in Barcelona.

I have never been to main land Spain before, so I am very excited. I have heard great things about the place from friends who have been before. I will tell you all about it and let you know what I got up to next time we speak.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

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