Lockdown rules continue to be eased with all non-essential shops opening again this week. I am still being extra cautious and still only going out when I have to and need to. I am Asthmatic so I am being really careful. Although to be honest the main places that I used to go were Football Stadiums, Theatres, Television Studios, Pubs and Race Courses and none of these are open to the public as of yet.
Talking of which this week it is Royal Ascot. It is taking place behind closed doors adhering to government requirements and operating with the least amount of people as possible. I have been to the event for the last three years now. This year I was due to be there on the opening day Tuesday and yesterday on the Friday. It is a fantastic day out. You get all dressed up, everyone looks amazing, the food and drink are lovely and you get to see the Queen.
It also produces five days of exceptional horse races. The best horses from all over the world come to Berkshire to complete for some very big and prestigious prizes. It is so exciting especially when you see the one you backed hurtling towards the finishing post. There is a special atmosphere to the place and at the end of the days racing you gather around the Band Stand for a good old fashioned sing song. Normally while enjoying a glass of Pimm’s.
Obviously I missed out on all that this year. It is great for the Sport that they got the event on. It is so important for the racing industry to be back and racing albeit behind closed doors. It was of course very different watching it at home while drinking tea and wearing my slippers but it was still good fun to have a few bets and enjoy some top quality racing. I will be back there next year having a great day out with friends and giving my annual wave to the Queen.
As a Season Ticket Holder at Tottenham Hotspur normally when the team are playing at home you will find me at the stadium cheering them on. The Premier League season has resumed this week with all the remaining matches being played behind closed doors with no fans in the stadium and only the bare minimum number of people required. Spurs had their first game under these conditions at their home stadium last night. I was of course watching it from my front room. It felt strange seeing them playing at home with me not there sat in my seat.
True to form this season though it was not exactly a dominating home performance, despite taking the lead with drew one all with Manchester United. It did have the feel of a pre-season friendly a little bit. One thing I had forgotten during the break was how it is so frustrating and annoying when your team to not get the result you were hoping for. Emotions I had clearly been missing while the game was suspended. Spurs back and doing what they do best!
It is quite weird seeing the games played in empty stadiums with no fans watching. Luckily the German League restarted a few weeks ago, so that has given us a bit of time to acclimatise to it. It must be strange for players who are used to playing in front of thousands of people to be playing in front of no one. It must just feel like a training session or a behind closed doors friendly to them surely. It should not affect their game or the way they play as once you step on to any pitch you should just want to win whatever. Or is that just me?
The players are being tested every week. In the lead up to the start of games again there have been a few positive results. It is still a bit like heading into the unknown but again looking at Germany it has not spread through their players despite being in close contact in the heat of battle during games. You just hope everybody stays safe and well and that we can finish the season off with all the matches being fully completed. Ideally with Spurs claiming a top four finish meaning Champions League football next season, if that is even possible of course.
It seems odd to me watching the games on TV with no atmosphere. It is almost like watching a Sunday League fixture with granted a lot more quality and skill. The celebrations also have to be muted when a goal is scored. There is not meant to be any hugging and kissing at the moment. It is a nice distraction to have football back and on the television. As they are trying to get it all finished in as shortest time as possible. There are lots of matches on TV to see every week.
I am currently still doing my weekly Pop Quiz on my Facebook page. It is every Tuesday at 8.30pm, if you fancy getting involved. It has now been running for ten weeks. Simply just for a bit of fun! All that happens is that I supply you with six rounds each containing five questions including an audio round. You play along however you would like to at home. Then I give you the answers, it really is as straight forward as that.
I will also throw in some extra music trivia and the odd story from my time in radio and meetings with various singers and musicians. They only last about thirty minutes and I do try to make them as professional as possible. If you are a big Pop Quiz fan all the past episodes are still available on my Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/neil.quigley
I guess I will keep them going until we have places that we can visit and catch up with people in person. Which looks like it might be next month. But we will have to wait and see it would seem. If you want to get on board it would be great to have you playing along.
I have actually got the first event in my diary since March to go to next month. I have got tickets to go to see Moulin Rouge at the Luna Drive In at Allianz Park the home of the Saracens Rugby team. This is of course providing it all gets the green light to go ahead. We will be in our own cars therefore we will be able to social distance from the rest of the people there.
You park up in a dedicated car parking space facing the big screen. All the cars will be adequately spaced out. The audio will be sent via a localised FM frequency so you will hear it through your car radio. It will be a very different experience for me having never been to a “Drive In” movie before. We plan on bringing our own refreshments.
There will be toilets there apparently but spread out two metres apart so we can all social distance safely, while using the facilities. I have actually seen this film before which with my history of seeing films is quite rare. It should be a fun night out, plus it will be nice to be around people and enjoy a shared event with them. I fear it might be longer than we think before we can return to normal cinemas. I will of course let you know what it was like.
Certain places are being allowed to reopen now in England including Zoo’s and Safari Parks. I must confess I quite like a visit to either of these attractions. To be fair the times I have been to Whipsnade Zoo recently it has been easy enough to be able to social distance, if it was actually required then, when of course it was not. Depending how quickly other attractions are allowed to take in guests again. I am thinking my next day out might be to a Zoo.
When I was at Secondary School we had an activities week towards the end of the summer term. One year I did the option called “Zoo Quest” which involved visiting a different Zoo or Safari Park every day. I really enjoyed it and if I am honest I am currently thinking of may be reliving that experience.
Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil.
We have just had this year’s BBC Children In Need appeal. It is always a very special campaign for a whole host of reasons. And most importantly it always raises lots of money for thousands of amazing charities.
It is actually quite frightening the amount of people who do rely on help from charities sometimes just to exist. Some of the stories are heart breaking. But they also highlight how the people in the worse situations can be the most positive. We can all take something and learn from that outlook, I think.
There is a nice community feel to this event with lots of school kids getting involved to help fellow children not as fortunate as them. A whole host of big businesses also embrace and support it. I must say huge congratulations to Rylan Clark-Neal for his twenty-four hour karaoke marathon. That was live on Radio 2 and brought in over one million pounds.
I will be honest I often find it a bit annoying when “non-radio” presenters are suddenly given shows on the big networks. But just as he had with television presenting, he has clearly listened to the right people, learnt the craft quickly and is doing a really great job. For which I respect him greatly. Plus he seems like a thoroughly nice bloke, which again is not always the case.
Last Sunday I went to see Michael Ball do his Radio 2 Show live from The Savoy Theatre in London for Children In Need. They sold tickets for it with all the proceeds going to the Pudsey Bear fronted charity. I have over the years presented lots of radio shows from outside the comfort of the studio.
They are always great fun but require a lot of hard work and result normally in much more adrenaline flowing through the body. There is so much more that can go wrong when you are out on location. It really does involve flying by the seat of your pants and hoping that everything works.
Kudos to Michael and his production team who were putting on this show totally live from a theatre with lots of live music performances thrown in just to make it even harder for themselves. I must say that they did a fantastic job and it was a very slick programme from start to finish. It requires top notch communication skills from everybody to make it all work. You need to be totally on the ball (pun intended).
They did leave it very late to get the audience in. Although that is of course less of an issue with radio than television. The last person got to their seat just as the travel news was about to finish and the show was about to start. The opening act was a Rock Choir who did their version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Which I would say is quite apt for the start of a live radio show on location. Despite it being just after eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning the crowd were loud and in good spirits, singing and clapping along from the word go.
Michael Ball is such a natural performer and you could tell he was at home on the stage, even though we were watching him do his radio show. That means lots of conversations with the producers while the records or to be more accurate the digital recordings of songs are playing. This is also when the stage was set up for the next item. That is the beauty of radio. When you need time to sort something out or if something is not quite ready on time, you just play another song.
The next guest on the show was the wonderful Rick Astley. He is always happy to help out and donate his time to charity. He was on fine form. He did his excellent latest single. Then he had a quick chat with Mr Ball about his career and his latest tour before treating us to his big break through hit from the eighties “Never Gonna Give You Up”. His voice by the way is still sounding as good as ever. He really is a top quality live performer. I did enjoy singing along to that classic piece of pop history. However if I am honest I am not sure if the person sitting next to me enjoyed it as much.
Michael then played a round of his weekly quiz On The Ball. It is normally played by two contestants who know each other over the phone. But this time he had them both on stage with him. It did not go exactly to plan as the audience could not resist shouting out the answers, so both competitors got I would suggest more points than they normally would. It was all good fun and I must admit I do like a good quiz. Plus if I do say so myself I am pretty good at them. By this I mean I know a lot of useless rubbish.
Bonnie Langford then came on stage for a chat with the host. She is appearing in 9 to 5. That is currently playing at the theatre, more on that later on. It turns out that Michael had his first on stage kiss with Bonnie in 1985, when they were both in the Pirates of Penzance. For a laugh they did recreate it for us. She then showed off some of her dance moves. This is not meant to be at all sexist or ageist but for a woman of her age she can still kick her feet way above her head. She is amazing and a lovely person to.
To end the first hour of the show Michael was joined on stage by his great mate Alfie Boe to sing a song from their new album. It is the third one that they have made together. They are also going out on tour together to. Obviously they both have spectacular voices that compliment each other. But what is really great is the camaraderie between them. They get on so well and have such respect for each other, it is wonderful. Needless to say their version of “Something Inside So Strong” was sensational.
I have been a fan of Status Quo for years and up till this year had never seen them live. I have now seen them twice in the last three months. They were the first act of the final hour of the show. They came on and did their latest single. Then Michael tried to chat to Francis Rossi. I think he is brilliant! He is just like a big kid, he has that twinkle in his eye and just wants to throw the interviewer off and take the rise without really answering any questions. Then the band played “Rocking All Over The World”, which had the entire theatre singing along at the top of our voices.
The time was really flying by, which is always a good sign. Next on stage it was James Blunt. He did his latest song, then had a chat to Michael before playing a stripped down version of “Goodbye My Lover” with just him on the piano. He does seem to get a lot of stick. I am not even sure why as I think he seems like a nice bloke. I would recommend following him on Twitter as he does give some excellent responses to people who troll him on there. They are pretty funny. For the record his new album is excellent.
Right at the end Michael Ball was joined on stage by the entire cast of the Les Miserables Staged Concert to perform “One Day More”. It was stunning. I have been lucky enough to see the full show, so I do know how out of this world their voices are. It was a brilliant way to close an expertly well produced and executed radio show, all in aid of a very good cause. Congratulations to everyone who was involved. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was back at The Savoy Theatre last Wednesday to see 9 To 5 The Musical. Being a fan of country music in general I am of course well aware of the work of the legend that is Dolly Parton. Although to be honest I had never seen the film version. That is more due to my lack of ability to watch movies than any slight on the story. It is based on the 1980 film which Dolly herself starred in. She is the producer of this stage version. I am delighted to say she does in video form make a few appearances to.
It is a lovely intimate theatre The Savoy of course attached to the famous hotel, whose name it shares. It is always nice when you go in as outside there is usually a load of limousines, so it feels quite grand and a little bit showbiz. I can confirm that the Rioja they serve there is perfectly acceptable to. The bar areas are quite small and compact but the seats in the theatre have plenty of leg room. Well for a man like me with short legs at least
The show was fantastic. It is a comedy so there were loads of funny moments. It was getting plenty of laughs from the audience. But the subject matter and arc of the story contains lots of moral and ethical issues. The songs are of course brilliant as they have been written by Dolly Parton. The cast were all excellent. It is quite amusing as Dolly played one of the roles in the film and let us just say they have kept true to that in this version. If you see it, you will know what I mean. It does need to be like that for it to all work really.
I must say that I did think Brian Conley was perfect as the terrible sexist boss. He played it great and of course being a comedy genius got plenty of laughs. Also Bonnie Langford was amazing in it. She is virtually a national treasure. She can sing, act and dance. In fact her dancing skills in this are sensational. She gets her own solo routine which she absolutely nails. I do not think I have ever seen somebody do the splits so effortlessly and graciously. She is like Super Woman.
Another fine afternoon out at the theatre seeing an excellent show, it got a deserved standing ovation. Then we all stayed on our feet to sing 9 to 5 with the cast, which is a very uplifting way to finish it off. Afterwards I had dinner with my family at The Ivy Garden in Covent Garden. I do really like it in there. The service is fantastic. They have a very good selection of excellent meals. It is always a pleasure to go there.
One of my favourite television programmes returned to our screens last Sunday. Right from the very first series I have always enjoyed it. The show in question is I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I am a fan of Ant and Dec and I think this is arguably the best thing they do. They get to tell jokes, do mini skits and take the mickey out of all of the camp mates. Add to that the fact they are often so evil to them during the Bush Tucker Trials. I personally think that it makes for top quality entertainment. It is good to see Ant back with his mate after he missed last year due to his personal problems.
Over the years I have been lucky enough to meet many of the Kings and Queens of the jungle, as well as lots of former camp mates. They have all pretty much said the same thing. That it was one of the best experiences of their entire life. I guess it must be such an unique and unusual environment to be subjected to. It simply strips away all the superficial stuff and just leaves the need to acquire food and be with people. It must be quite enlightening, as well as being tough on the body and mind. I would like to give it a try but I will be honest, I am not sure if I could do it. I am not really an outdoorsy kind of guy.
I know it is still fairly early days but so far I really like all of this year’s Celebrities. They all seem nice and well-meaning people. Which in the current world climate is very reassuring, Mind you they are not cold and hungry yet. The competition has not really started, so that could all change. James Haskell is making me laugh the most. He has some top banter skills honed by many years of playing a team sport, I suspect. The only one who I have met in this line up is Ian Wright. He is a very nice, friendly and decent bloke, who I expect to do well this year. He is certainly very competitive.
I am looking forward to seeing how this series progresses. I know some people like it and think it is good television when people argue and fall out with each other. However I prefer seeing people getting along having a good laugh and working together. I am not a big fan of watching confrontation. I do also like seeing around the hotel they go to when they get kicked out of the jungle. It looks stunning. I am not going to predict who will win, as I do think it is pretty open this year. Plus I always get it wrong.
Strictly Come Dancing is reaching an interesting time. It has got to the stage this year where anyone could go. During the first half you can normally pretty much predict who will leave every week, as they are the worst dancer. At the minute with probably two exceptions everyone is at a fairly similar level. One bad dance or one dance style that does not suit could see anyone go. It is quite odd how I hate to see anyone leave but then forget about them pretty quickly when they do. As the old saying goes “That’s Showbiz”
This year as I have said previously I do like Chris Ramsey. He is not the best dancer, but he is very entertaining. He had not danced in public before the show, so has come a really long way. Kelvin is very good and I think Oti is fantastic. They must be in with a real chance of being champions. Karim and Amy are fabulous. Saffron and AJ look great together and always put on a show. It is brilliant to see Anton have a great year with the lovely Emma Barton. It would be nice to see him in the final.
I am sadly a terrible dancer. Several years ago I went to one Salsa class and was so bad that I never returned. Recently I have been trying to learn the Cha Cha Cha via online videos. I am finding it so tough just mastering the basic steps. The way these celebrities learn a new dance style and routine every week and then perform it live on a Saturday night amazes me. They all have my upmost respect. The professional dancers on the show are like magicians.
I went to England’s 1000th International football match at Wembley Stadium against Montenegro with my dad. We went for a couple of drinks first in The Arch pub before heading in to the ground. Before the game we had some pizza and I had a cup of tea. This is a pretty standard pre-match routine for me. The game itself was the most comfortable and straight forward England home game I had seen for years. We won eight – nil and Harry Kane had scored a hat-trick by half time.
This did mean that the second half was pretty dull and a bit boring compared to the first half when the goals were flying in. I must say I was a little disappointed in the half time reflection on the milestone of this match. I expected to see more of the 1966 World Cup team on the pitch and being interviewed, as well as a bigger selection of former internationals. I few former players walked out to the half way line and some were interviewed. But I just felt that more should have been made out of the occasion. Nice to see Wayne Rooney get a decent reception as the country’s record goal scorer.
Talking of receptions it was odd seeing Joe Gomez getting booed when coming on as a second half sub. He was obviously involved in the incident with Raheem Sterling but had done nothing wrong. I found this reaction very confusing. When a player steps out on to the pitch to represent the national team, they should have the fans full support. The win did mean we guaranteed qualification for the 2020 European Championships. The semi-finals and finals of which will be played at Wembley Stadium.
England then completed their qualifying campaign with a four- nil away win against Kosovo. Harry Kane scored his 32nd goal for his country. He is now sixth on the all-time scorer’s list, just twenty one goals behind Wayne Rooney. If he can stay fit I can see no reason why he cannot beat the record. He really is one of the best forwards in the world. He creates so many goals as well as scoring them. May be I am a little bit biased but I do sometimes think that he does not always get the credit he deserves.
Tottenham Hotspur continues to disappoint. I was at the last home game before the International Break. We managed to hold on for a draw against Sheffield United with a little help from our old friend VAR. Which for the record, I hate. It really is taking the fun and passion out of games. You are not sure if you should celebrate a goal now in case it is ruled out. Fans are cheering no goals like goals.
The decisions take ages and nobody in the ground has any idea what is going on. That makes for a very strange atmosphere during the games. Finally it is putting the officials on edge, so they are making more mistakes than they would if it was not there. I wish they would just stop using it completely.
I am still in shock at Mauricio Pochettino being sacked by Spurs. I am a massive fan of his, he did an amazing job at the club in very difficult circumstances. I did not only love the manager, I loved the man. How he held himself, the way he spoke, his ideas and passion for the team. I just want to personally thank him for what he has done for us over the last five years. I am sad to see him go and although things have not been going well this season, I would still have backed him to turn things around. Cheers Poch, he is still magic you know!
I have never been a fan of Jose Mourinho. I appreciate that he has been successful in the past. However he is the new manager of my club and I am completely behind him. I hope he does not moan as much as he has in the past or be such an idiot in some situations. We play West Ham United away this weekend, always a tough place to go. We really need to win as we are at risk of being dragged into the relegation places. Big match!
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.
I have always been a Tottenham Hotspur fan. The first game I ever saw was a Spurs side play Wycombe Wanderers at their old Loakes Park ground in a testimonial match. My team won comfortably with a hat-trick from Paul Walsh. Although I of course remained a Spurs fan, after this trip to see the “Chairboys”. I decided to go and watch them more often, as they were based nearer to where I lived at the time.
At this point they were still in the Vauxhall Conference. And had a light blue home kit which weirdly is similar to the brand new Spurs third kit. Anyway I ended up watching the Wanderers regularly in my teens. In fact I was a season ticket holder there for a couple of seasons. I have always kept an eye on their results and still go and see them occasionally.
As it happens as well as my Dad and Mum both being season ticket holders. A friend of mine who I used to work with at Wembley is also a Wycombe fan. We went along to see them play Southend United a couple of weeks ago. They have actually had quite a decent start to the season and came from behind to win the game three-two in the last minute. I cannot fault the excitement factor they provided.
We did predictably bump into my parents after the game. There are two drummers amongst the Blues singing fans who provide a beat all through the game, although it does add to the atmosphere. I am not particularly a lover of it. But on the plus side they serve my favourite beer Rebellion at the ground. Therefore I would not rule out another trip there before the season is over.
It was brilliant to be back at Mix 96 for the day the other Thursday. I was helping them with their coverage from The Bucks County Show. I have been involved in many of these big productions over the years normally on air from the showground myself. But this time I was in the studio pressing all the buttons for the legend that is Mr Nathan Cooper.
I have presented countless programmes from that studio, so it was great to be back in there once again. I felt very much at home. It was fun as ever to work with Nathan and the rest of the team there. This year it is the radio station’s twenty fifth-birthday. Richard Carr, who I used to work with there has just produced a documentary, that I am delighted to feature in.
He has released part one. Which I have seen and which is absolutely brilliant. He has also put out a version of the first song played on the station when it launched ABBA’s Dancing Queen with some current and former employees me included grooving along to it. That is epic! Next Saturday there is a Mix 96 Reunion which will also include the premier of Part two of the documentary. I am looking forward to this event. It will be great fun, I am sure.
I paid my first ever visit to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre to see their production of Evita. Firstly you will not find a nicer walk to any venue. Than the greenery and scenery you get when strolling to this one. Secondly when you arrive you will find a quality restaurant and a couple of decent bar areas at your disposal. I did my classic thing of a glass of red wine before the show with the same beverage ordered ready for the interval.
I was not sure what to expect. I did correctly guess that they would have very limited scenery options and that they would have to be a bit creative with their story telling. The stage itself was pretty basic and made up of lots of steps. All it had on it was Evita in huge letters. There were normal outside event seats fitted but you can also pay to sit on the grass banks to watch. I had a proper seat on the forth row with a perfect view of the stage.
I really enjoyed the show and thought it was brilliant. It had quite a dark and rustic feel to it, which I liked. The cast were fantastic. The costumes were on the whole pretty low-key and basic compared to the normal versions of this musical that I have seen. The lack of sets does not affect the story or your ability to follow and keep up with the narrative. There were some unexpected and you could possibly argue slightly odd interpretations of some parts of the story. But I liked it. And it was performed expertly.
The sound system is faultless. The music and singing so clear. You really could not fault it at all for entertainment. With it being outside they can really raise the pyrotechnic stakes compared to in a normal theatre, which they do. I have just about recovered from the huge explosion right at the start of the performance. They also use a lot of smoke and flares to add to the drama of this classic tale. Along with a clever use of the lighting. I would certainly go and see another show there next summer.
My mum has recently celebrated her 70th Birthday. I spent the day with her, which was lovely. We visited a local church, as she wanted to see the grave of one set of her grandparents. We then went for a nice leisurely walk. Before a snack at a chocolate cafe, as a reward for the exercise we had just done and to mark this huge occasion with some cake.
In the evening we opened a bottle of bubbles to toast her special day and ordered a huge Chinese Takeaway. We then finished the night by watching the first episode of the new series of QI. Which is fittingly titled Q. This was actually one that I was at the filming of as well, so we spent half the time trying to spot me in the audience. I hope my mum thoroughly enjoyed herself. She does seem to do alright in life. She seems to be out almost as much as I am. That is a pretty decent achievement.
I am a horse racing fan and try to get to a lot of the big meetings. It is something I first did when I was living and working in Somerset. You cannot beat a nice day out at the races. Recently I have bought a few shares in a fairly young horse called Stage Star through the Owners Group. They have lots of horses with different trainers offering the chance to buy shares in them for a year at a time.
As well as sending you regular updates and videos of the horse. They organise open days at the stables and also at a place they own called Equiprep. This is where mainly the horses go to rest and relax when they are not in training, kind of like a little holiday place. But it is also somewhere they are conditioned and built up so they are sent back to the trainers ready and raring to go and in excellent condition.
I went to one of the Open Days there last Sunday. I got to see Stage Star paraded in the arena and in his stable. It was the first time that I had seen him in the flesh and he looked great. He will be kept there for a few months before he is returned to his trainer Paul Nicholls. He is only three years old and is not expected to run in a race until next year, probably not until the autumn. But I am really looking forward to seeing him develop and to see what he can do.
While at Equiprep we also got to look around the Paddocks where the horses spend the days playing and grazing. Everybody was so friendly. It was great to meet some fellow owners there. I learnt a lot about how horses are looked after, selected and trained. Plus quite a few simple facts about them, like for instance they use their necks for balance. As well as my horse I got to see many other wonderful horses a few of which I remember seeing race. It was a lovely and an interesting couple of hours. It is going to be an exciting involvement. I think.
Like most of my generation I am a fan of the iconic American comedy Friends. Comedy Central is pretty much the home of the show now, as they show it seemingly not stop during the day. For the last few years they have been running an event called “FriendsFest”. Up until now only in London and Manchester. But this year they have added a venue in Milton Keynes. I went along to it with my sister last week to have a look around.
The location for it was Willem Lake. Happily one thing they already have there is plenty of car parking places, as we were driving this made finding a space pretty easy. The whole event is mostly one big photo opportunity with your chance to recreate classic moments from the show. As you walk in you can have your picture taken in a photo frame dressed in known outfits from the show while holding famous quotes from it.
Next to that you can recreate the floating heads at Monica’s door. They do of course have a replica Central Perk with the till area, the famous sofa and Phoebe’s performance area. They also offer you the chance to stage your own Ross and Rachel Vegas Wedding pictures in the appropriate outfits.
Just along from this is your chance to be in the title sequence on the sofa by the waterfall. They give you this in a seven second video with the music. Which to be honest is pretty cool. In another part you also have the chance to have your photo taken with the Umbrella’s and the Sofa. Again like the titles.
Next your chance to shout “Pivot” as you pretend to take the Sofa up the stairs recreating that classic scene with Ross. You can have a go in Phoebe’s taxi and witness someone performing all her classic songs in the coffee shop. They show clips from Friends on the big screen. Plus you are never very far away from hearing the strains of The Rembrandts title tune.
Finally they have three complete replica sets for you to get pictures in. These are Joey and Chandlers place, Monica’s apartment and of course Ross’s flat. They have done a good job everything you saw in the show is on this set. It really does feel like you are hanging out in these rooms. It was a good fun day out. I have not taken that many pictures anywhere for a very long time. I had a big smile on my face pretty much the whole time I was there. Great fun!
I went to see the latest touring version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show recently. The last time I saw it must have been at least sixteen years ago. Jonathan Wilkes was starring as Frank n Furter. I went to see it with Richard Carr when I was working at Mix 96. I remember enjoying it, so I am not sure why it has taken me a decade and an half to see it again.
It was on at the Wycombe Swan, as it was the previous time. One of the reasons I like this theatre at the moment is that they now serve my favourite beer Rebellion IPA. On arrival I had a pint and instantly ordered the same again ready for the interval. It is certainly one of the stranger musicals and I think even Richard O’Brien would also accept this. Few others have the audience participation and also the outfits that this one does.
The cast included Joanne Clifton, Stephen Webb and Philip Franks. Joanne of course is a former winner of Strictly Comes Dancing and now an established stage musical performer. I thought she was ace in the role of Janet. She can dance like no other, sing and act, she has it all. Stephen Webb was brilliant as the corset wearing Transvestite Scientist. I bet that role is lots of fun to play. And Phillip Franks who is probably still best known for The Darling Buds of May was a spot on Narrator bantering with audience and sounding the part. The rest of the cast were fabulous to.
I had a great time and really enjoyed it. Plus I can confirm that I can still remember and perform perfectly every single move of the Time Warp. You never lose it! It is a crazy show and fair play to the many people who come dressed up as the characters. I will try not to leave it quite so long until I see this one again. It was another quality night out at the theatre.
I am off to see Tottenham play Crystal Palace this afternoon. I will be honest our season has not started quite as well as I would have liked. But that is what supporting a team is all about the highs and the lows pleasure and pain. We have not really got going properly yet despite draws away at Manchester City and Arsenal. I am pleased with the Champions League draw. I look forward once again to watching us play in this competition. They are always great nights.
Tomorrow I am going to Radio 2’s Festival in a Day at Hyde Park. I went last year and it was brilliant, so I am really looking forward to doing it again. Fingers crossed the weather is kind to us. I will tell you how it went next time we speak.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.
As a man who likes to keep busy and do lots of fun things. I try not to underestimate the simple and joyful things in life. Like for example a lunch time catch up with a good friend, where you have some great food and a good old fashioned conversation. To get fully up to speed with each others lives.
I managed to do this a few weeks ago now with the wonderful Danny Cox. Not an easy thing to achieve, as it turns out. We had been trying to sort something out for ages. But we had struggled to find a date that we could both do. Danny is one of the hardest working people in radio. And I keep myself pretty busy to. Therefore it was a meeting I had been looking forward to for a while.
We went for a lovely three course pub lunch at The Chequers at Weston On The Green. The food was fantastic. It is a decent, what I would call proper country pub. We had a good couple of hours there just chatting and eating. There are some people in life that you trust. They are the ones who can give you a bit of a nudge to do the things you know you should really be doing anyway, regarding projects and general things that you are working on. He is very much one of those people for me.
Not only did I have an entertaining time in the company of possibly one of the nicest people you could meet. I also came away feeling a lot more motivated to get things I may have been putting off done. May be he should devise a short “TED Talk” to take on the road, to fully harness his powers. Danny was just about to do four days of hosting the main arena at BBC Countryfile Live, when I saw him. I am honesty not sure where he finds the energy from for all the different things that he does.
Despite my love of musical theatre I am slightly ashamed to say that there are still some well-known shows. That have been running for a long time. That I have not seen yet. One of these was Jesus Christ Superstar. There is currently a new version of it on in London. So on the assistance of my sister I booked tickets to go and watch it.
It is playing at the Barbican Theatre. I had not been there before. I went to see the show with my sister. We got front row seats. When we sat down the whole stage was hidden by a cover. So we could not judge where the stage was. At this point I was a bit concerned that I would be staring up and not getting a good view. As it happens when the plastic safety curtain went up and down, we had a perfect view of all the action.
I really enjoyed it. Obviously I was aware of the story, so I knew the ending already. It was a very slick and busy performance with a great cast. There was plenty of action at all times on the stage. I must say it was a very impressive spectacle. Ricardo Afonso was exceptional as Judas, as was Robert Tripolino as Jesus. We were so close we could see all the expressions, nuances and special effects perfectly. There was absolutely nothing missing from it.
The performance received a well deserved standing ovation at the end. It is a quite a brutal and raw version but well worth seeing. The venue itself was really good. I would happily go back there and see something else in the future. It was yet another successful night out at the theatre. Just in case you were wondering the Rioja they serve there is also totally acceptable.
Last weekend I went to visit my oldest friend from school. We met on the first day of primary school and have been mates ever since. He and his wife live right on the English and Welsh border around the Shropshire area. They have a beautiful house right in the heart of the countryside with stunning views. I always enjoy going up there to see them.
I got the train up there on the Friday afternoon and my mate picked me up from their local station. We then went for a walk across the fields, by the river, under a viaduct to one of their local pubs. As the weather was nice we sat outside for a few drinks and a bite to eat. We were joined by their neighbours. We then all returned to the house for a few more drinks. Not too bad for what was meant to be a quiet night.
The reason we were planning an easy Friday was that the main point of my visit was to attend my friend’s wife’s father’s birthday party on the Saturday. That said when we woke up, we all felt fine. My mate is great with his hands. He has built himself a Summer House. That he has recently furnished with a new inflatable Hot Tub. He had said I could try it out when I was up. So I took my swim shorts. And we had a cheeky pre-breakfast soak. I must say it was fantastic, so relaxing.
The party was over towards Manchester way. Early afternoon we headed over there to help set up the hall. My mate was going to do the music himself. So he had bought a pair of speakers, an amp and a little mixer. He already had a laptop. I suggested a great programme he should get. On which you can set up a playlist and then it will auto mix all the songs for you. Therefore you can basically start it running and leave it to do its own thing. He had also purchased a few disco lights to.
I helped him get it all set up. He had done a good job assembling the kit, with just a few little tweaks from me. We had it all sounding and looking great. When it came to the party it all worked a treat. There were people up and dancing most of the night, which in a way is a bit depressing, if like me you are a DJ. I would argue a good one always adds something to a night. But the back to back music mix worked as expected at this party.
I had a brilliant night there seeing people I had not seen for a while including catching up with my mate’s son. The man whose “do” it was is known for his loud and sometimes Hawaiian shirts. So a few of us myself included tried to wear shirts to fit in with this theme, all in his honour. I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself. Which is always the main thing on these occasions.
We stayed at a local Premier Inn. That was only about five minutes away from the party venue. Annoyingly the taxi we had booked was nearly an hour late picking us up, which was not ideal. But what can you do? These things happen. The following morning we all met up for breakfast. To watch the birthday man open his cards, helped by his Granddaughter. I went for the pancakes, maple syrup and bacon. Which were excellent and made a nice change to the obvious fry up option.
Then we went back to my friend’s house. We visited the cafe where his wife works. I had their tasty Banana and Toffee milkshake. That evening we had a quick Barbecue. That was washed down with some lovely red wine. That my mate had got given a few years ago for his fortieth birthday. He wanted to share it with me, which was really nice of him. We ended the day back in his hot tub just chilling and listening to music. Living the dream!
A wonderful weekend. Time spent talking to people close to you is always time well spent in life. I got the train home Monday feeling relaxed and refreshed. Frank Skinner has been one of my favourite comedians for many years. On the journey home I caught up with some of the podcasts from his Absolute Radio show. That kept me nicely entertained and made me smile quite a lot to.
The Premier League Season is now well and truly underway, I have a season ticket for Tottenham Hotspur. Therefore I was there for our first game against Aston Villa. It was great to be back in the Stadium. I was excited and apprehensive, as I walked down the High Road to get to the game. The pre-match pint and food seemed to help a little with this. In the bar before the game I had a good chat to Tottenham legend Paul Allen. We both agreed it was a fixture we had to win.
I was in my seat nice and early ready for the kick off. It did not all go entirely to plan. We were one goal down inside the first ten minutes. The first half performance was the worst I have seen from the team in a very long time. Shaky at the back with no cutting edge in attack. For me the moment that changed the game in our favour was when Christian Eriksen came on as a sub.
I have been a big supporter of his for many years. I think he is a really important player for us. For me he conducts everything and pulls all the strings. We look much more fluid when he plays. It does look like he might leave the club, which was probably why he was not in the starting line up. Personally I hope he stays with us. But if he wants to go, fine. I definitely do not want any players at White Hart Lane who do not want to be there or whose heart is not in it. As that is no good for anyone.
Aston Villa played well. I was delighted with the win though. We really needed all the points from this one. To be competitive in the league this year I do believe you cannot afford to lose many points at home. We are away at Manchester City this weekend, which will be tough to say the least. I am looking forward to the rest of the season, which will be full of ups and downs, jubilation and disappointment. But that is what football is all about. And I would not have that any other way.
It was great to have a catch up with Mix 96 legend Nathan Cooper earlier this week. He is a force of nature. He somehow manages to look a bit younger every time I see him.
I am really looking forward to working with him on a radio show later this month. It will be good fun. A nice way to mark twenty odd years since we first met. Neither of us of course look old enough.
I am up in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival this weekend. Which I am really looking forward to. I had a great time there last year. I will tell you how it was and who I saw when we speak next.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.
The new Premier League Football season starts next weekend. I am as always looking forward to it. It has been nice to have a bit of a rest from it. But now I am ready to go again. When I was seven years old I was so desperate to play for a football team. I begged my dad to get a bloke he knew to let me join the under ten side that he ran, which he did. They were my local team called Risborough Rangers.
After training with them for a while I made my debut while I was still just eight years old. I kept moving up the age groups with the same team. So I spent my entire time in kid’s football, playing a year above my actual age group. Apart from a two year hiatus I took when the family moved to London for a bit. I played for every age group from under ten to under sixteen. We had a decent team and reached a few cup finals.
When I was fifteen I went to play for Wycombe Wanderers Lions Under sixteen’s. Remember I was playing a year above, therefore could play another year in that age group. It was a nice set up. We had our own team tracksuits to wear to games. And a couple of the players were already training with the Youth Team. There were, as you would imagine some very good players in the squad. So my game time was sometimes limited there.
At the end of the season I had a trial game for the Wycombe Youth team. But I sadly did not get selected. Undeterred I went and had a trial with the Aylesbury United Youth team, which happily I did get selected for. I had a brilliant time playing for them for two years. It was a very professional set up. And we got to play our home matches where the first team played at Buckingham Road.
As it happened the first Allied Counties League match we played was away against Wycombe Wanderers. They played in Beaconsfield. As I was new to the squad. And one of the younger members of it. I will be honest I really did not expect to start that game. But fair play to the manager Bob Rayner, he picked me. I nearly scored in a goalless draw. Which having not been selected by Wycombe, would have been a very sweet moment. Especially as I knew their goalkeeper from my time with the Wycombe Lions.
During my time with the Ducks. We reached the final of the Berks and Bucks Cup. I scored quite a few goals. I had county trials for the Buckinghamshire Team. But I was played out of position at left back. And did not get in the squad. We also played against the first team in a training match. It included the great Cliff Hercules. The big centre half Matt Hayward was also playing. He ended up volleying the ball into my face from point blank range, giving me a nice split lip. Happy days!
I did play one pre-season friendly for the Aylesbury United reserves away at Enfield. But sadly things did not work out there. So I ended up back at Risborough Rangers. Playing for the reserves and then for a short spell the first team. A few weekends ago Risborough Rangers were playing Aylesbury United in a pre-season friendly. I thought it would be a good opportunity to relive the past a bit. And see both of them in action.
The manager of Aylesbury United is Ben Williams. And their longest serving and most senior player is Greg Williams. I went to Aylesbury College with both of them. Therefore this also seemed like a great chance to catch up with them. All three of us did play together a few times for the College team. When I was playing for the Aylesbury Youth Team. Greg was playing for Thame United’s so I played against him a few times back then to.
I also knew the new Risborough manager Mark Eaton. As I used to speak to him regularly when I was at Mix 96. And he was the boss of Aylesbury FC. Plus there were lots of familiar faces from over the years at the game. Including my old Aylesbury boss Bob Rayner. He also managed Risborough for many years to. The game itself was a reasonable watch. The Ducks won 4-1. Showing why they are the team that play at the higher level. I wish them both the very best of luck for the coming season.
I did get to see Ben Williams for a bit after the game. It was lovely to catch up. And find out what had been happening, since we last saw each other. I had a lovely long chat with Greg Williams to. He has had an amazing career. I mean for starters he is my age and is still going. He is just twenty games short of five hundred appearances for the Ducks. It was brilliant to see him. They are both top people. I hope they both achieve their personal goal’s over the next nine months.
To get myself in the mood for the new Premier League Season I did the brand new Tour at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium recently. As as season ticket holder I have obviously already been to the place a fair few times. But I wanted to see the bits I would not get to see on a match day. You need to book your tour in advance. Then on arrival you check in for it at the Club Superstore. Therefore if you get there early, you can have a browse round, while you wait.
It starts with a welcome video to wet your appetite. Then you head off behind the scenes to the first stop the VIP hospitality entrance. It is a guided tour with knowledgeable and friendly guides leading it. I learnt a lot about the new home of the Spurs. We then went to level nine, to a hospitality area, which is basically a huge bar with great views of the whole stadium.
We were then taken to level four. To an amazing room with leather booths. Where people have food and drink. Before they get to sit in the comfiest seats. I have ever seen in a football ground. Amazingly they are even heated for those cold January nights. Needless to say my season ticket seat does not have this feature. Mind you I am not Alan Sugar or Adele.
Next up it was the bit I wanted to see most, the player’s area. First it was the Mixed Zone. Where the players and manager will do all the television interviews. Then the massive but very plain away dressing room. It all still has that lovely new smell to it, everywhere you go. The home team have a big warm up room. And a special Ice Bath area for after matches. That they have to be in for six minutes at a temperature of thirteen celsius. Rather them than me.
The Spurs dressing room itself is amazing. Every player has their name in lights above their place. I had to have a picture sat in of course Harry Kane’s and Lucas Moura’s spaces.
They pump in the air from inside the stadium, so that the players are used to it by the time they head out to play. So they can already smell the atmosphere and the grass.
We then took a break from being players to pop in to the Tunnel Restaurant. Which does what it says on the tin. There is food and drink in there. You have great seats behind the bench to watch the game. Plus there is a massive window into the tunnel, so you can see the players and they can see you.
We then got to walk out of the tunnel to pitch side. That was a nice moment. The pitch has just been relayed and looks perfect. I had to of course sit in Mauricio Ponchettino’s seat in the dug out. And just pretend for a brief moment that I was the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. We had plenty of time to take in this area and grab lots of photos there.
Then it was the Press Conference Room. Which I have to say is nicer that the one at Wembley Stadium. The seats for the journalists there are ace. I took my dad along with me for the tour. We had a picture taken up on the stage. And I think we both look quite at home in the hot seat.
I thoroughly enjoyed having a look behind the scenes of my football club. It truly is a fantastic stadium. I have now decided that if I ever win the Lotto. I will be getting myself some seats in those top quality hospitality areas. The season starts at home against Aston Villa next Saturday. I will now be able to picture in my head where the players are and what they are up to before and after the game. Come on you Spurs!
I paid my first ever visit to the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End last week to see the play The Starry Messenger. It is a comedy drama about real life, the universe and everything else in between. It stars Matthew Broderick. (Who of course was the lead in one of the most memorable films from my childhood “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.) And Elizabeth McGovern. Both of whom are brilliant. As are the rest of the cast.
It is a very clever three set play. That looks at how our lives can be connected by random chance. While showing that we all have our own challenges and issues to address. All set against the back drop of the infinite wonder of the Universe. It is very real but also very funny with a lot of laugh out loud moments. You get, understand and feel for all the characters.
It is actually quite a long play in duration. But it is so well written and performed. That you do not feel it drags and are actually surprised it comes to the interval and end of the show, so quickly. It is a perfect piece of traditional theatre. With a slight modern day twist. It is only on for another week. So you will need to be quick, if you want to see it.
It is not a secret that I do not watch many films. I have to really want to see them. I average about one trip to the cinema a year. Therefore for me to see a film once is an achievement. But to actually want to see one again or even multiple times is almost unheard of with the exception of one franchise. I am a massive Star Wars fan. I can watch these films over and over again, especially the original three films.
Over the last few weeks on a Sunday afternoon ITV 1 have been showing those original three films. As a kid I had all the figures to play with including a Millennium Falcon. And last Christmas while buying a Lightsaber as a gift for a friend of mines son. I also bought myself one. Even as a man in his forties. I still think that I want to be a Jedi, when I grow up.
It is quite scary how many of the lines I can remember from these films. I can sill deliver them seconds before they do on screen. As I get older you can see new things and angles on the plot and acting.
Like for example I am pretty sure I was not aware of the tension between Princess Leia and Hans Solo. when I was a kid. Plus I had forgotten how many times she had kissed Luke Skywalker. Before they discovered they were sister and brother.
None of these things effect my enjoyment of them. Neither does the fact that each of the trilogy is jut basically the same story told in a slightly different way. It is escapism and entertainment, as far as I am concerned.
The other thing from my childhood that I can happily see over and over again is “Only Fools and Horses”. I am now starting to think my general philosophy in life is a combination of Del Boy and Yoda. As you can imagine I am really looking forward to the latest Star Wars film due out in December. This will constitute a rare trip to the cinema for me.
I have been back once again doing some work for the BBC. There is never a dull moment there. Louise Redknapp was serenading me with her brand new single outside the building one evening.
Laura Whitmore was being lovely and smiley as ever, when there for her Sunday morning Five Live Show. You never know who you might see, bump in to or end up in a lift with. Which really does add to the fun of being around the place.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.