Hi, I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and being good responsible members of the community by following the guidelines and new rules currently in place. It is quite strange spending so much time at home at the moment. However I have settled in to it better than I thought I would. Mainly due to modern technology which like many people means I can do most of the things I need to do from the house anyway.
I appreciate not everybody has this luxury currently. I would like to thank the amazing NHS staff who are doing a tremendous job often in stressful and testing situations, we all appreciate what you are all doing for the country. Thanks of course to all the other key workers and volunteers who are helping to keep elderly and isolated people safe as well as food supplies maintained for the rest of us. These are odd times but together we can and will get through this.
I am a big supporter of the Royal Family and in particular the Queen. I think she is an amazing person. She has lived through and dealt with so much during her reign. Like most of the country I watched her one off special address to the nation. She spoke with so much authority and compassion, delivering a concise, honest and positive speech. A lot of high profile public figures could learn a lot from her. I do not know about you but I felt calm, positive and even a little bit emotional when she finished talking.
She is of course not the only person to make additional appearances at the moment. A fairly large number of celebrities are doing either live broadcasts or home videos on social media. These range from them chatting to fans, to running quizzes, to doing exclusive live performances, to fitness classes.
In fact at the minute you can I think pretty much take any class or hobby you can think of live via various apps and social media platforms. I have resisted the urge to start my own daily Instagram videos so far, but these may start to happen in the future depending on how long the lock down continues.
I am a massive fan of the theatre and obviously I cannot go at the minute. A lot of theatres and production companies are starting to put out certain already recorded performances of shows online. For example The National Theatre is showing a new one every Thursday night at 7pm on their You Tube Channel. The first one was the other week. As it happened it was one that I really wanted to see when it was actually on. But sadly I missed it when it was on in London and also when it was performed at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury.
The play in question was “One Man, Two Guvnors” starring James Corden. I always like to support Buckinghamshire talent. He grew up in Hazlemere just outside High Wycombe and went to Misbourne School in Great Missenden. When I see a new play for the first time I never read anything about it. I like to be completely surprised by and oblivious to the story line. Therefore other than the title I had no idea what to expect.
It did seem a bit odd watching a full theatre show at home on my computer, but I was actually quite excited when the curtain went up and it started. It is a farce comedy play with a few musical interludes. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance. It is just silly fun with a lot of comedic set pieces. There is a plot and a story line to it, which is easy to follow and makes sense. The cast are excellent and all play their individual roles perfectly.
Personally I thought James Corden was fantastic in the lead role. It involved a lot of physical comedy, accents, audience participation and of course perfect comedy timing. It was a pretty demanding part which he truly put his own stamp on. There were some laugh out loud moments and a couple of nice unexpected twists.
It was almost three hours long, so it was a whole evening’s worth of top quality entertainment. It was not quite the same as actually being there at the theatre but at the moment it is the closest thing to it. Therefore I will definitely be watching some of their future online productions.
Last weekend I would have normally been up in Liverpool for the Grand National Festival. But it like many other events this year did not happen. However for the previous two years ITV have done a Virtual Grand National on the day before the actual race. As there was no race they moved this to the Saturday and showed it in place of what would have been the real race, if it had gone ahead.
You could bet on the virtual race but all the Book Makers agreed that all the money made from it would be donated to the NHS, which in the end was more than £2.6 Million.
I watched it and must say the graphics and the work that went into producing it were astonishing. It looked amazing! I did have a bet on it but my horse did not win, which was totally fine as my money went to a very good cause. I am quite in to my horse racing and do follow a few jockeys and trainers on Twitter.
One of the best things about the race was the humour and jokes from the racing community. It was all computer simulation but during the race some horses and jockeys fell. The Jockeys were explaining what happened and confirming they were alright and the trainers were all doing the same with the horses. It was just a bit of light-hearted fun that led to a bit of good-natured banter, which was very amusing.
Obviously due to the current situation it is difficult to make new TV Shows as they would normally be put together. For example Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which would normally have been live with a studio audience, for the last two week’s has been them in their own homes introducing some great moments from its archive. It does give the show a very different feel but that is the only way it could have happened under the current restrictions. Luckily it was still funny and entertaining, if thirty minutes shorter than usual.
Today they return in the new already recorded before the lock down Britain’s Got Talent auditions. If you do happen to watch keep an eye out for any familiar faces you might see in the audience of any of the London auditions. You never know who you might spot. It is set to be another wild and wonderful series with a huge variety of acts of all different abilities shall we say. But rest assured I am not on the stage performing, I promise.
Have I Got News For You feels very odd at the moment. The host and the panellists are all at home basically on their computers. It is fair to say some of their cameras and microphones are not really of a broadcast standard. Conversation and chat comedy does not sadly I feel work as well in this way as interaction is stunted and they spend a lot of time talking over each other. Also of course there is no studio audience to punctuate things with laughter. It is great that they are keeping it going but it does not quite work well enough for me, sadly.
The Mash Report was also produced in this way and in my opinion it worked much better as it is mostly scripted comedy. Therefore they can just record their lines individually. Then put it all back together in the edit. However again it does feel pretty odd with no audience, but there is nothing we can do about that at the minute. I almost did not recognise Nish Kumar after he had to shave his whole beard off after a home trimming incident. Television like radio is still carrying on the best it can. I still believe laughter is still one of the best kinds of medicine, even in times like these.
After an eleven year break I have recently started doing a radio show in the Yeovil area again. My old boss at Ivel fm and Midwest Radio Steve Carpenter is now at Radio Ninesprings 104.5fm.
I am now delighted to announce that I am on the station on Saturday afternoons between 2pm- 4pm. It is great to be back on air in the Somerset area. You can listen online www.radioninesprings.co.uk
Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil
I hope that if you enjoy and indulge in Halloween and Bonfire Night, that you had a good time. I have never really been a fan of Halloween even as a child. I never went trick or treating. Also I have never liked horror films or anything scary. That is possibly why it never really did it for me or to be honest why it still does not. That said I would like to go to Jonathan Ross’s big Halloween Party one year, it does look like brilliant fun. And I quite fancy dressing up in a ridiculous outfit. Plus the guest list for that event is usually very impressive.
I am a little more on board with Fireworks night. I was taken to lots of displays as a kid. I do remember we had some family ones at my Nan and Granddad’s. Where the men would take all the shop bought fireworks up the garden in a biscuit tin. Then take turns to set them off. I am pretty sure health and safety had not been invented then, as I do seem to remember having to run for cover on more than one occasion, as they misjudged the direction of a rocket. Let us call it character building entertainment. I did not go to any displays this year. I think decades of working at them as a radio presenter has made me feel that may be I have earned a break from them.
A big horse racing fan, I now have a very small amount of shares in two race horses. A couple of Sunday’s ago I went down to see one of them at the trainer’s stables in Somerset. Which was quite apt, as I went to my first course when I was living in Yeovil, while working at Ivel fm. Wincanton Races used to advertise with us and as a result of that, we occasionally got some tickets to go and watch. In fact we did a live broadcast from there one afternoon. Channel Four Racing had to ask us to turn our radio mic off, as it was affecting their sound. It was also at Wincanton Races that I saw the Somerset legends the Wurzels perform for the first time. It is a decent little track.
Driving down to Somerset that Sunday morning via the A303 gave me a very nostalgic feeling. Having done that journey many times during the five years I lived there. It was actually quite nice to once again pass Stonehenge and drive through some of the small villages round there. My horses’ are both trained by the current Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls out of his stables in Ditcheat, which is only about ten minutes away from Wincanton. It was an open day at the stables organised by the Owners Group. A lovely crisp but sunny autumn day as we arrived at the former dairy farm, which is now home to over sixty horses.
They had bacon sandwiches and hot drinks waiting for us. Which were very welcome after the two and an half hour drive. Then we went to the courtyard at the front of the house to wait for the proceedings to begin. Out walks Paul Nicholls himself to greet us and say hello, then a selection of horses are paraded in front of us including mine who is called “Force Ten”. The trainer then tells us a bit about each of them. While we take as many pictures as we like. There is then a question and answer session. Before we are then allowed to have a good look around the stables.
At this point all I wanted to do was go and see my horse “Force Ten” in his home. He is a lovely horse, only four years old. But he is doing well in training and everybody is very happy with him. I managed to find his stable and get even more pictures of him. Then before I left I got to have a quick chat with Paul Nicholls and have my photo taken with him to.
I am hoping for many years of enjoyment from watching and supporting this horse. As I am a bit more involved in the sport. I am starting to discover and learn much more about it, which is great. The Jockey colours are purple with black stripes on the sleeves and a black hat. Keep an eye out for “Force Ten” and if you see him at a race course, could you cheer him on for me please?
The visit was brilliant. Everybody was so helpful and friendly. It was wonderful of Paul and all his staff to give up their time to let us see the horse and also the quality facilities that he has at his disposal. I hope to visit the place again at some point in the future. I was at the races at Newbury last Thursday to see “Force Ten” make his debut. He ran well and led for most of the way round but found the last few furlongs tough going. It was brilliant to see him in action. This is very much just the start of things, I hope.
I went to the world famous jazz bar Ronnie Scott’s for the first time earlier this year. I absolutely loved it, such an amazing place to have a drink and listen to great musicians play. Tickets are quite hard to come by as the place is pretty much sold out all of the time. It has been a cool place to be seen at for many years now. Many familiar faces have been regular patrons virtually since it was launched.
On the thirtieth of October 1959 the club opened its doors for the first time. Sixty years later to the day there was a huge celebration to mark this achievement at the Royal Albert Hall. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a ticket to attend this event. I went with a few mates of mine. We grabbed some food from the nearest pub to the venue. Then made our way to what is arguably one of the best places to enjoy live music in the country. The line-up as you would expect was very impressive. The place was sold out.
It was a musical celebration alongside a history of the club itself. It was hosted by singer and actor Clarke Peters. He took us through the trials and tribulations of the place assisted by photographs all displayed on the big screen. This was broken up with the excellent musical performances. I was delighted to see Curtis Stigers appear and do a couple of songs. He really does have such a lovely and also distinctive voice. He was a bonus as he was not listed as appearing.
Next up it was the well-known violinist Nigel Kennedy who played a couple of Jimmi Hendrix numbers. The reason being the guitar god actually played his last ever gig in Ronnie’s before he tragically died. That was quite an experience seeing Nigel in action. He does really put on quite a show. I was looking forward to seeing Georgie Fame play. But unfortunately he recently had a fall and was unable to perform. His band the Blue Flames were there and singer Kurt Elling stepped in to do a couple of Georgie’s songs with them.
Now the next man I was looking forward to seeing can be a bit of an enigma. If he has not been in the mood or not happy with how things are going, he has been known to walk off at his own gigs, after a few numbers. Happily Van Morrison seemed to be on good form on this night. He came on with his trusty saxophone and did a couple of jazz standards. He was absolutely brilliant, whatever opinions you may have of the man himself, you cannot argue with the fact that he is a fantastic musician. Who does have a certain sound and an instantly recognisable voice! I thought he was superb. I am so pleased I have now managed to see him live.
I have for many years now been a fan of Imelda May. I think that she has an amazing voice. She produces great songs. And she has a really good energy about her. That is something I really like in people in general, as well as my singers. I was even more excited when she replied to a tweet I sent her before the event. She was outstanding, she had the whole place hanging on her every word. It was a full on powerhouse of a performance from start to finish. I will have to go and see one of her gigs next time she is out on tour. Top quality.
A special mention has to go to the fabulous Madeline Bell. She was the penultimate act on the evening. She is seventy-seven years old and was bouncing around the stage like a teenager. I do not think I have seen anybody put so much in to a performance. Add to that the fact her voice sounded sensational. She was brilliant and is now my new role model. I honestly want to be more like her. She even had her mobile phone on stage taking pictures of the audience. What a lady!
Ronnie Scott the man himself who opened the bar with his business partner Pete King was a Saxophone player of some note. Who of course regularly used to play and run the band at his club. For the finale at the Albert Hall to mark his preference for this instrument and to celebrate the years since the place launched. They had sixty tenor saxophonists on stage. That was quite a spectacle. It was a top night out with high class musicians and entertainers. I will I am sure find myself in Ronnie Scott’s again before the year is out. It is a really cool place.
I guess in many ways I am just a big kid at heart, which is probably why I was so excited when I got my hands on some tickets to see the latest London production of Mary Poppins. I used to love the film as a child. And like most people in the county I already know all the big songs from it. It is on at the Prince Edward theatre in Soho. I went to see it the other Thursday. I had seen the actor playing Bert, Charlie Stemp star in Half a Sixpence a few years ago, then in the last two pantomimes at the London Palladium. I already knew he was ace. I thought he would be perfect for this role, as I know he can sing, dance and act brilliantly.
I was way more excited than a man of my age really should be, as my sister and I took our seats in row 3 of the stalls ready for the start of the show. What can I say? The show was absolutely amazing. The staging and the choreography were out of this world. It was so clever how they made all the magical and spectacular things from the film work on stage. Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins was practically perfect in every way. Joking aside she was just stunning in the role. A lot for her to do and she did it all fantastically with authority and grace. You could not take your eyes off her whenever she was on stage. It felt like she was totally in control of things. Just like Mary Poppins is.
I also felt I was totally right about Charlie Stemp. He was brilliant as the chirpy Bert. Just like Zizi whenever he was on stage he fully held your attention. The transitions between scenes were so slick and so very clever. The dance routine for Step In Time is almost worth the ticket price itself. It is just a stunning piece of theatre. You also get a cameo appearance from the wonderful Petula Clark to. In fact the whole of the cast are amazing. There is so much going on at any one time it is actually quite hard to take it all in. It has it all, great songs, amazing dance routines, comedy, tragedy and of course a huge slice of moral dilemmas.
I defy anyone not to see that show and leave in a upbeat and happy mood. It received a massive well deserved standing ovation at the end. There are many surprises that occur that I am obviously not going to spoil for you here. This show is only on for a very short time but it is definitely worth seeing, if you have the chance. If I was to try to some up this version of Mary Poppins in say just one word. Then I think I would call it supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
I was up in Liverpool for a few days last weekend. Normally I go up there and stay with a mate of mine. And if we can we always try to see the Everton against Tottenham game together. However this time due to a piece of very unfortunate timing. The match was moved from the Saturday to the Sunday for television. This meant my friend was not going to be able to make it, as he was going away. He did however offer me his ticket, so I could still go and see the game at Goodison Park.
For the first time in years I now had to find a hotel to stay in. Many years ago I remember seeing possibly one of the first ever fly on the wall documentaries about the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. It was a grand place with a large ballroom and suited smart guests, as I was looking for somewhere to stay. The option to stay there arose. It is not the same level of hotel it once was it is fair to say. It looks great from the outside but the inside is looking a bit tired and old. It could do with a little bit of a makeover to be honest. But it is in a great part of the city and I only really needed somewhere to sleep. Therefore I booked it for my stay.
I arrived about six o’clock on the Saturday evening. Checked in and made my way up in the lift to my room. I think they were still the original lifts from the nineteen fifties. It was certainly the slowest lift that I had been in for a while. The room was fine and it fulfilled my needs for the weekend. I just had time to get changed and grab half a Pizza on the way to meet my friend’s cousin, who was meeting up for a few drinks with me.
He took me on a tour of about six or seven different pubs and bars that I had not been in before. They were all decent establishments with a nice selection of beers and good music, which is what you want from a night out. I had not seen him for a while so it was good to have a chat and a laugh. We finished the night in a bar just round the corner from the hotel. It had a couple of old school singers doing all the classic hits from the sixties to the eighties. It was the perfect way to end the evening.
The next morning it was game day. I got up and treated myself to a large breakfast at a Wetherspoons before getting the train to see my mate’s dad, who I was going to the match with. We had a few drinks at some classic pubs on the way to Goodison Park, which was good fun. Once in the ground I had a beef pie to soak up a bit of the beer. Then I took my place in my friend’s seat to watch the game.
Both teams are not having particularly good seasons. This was reflected in the game as both teams were poor. It ended in a one all draw. It was an awful match. That sadly did feature a terrible injury to the Everton player Andre Gomes. I wish him a speedy recovery. Nobody likes to see these things happen on a pitch. I really do like Everton’s ground. It is a proper traditional football stadium. And their supporters are great.
Straight after the game I met up with the bloke I was with the night before and gate crashed a family night out he was having at The Hot Water Comedy Club. Unfortunately due to the game over running we actually missed the first part of the comedy night, as we arrived too late. We had a drink in the bar while waiting for the next break, so we could then go in.
We got in for the second and third sections of it. I thought it was a really nicely run little comedy club. The stage, sound and seating was spot on. The compere for the night was good interacting and talking with the audience. The rest of the acts were a bit more hit and miss to be honest. But in their defence it was a new material night, so they were trying out some new stuff.
When the comedy was over I had a final quick drink with them in a Karaoke bar. While I was there I got to “enjoy” versions of Bryan Adams and Cher songs. I then left them there stopping on my way back to the hotel for a cheeky late night McDonalds. Well I was on holiday, sort of. I got the train home on the Monday morning after another great couple of days in a City that I am very fond of.
My Granddad grew up there after moving over from Ireland. I had a bit of an odd experience in one of the pubs on the Saturday night. I was standing by the bar, when I noticed a man by the entrance. Who seemed to be looking at me. I looked back at him and noticed that he was a spitting image of my dad!
This was totally confirmed as I walked past him on my way out. We did not say anything to each other. When I got home I checked with my dad. He told me that he does still have some cousins in Liverpool. I am guessing this bloke must of been one of them. Either that or my Granddad may have had a son up there, who we did not know about.
I had my annual Asthma check-up recently. During which I received my yearly telling off about using my inhaler incorrectly. I have been using them since I was seven. But have never been able to do it the right way. Anyway I am all fine and it appears to be under control. I did also take the opportunity to have the flu jab. As I am very much of the thinking, if I am entitled to it, I will have it. If you can have it, do have it. I think it makes sense.
The less said about Tottenham at the moment the better. But this afternoon I am going to watch them play against the team who I own shares in. About twenty years ago a mate said it would be good to buy shares in Sheffield United. He convinced me and another mate and we put one hundred pounds in each and bought three hundred pounds worth of shares.
The plan was to make some money. We still have those shares. They are now almost worth what we paid for them originally. Needless to say I have not taken any financial advice from this particular friend since, although I am looking forward to the match. And just to be clear I want Spurs to win it.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.
The end of the summer and the transition to the autumn can be a difficult time. The days are getting shorter and the weather colder. Not to mention a lot wetter at the moment. What you need at this time of the year is a day out with your mates. Which is handy as this is when the now annual boys’ day out at the Ascot Beer Festival and Racing Weekend occurs.
Now in its third year, it is very much an established event. The first time we went we just got normal admission tickets before we found out that for an extra five pounds we could get into the King Edward VII Enclosure, if we wore a suit. As this is the only racing event that we can get anywhere near these facilities, we now do this. It gives us all an excuse to dress up for the occasion.
It is always something I look forward to, as there are not many times during the year nowadays that we all get to spend the day together having a laugh and of course a couple of drinks. I was staying at one of their houses, so we arrived together and met the rest of them at the entrance. There had been a slight issue the previous year when one of the group had not got a tie, happily there were no such issues this time.
Apart from the six horse races, there is as the name suggests a Beer Festival to. They do have an impressive selection of Ales and Ciders there. Fortunately for me they had my favourite IPA there from the Marlow Brewery Rebellion. I did manage to have a couple of glasses of that while I was there, which was a nice bonus. I also managed to introduce it to my friends, which was good.
We all had a pretty successful day. All of us won some money back at some point during the afternoon. I must admit it did not seem quite as busy as previous years but that just made it easier for us to get around the place and get served. After the racing was over we went to one of the pubs on Ascot High Street for a bit before all calling it a day and heading home.
Ascot is a wonderful course and it was another fantastic day out. It is always great to properly catch up with good friends, which generally means you spend the entire day laughing, as we did. Unfortunately a few people could not make it this year, which was a real shame. But I hope they will be able to next year, when we do it all over again. As rest assured this staple in the calendar will be back in 2020.
Talking of catching up with people my cousin and I had been trying to meet up for months. We both work in London a lot so the plan was to see each other there. However every time he was in town I was not and vice versa. After four months of missing each other we ended up having a quick drink in my local Wine Bar.
It does seem so hard to try to make appointments to see people currently. It did seem easier to do so before mobile phones and now social media, possibly because if you wanted to talk privately to someone the only way was to see them in person.
I had not done this for a while but the other week I got invited once again to help a Production Company with the development of a new quiz show. It is always a fun thing to do. I go to their offices and act as a contestant, so they can see how a new idea works and so they can I guess give it a robust test with an “outsider” playing the game. I am quite a decent general knowledge quizzer, if I do say so myself. I have a lot of useless information stored in my brain, which does seem to be handy in these situations.
As this idea is still in development and they are trying to sell it to TV companies to get it made and on our screens. Obviously I cannot say too much about it. The show does involve teams. It is a clever idea in which the audience and people watching at home can all play along. Gaby Roslin hosted it and is actually involved in the development of it. It was fantastic to meet her, she was lovely, a total professional. I have been a big fan since Motormouth and The Big Breakfast. I may be going back to see them again soon. But I cannot say anymore at this point. If anything comes of it, I will let you know.
We are well and truly into the latest series of Newsjack on BBC 4 Extra. It is the topical comedy radio show that anybody can write for. I have had material on it myself in the past. I would recommend that you give it a go if you enjoy writing comedy.
They are very good at using it to help new and upcoming talent to progress. It is currently presented by Kiri Pritchard- Mclean who is doing an excellent job. If you have never heard of it give it a listen.
I did not watch the whole thing but I did see quite a bit of Britain’s Got Talent “The Champions”. Which featured seemingly random acts from the UK versions past, as well as its sister shows from all over the world. There were no public votes towards it. The winners of each heat and the final were chosen by a specially selected group among the audience, which in equal measure seemed sensible and odd. There were a lot of people I had completely forgotten about on it, who re-appeared. One of which became the eventual winners.
It did just highlight how certain types of acts seem to fair better in that environment than others. It proved once again how hard it is for comedians to stand out and be successful in these kinds of variety shows. I am not sure why this is, but singers, dancers and even the novelty acts seem to fair better and stand more chance of winning over the audience.
One thing that it did prove for me is that when they next do the normal BGT. They can just put the best performers through to the semi-finals and not worry about the out there and strange acts. I know why they do it, to mix the shows up and give everybody who is thinking of auditioning the following year some hope. But what “The Champions” version proved is that people will accept more of the same type of acts in the same line up, as long as they are the best of the best.
I like Twist and Pulse a lot and feel they were of course deserving winners but if you look at the quality acts that did not even make the final including Paul Zerdin, Paul Potts and Jack Carroll. All of whom have carved out very steady careers. You have to question how good this process is for finding and promoting the best acts. It does seem that statistically the BGT audience does favour a certain type of act or is it the previously held suspicion that an interesting back story can help an act to go sometimes may be a little bit further than they should.
I am once again enjoying a bit of Strictly Come Dancing this year. It is a very well produced programme. Visually there is possibly not much that compares to it from a live perspective. The bond the celebrities build with their dancer is a beautiful thing to witness in itself.
The first two celebrities have left and to be honest so far it has been spot on. They were clearly the two worst dancers on the nights they went out. Last week was a shame as I really like Anneka Rice but her performance sadly was not very good. It is a real shame to lose Kevin Clifton so early, as I think he is a terrific dancer and choreographer.
I went to see The Man in the White Suit at the Wyndam’s Theatre in London last week. A new version of a classic comedy play. It is very fast paced and there is a lot going on to enjoy and digest. This new take includes original songs written by Charlie Fink from the band Noah and the Whale.
It stars the wonderful Stephen Mangan in the title role. He is excellent in it and works very hard for his cash. There is a fair bit of physical comedy and running around from him as the story unfolds.
It also features the fantastic Kara Tointon. She is brilliant and puts in a top performance. Plus she gets to display some of her dance skills that served her so well on Strictly. She is a great dancer. Then you also have the legend that is Sue Johnston. She plays her role expertly and gives a masterclass in comedy timing. The whole of the cast are quality and bring this very silly, yet very clever comedy to life getting plenty of big laughs.
The songs in it fit perfectly with the time it was set plus are really catchy, which works well. There are lots of classic” scene” set ups that are executed with such precision. It is not quite a farce. It is probably just a step up from that. But it is lots of fun, if you fancy a giggle and I guess a more old fashioned type of comedy show with an excellent cast. Then go and see it. It is a joyous experience.
I am a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur. We are not having a brilliant time at the moment. I was at the Stadium in my normal seat when we were beaten seven-two by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Needless to say that is the worst defeat I have ever seen in person. In general our results and performances this season have been very up and down. I was hoping the next league game after the European disaster would see us bounce right back. However we produced the worse display that I have seen for years and deservedly lost that game to.
It is a tough time for the team at the minute. I am a hoping that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And we can show the fight and character we need to get out of this situation to improve our current position. I have supported this team all my life, through the good times and the bad, the highs and the lows. I would not have it any other way or change anything. It is all just part of following your team. Enjoy the successes and manage the disappointments. Just like in real life. That said I am going to enjoy the current break for the Internationals more than usual this time.
A week tomorrow on Sunday 20th October my friend Mike Sterling is performing in the ace Stars of The West End show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley On Thames. He has an amazing voice and is a top quality performer.
As well as singing at my fortieth birthday party he has also played the Phantom of The Opera in the West End and the iconic Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.
The rest of the cast have all performed in some huge productions in London to. There are four of them in total. They will be doing the big numbers from shows such as Phantom, Les Miserables, Evita, Chess, Grease, Cats, We Will Rock You and many more. There are actually two performances on the day. I have seen this show several times before and it is sensational.
There are also VIP Tickets on offer which include front row seats, a drink, a two course meal and a meet and greet with the cast. I will be there and I am really looking forward to it. The live West End band is conducted by Douglas Waugh, who is only Sir Tim Rice’s Musical Director. For more information and ticket details just follow the link here. https://kentontheatre.co.uk/event/stars-of-the-west-end/
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.
Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really good couple of weeks. Mine have been busy and fun. As a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur. I managed to get myself along to the Champions League game against Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. It was a match I had been looking forward to since the draw was made.
Unfortunately going in to it we had a few injuries to key players. But I still felt we could give them a good game. Although we were a goal down inside the first two minutes. Thanks to some genius from the legend that is Lionel Messi. And possibly a little bit of poor decision making from the otherwise excellent Hugo Lloris.
It was a very exciting game to be at. The place was full and the atmosphere was great. Well it was at least for the first few minutes. Then it did go a bit quiet when they scored. Spurs put in a battling performance. There were two moments. When we pulled goals back. That I did think might see us grab a draw or even the win.
Even if we had managed that. Although we played well. We would not really of deserved it. Barcelona were by far the better team. It was an honour to get to see Lionel Messi play in person. He is still, I think the best player in the world. And Yes I have seen Ronaldo play to. He struts around like he owns the place. Always finds space. He can pass, dribble and shoot better than anyone.
He scored two great goals and hit the same post twice. It was a great pleasure to see him play. That Barcelona side has a lot of very good players. But he still looks head and shoulders above of all them. It is possibly the first time I have seen my team lose. And not been too disappointed. We gave it our all. And we were just beaten by a better team.
A few Friday’s ago some mates and I made our now annual visit to the Ascot Racing Beer Festival. It is just a good excuse to all meet up, have a laugh and watch some racing. Oh and have a few drinks. Well it is a beer festival. So it would be rude not to. We decided to go a bit crazy. And spend an extra five pounds each for the King Edward VII Enclosure.
One of my friend’s took responsibility for buying the tickets. I then sensibly checked out the dress code requirements. And sent them to the Whats App Group. That we had set up for this event. This is how seriously we were taking it. We had to wear a shirt with a collar, tie, and a Jacket. I suggested we should all wear suits. Which to be fair, everyone did.
On the day. We met up outside the race course. As the friend who bought the tickets, still had them. When I arrived I noticed that he was not wearing a tie. Almost straight away I asked him if he had one with him. He said no. Then claimed it was not a requirement of the stand we were going in to. I however said otherwise.
Anyway as we go to walk into the King Edward. He is stopped and told he cannot go in without a tie. The gentlemen informs him that he can buy one downstairs. He then heads off to find himself some neck wear. With us being the great friends we are. We went straight into the enclosure to all get a beer.
We then get a message from him saying the cheapest tie he can find is sixty five pounds. We offer to forfeit the great views and private bars we have. To spend the day downstairs with him. He feels bad, so he goes out in to the High Street to find a tie. But he still cannot find one.
Then he comes back in to the racecourse and finds another shop in the grounds. Where he buys a tie for fifteen pounds. He must have been gone about twenty minutes. He then comes and joins us in the stands for the rest of the day. The moral of this story is always make sure you read all Whats App messages properly.
We had a great afternoon, chatting, catching up and laughing. They also had my favourite locally brewed pint there. Which is Rebellion IPA. They are based in Marlow. So it had not had that far to travel to Ascot. It was lovely as ever. I also sampled a pint of the very local Windsor & Eaton Brewery’s Champions Day Ale. Which was also very agreeable.
I think everyone had at least one winner during the day. We had a great view of the whole course and the finishing line. From where we were up in the King Edward VII Enclosure. Once the racing was over. We then went to a pub in Ascot for a few more drinks. Luckily they had a barbecue there selling cheeseburgers and hot dogs. We had somehow neglected to get any food during the afternoon. So it was a much needed snack.
It was a brilliant day spent with good friends. We have already made plans to do the same thing next year. Hopefully my mate will make sure he wears his newly purchased tie to. We then got a taxi home. Stopping off in High Wycombe to get some more food.
I was not sure what I fancied. Then I spotted a new Chinese Take-Away. I just grabbed some Chilli Beef and some Dim Sum. The food was great, although I ate it using just my fingers. It was not till I had finished. That I noticed they had put a plastic knife and fork in the bottom of the bag. But on the plus side I will know that next time.
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending my cousin’s wedding. The ceremony was in a local church in Monks Risborough. In fact, it was the church associated with my Primary School. Therefore for me, being in there waiting for her to arrive. It bought back memories of concerts, Harvest Festivals. And the time I played a Monk in a play there.
I did have plenty of time to do this. As she was about fifteen minutes late arriving at the church. Her husband to be, was cool about it. And took it all in his stride. Plus to be fair, he had already predicted that should would almost certainly not be on time.
It was a really lovely service. My dad gave a reading towards the end. Which he did flawlessly. It really was a job well done. And I was very proud. I did give him a little bit of coaching. When he first started rehearsing it. Therefore I think I should get some of the credit for his performance.
With the marriage ceremony completed. It was then off to the Reception. Which was being held in Burnham Beeches. They had laid on a mini bus to take us there and back. We each had a little snack goody bag to enjoy on the way there. Keeping our energy levels up until the Wedding Breakfast later on. It was Champagne on arrival. Credit to the waiting staff. They were very proficient at topping up glasses. My planned one glass of fizz turned in to being two.
We had some photos taken. Then it was time to sit down for food. The meal was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Once the deserts had been tidied away it was time for the speeches. My cousin sadly lost her dad a few years ago.
Her Mum gave her away in the church. And her Sister in effect gave the Father of Bride speech. Although she very much did make it her own. It was an exceptional speech and performance. Pitched I felt perfectly for the occasion. Plus it was very funny. I rate myself as a bit of a public speaker. But I am not sure I would have wanted to follow that.
That task fell to the Groom. Who did a splendid job. Before passing the baton on to the Best Man. He did a fantastic job to. Nothing was missing . It was a text book speech with all the key elements in there. After the speeches it was time for a few more group photos. While the room was reset for the evening do and disco.
I must admit that is probably the most I have danced for a while. But rest assured I still have all the moves. I am more than match fit and ready if Strictly Come Dancing come calling.
They also had one of those photo booths there. You know the ones where they have a bit of dressing up box. And you can go in and take silly photos. I ended going in there five times with different people during the evening. It was good fun. I am looking forward to seeing some of the pictures.
I had a really lovely day. Talking to lots of relatives. I had not seen for a while. Having a bit of a boogie. Taking funny photos. But mainly of course celebrating the special day of a beautiful couple. Who I wish a very healthy and happy life together. Congratulations to the both of them. Thanks for letting me share your big day with you. We left just before midnight, so I did not turn in to a Pumpkin.
There is quite often something unusual or interesting happening outside my place of work. Which I must confess, I like. As I walked out the door to head home the other evening. There was a full orchestra and large choir performing the classic song from Mary Poppins. That is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
It sounded brilliant. And I must confess it did put a spring in to my step. And make me smile, as I went past them. I enjoyed it so much I would now like that to happen every time I leave to go home. It was in my head for the next two days. I could not stop singing it!
People of Buckinghamshire and surrounding areas. This is your last reminder that the brilliant Evita comes to the Wycome Swan from the 23rd October for a week. My good friend. The super talented Mike Sterling is playing Juan Peron in it. I went and saw it a few months ago in Great Malvern. It is a sensational production of a classic musical.
I am going to the opening night on the Tuesday. I am looking forward to seeing the show once again. Plus catching up with Mike. As I said if you can get yourself a ticket to see this then do. You will not be disappointed.
Lee Ryan was voted off of Strictly Come Dancing last week. It was a shame to see him go. He is a nice bloke and good fun.
I did a gig with him in Yeovil once. During his solo career. After he had performed he stayed around for the rest of the night drinking and chatting to the audience.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil