Monthly Archives: February 2007

Ed Byrne and the Magical World of Television

I was up the Londons again last night, invited by David-from-last-weekend to see “top funster” Ed Byrne‘s live stage show at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. David knows one of the guys that owns the Riverside TV production company, so it was free tickets and trebles all round for us and some of David’s other mates.

We arrived at about 7pm, got a drink and chatted until the show. Unlike the proles paying for their tickets, we got to dump our coats in a dressing room. Yes, light bulbs were around the mirror, thank you for asking.

Ed Byrne was fantastic, and overran his 85-minute set by over half an hour. This may partly have been due to members of the audience buying him drinks. There’s nothing as unfunny as someone retelling someone else’s jokes and getting them wrong, so I won’t try, but he told us several stories about how TV shows like Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats keep editing his funniest bits out. Even Blankety Blank made him change an answer once.

I guess technically he was infinite value for money.

Avaragado’s rating: a handful of field mushrooms

After the show our little group had a private tour of the studios from Duncan, who got us the tickets. Here, dear reader, I may geek out. (I’ve linked below to the three rubbish cameraphone pics I took.)

The Riverside has a long and distinguished history, most of which I didn’t know until yesterday. The BBC used it for shows such as Quatermass II, Hancock’s Half Hour, Dixon of Dock Green, Top of the Pops, Doctor Who and Play School. The Chris Evans high point TFI Friday was made here, and today the studio produces Channel 4’s yoof strand T4 and Popworld.

Duncan took us into Studio 1, where earlier that very day TV’s not-drunk June Sarpong and Steve Jones were filming links from the T4 sofa. We sat on it; it’s not very comfortable. The Popworld set was standing to one side.

Studio 1 was the home of CD:UK and where the bands played on TFI Friday. Viewers will remember the stairway up from the bands to the Chris Evans bar/desk area: we took those very steps, oh yes we did. And through the door we find… not the Chris Evans bar/desk area, as it’s all changed there. The window’s still there, next to where his desk was. That bit’s now the green room. The bar area is now two rooms: a brand-new sound console with a gazillion faders (a couple still labelled “June” and “Steve”, for their radio mics) and a production gallery full of TVs and Star Trek blinkenlights. No cameras in the studio, so we couldn’t do much, but we pressed some buttons anyway. I successfully faded something in and out, without spilling any of my beer. Casually discarded on the desk was a copy of that day’s T4 script.

With that we returned to the bar, feeling blessed.

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Just on TV: a trailer for a film called Freedom Writers. Some nonsense about a teacher inspiring students to write, apparently.

As is now traditional, the please-won’t-someone-think-of-the-children line listing the reasons to avoid/see the film was on display throughout the trailer. It said, and I quote, “Contains one use of stong language”.

Stong. Ha ha ha. Writers. Do you see?

Oh dear. A caption has just appeared on Newsnight naming TV’s Charles Moore as Margaret Thatcher’s “Athorised biographer”. And then again, but when someone else was on screen.

I may very well write in green ink to the Daily Telegraph, ensuring flecks of foamy spittle decorate the Basildon Bond and blaming the homosexuals. Will this madness never end?

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USS Reliant

Expats and those who haven’t watched since the days of William Woollard may not realise that the show Top Gear is not about cars any more. It has cars in it, yes, and opinions about cars, but its purpose in life these days is as a vehicle (ho ho) for Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James Mays to, well, muck about. (One mucking about session last year very nearly killed Richard Hammond.)

Last Sunday’s episode included a segment in which Mays and Hammond plus some rocketry geeks attempted to make a miniature space shuttle, using a Robin Reliant as the orbiter. The full 21 minutes is on Google Video and worth watching in full – but if you just want to see what happened, skip to 17:30 in.


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London Weekend

I belong to a web site for sophisticated twenty-first-century gentlemen such as myself, on which members organise events of all kinds. On Saturday night I ventured to the bright lights and tourist traps of dear old London town to attend one of these shindigs, attended by about 400 like-minded gentlemen and about eight ladies. Officially and hideously christened a mega party, it was of course just another excuse for alcohol and dancing but on a large scale and into the early hours.

I’d booked a hotel room on the assumption that there’d be no trains by the time we were all kicked out. After checking in and putting my face on I had some time to kill so it was off to Regent Street to investigate the Apple Store. It was packed, mainly with tourists checking their email.

After checking my email, I headed all the way back down Regent Street and up Shaftesbury Avenue, past the hyoooge (and very clever, I think) theatre poster of Daniel Radcliffe in Equus, to the pre-party pub: The Duke of Wellington in Soho, previously unvisited by my good self.

I was there for a pre-event event, to meet a few people (strangers!) from the site before heading to the party. On arrival there were no obvious groups and the bar staff didn’t know anything about it; I asked one possible group but it wasn’t them. Someone I know from Cambridge turned up, but it was just a coincidence – he wasn’t attending the event. I texted the organiser just as a face I recognised from the site appeared, so problem solved. (The organiser texted me back about an hour later, as I stood next to him. He was suitably embarrassed when I told him thanks, but I’d already found them.)

Not long afterwards we left for the party, wandering through the streets to find the correct bus (a member of the group was in a wheelchair). Buses as well as tubes take Oyster cards (of which I approve), which makes getting on amazingly efficient.

There was a queue at the party venue, The Goose on Leather Lane. All tickets were booked in advance, and as we arrived the organisers issued stickers with our site username and “real” name (some people use humorous/”humorous”/weird “real” names), which was a nice touch.

I knew nobody. Well, I say nobody; I was now acquainted with the group I’d arrived with, and before long Andrew and Stuart turned up. Andrew’s a bit of a celeb on the site, everybody knows him; but not everybody knows that his name is actually Andrew, since his profile uses a different name – to them he’s always Reese. Stuart and I went along with it, because it was funnier that way.

Anyhow, there was beer, and some more beer, and some chatting with random folk and not-so-random folk, and some vodka, and some dancing, and some more vodka, and some memory loss…

On Sunday I wandered around various parts of “our nation’s capital” (© Americans) accompanied by my personal tour guide David, one of the not-so-random folk and a London resident who knows his London from his London. We went along the South Bank from London Bridge, past The Clink (the old prison and source of the colloquialism) and The Globe, across the wobbly bridge to a sit down in St Paul’s, then scooted across to the Palace (she wasn’t in, probably had her feet up over at Windsor) and St James’ Park (where idiots were annoying the pelicans), through Horse Guards (coincidentally changing as we arrived, scattering tourists through the medium of horse), up Whitehall past Downing Street (I remember when anyone could walk up it, now it’s a fortress), past the Palace of Westminster and the peace protestor Brian Haw (whose continued presence has so annoyed the freedom-loving Dear Leader that legislation was passed to try to get rid of him), and across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye (we didn’t go for a ride). I should have taken my camera with me really to be extra-specially touristy.

Then I tubed back to King’s Cross and the train home, amazed that my legs weren’t shouting at me.

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Dear Diary

From December 1999, for a year, I wrote a journal. Not on paper, don’t be silly, but not online. I have it on disk somewhere and I haven’t read it since I wrote it. It covers what has been, so far, the most bonkers year of my life for a number of reasons; sadly the margin is too small to contain them.

Writing the journal was hugely cathartic. I sat where I’m sitting now, often into the early hours, unburdening myself, if that’s not too pretentious for you. It is far too, uh, honest to ever be published in full. I probably talk about you, by the way.

It seems such a long time ago now. It seems like yesterday. I’ll read it again one day; but not yet.

So, Notes on a Scandal. Insanely good. Funny, touching, and for me marginally uncomfortable (but I should like to point out that my journal contains no stars of any hue). Screenplay by Patrick Marber, aka Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan from The Day Today, now a proper grown-up writer with awards and stuff.

Judi Dench will be fighting Helen Mirren for the Oscar, I think.

Avaragado’s rating: two new potatoes


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Macaroons, obviously

Despite it being slap-bang in the middle of town, I’ve never been to the Jinling Noodle Bar before. Pardon me, I keep typing Noddle. I’ll try to stop. Noodle. Noodle.

According to the reviews it’s popular with Chinese students. I certainly felt very occidental (/me imagines Chris making the obvious pun) as we walked in, although there weren’t very many people there at the time.

The wine was drinkable, the spring rolls were juicy, the noodly main course was generous and unfinishable, and the bill wasn’t too bad (insert joke about Chef’s absence).

Young Mr Heckford had the Ant Climbing Up Tree. Mushy pork, I think.

Avaragado’s rating: two soups

A short dawdle along the road to the Corn Exchange, where we joined an audience we all felt privileged to be a part of, mainly because we were younger than them. For it was Acorn Antiques: The Musical.

None of the stars, obviously. The cast – including the woman from the Philadelphia advert who goes “lovely”, you know the one – gamely did their best to emulate the original performances, but there was a whiff of the uncanny valley about it all. The actress playing Julie Walters playing Mrs Overall did a very good impression, but she wasn’t Julie Walters so it just wasn’t as funny. Better than Mike “Look, it’s Frank Spencer! Ooh Betty” Yarwood, but lacking the essential Julie-Waltersness of Mrs O; the joie de vim.

We had seats not more than three or four rows from the front. A hindrance, as it happens: the band were close by, and their tootling tended to overwhelm the cast. I’m sure we missed loads of gags in the lyrics.

I’d like to see the show with the original cast. I bet it’s much funnier.

Oh, there was a real-life cock-up at the start. A curtain failed to fully retract, which we all thought was part of the act, but it wasn’t; the main curtain swished across to an apologetic announcement. Cue a few minutes of Morecambe and Wise-style bustling behind the main curtain (I imagined grizzled old stage hands played by John Junkin lookalikes in long brown jackets and flat caps) before the show continued.

Avaragado’s rating: macaroons, obviously

Chris and Melanie then gave me a lift to the Fleur, wherein I dallied for a while with Andrew and Stuart. And then Robert turned up with Richard, and shortly afterwards the pub decamped to the Rose and Crown, where Artie mumbled drunken incoherent things at me, apparently lost the world’s orangest man’s jacket and wallet, tipped a small amount of drink over my head for no discernible reason, stumbled his way to the dance floor and was very soon escorted from the building. He’s from Poland.

Bed at, uh, just after 4am. Early night.

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That was the week that was

I’m not going to dot/cross all appropriate letters, but really, the last week deserves some bloggage.

Monday: Someone I’ve been texting (lots)/chatting with (often)/meeting (once)/planning to meet (once)/taking a shine to (yes) suddenly reveals a hitherto unmentioned partner. In other news, I start pitching for some freelance work.

Tuesday: Said person admits the partner was there all along, apologises for misleading me, and cuts all contact. Flickr linkage removed. I get grumpy and decide, reasonably, not to attend planned day with said person in London tomorrow. Nothing much else happens.

Wednesday: Said person deletes Flickr account, despite having recently paid money, in apparent ‘run away!’ tactic. I discover who the partner is, anyway; I’m not daft. Further freelance pitchage. In other news, I win a bottle of wine at the bingo.

Thursday: Detective Dave. Move along, nothing to see. Lunch with single mother of my acquaintance, plus offspring. No, I’m not the father. Early on, we bump into too-cool-for-school former work colleague whose 30th birthday it is today; he’s wandering back to work from lunch. Later on, we bump into same person again; this time, he’s wandering into town for dinner. Seven-hour lunch, you see (aforementioned single mum spends hours trying on shop contents). Am invited to lunch tomorrow to discuss freelance work.

Friday: Business lunch cancelled due to scheduling problems. Phone chat indicates continued interest; possible air travel. Friends take out onions on hearing of Mon-Wed shenanigans regarding said person. Promising pub conversations, scuppered by not-present third party, thus summing up week. Ridiculously late night, blamed on alcohol.

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