Saturday, 21 May 2016

Ahoy hoy!

This week I was honoured to make my first appearance on Radio 4's comedy warhorse Just A Minute, now in its astonishing 75th series, and which I've listened to and enjoyed all my life. It was enormous fun, and the regulars were very kind to me.

Here it is on iPlayer , for the next three weeks or so.  


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Lines imagined to be written by Galileo Galilei upon demonstrating that, contrary to Aristotelian thought, the ratio of gravitational mass to inertial mass is essentially unity.

Whether they're large or
Whether they're small
Has no effect on
The rate that things fall.

But whether you choose
To accept this or not'll
Depend on your faith
In that fool Aristotle.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The A, of course, stands for 'avoid thinking of envelopes'.

Like everyone else, I used to confuse the words 'stationery', meaning materials to do with writing; and 'stationary', meaning not in motion. And like many people, I now tell them apart with the mnemonic that the E in 'stationery' stands for 'envelopes'. 

But it only today occurred to me to wonder why two words with such different meanings should be so similar. So, I looked it up... and it turns out that the first stationers, in the Middle Ages, were scribes and paper merchants given licences, typically by universities or law courts, to ply their trade from permanent booths- or stations- as opposed to their competitors, who were itinerant peddlars.

So, pleasingly: stationers sell stationery because their stations were stationary. 

I thought you'd like to know. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Emu's debut.

Something a bit different today - I've written a crossword. If you're in Britain, it's published in today's Times, on page 54 of the Saturday Review section. It's also available online here, although it may be behind the Times' paywall. And here's a picture of it.

As you can see from the extra instructions at the top, The Listener is a bit more complicated than most crosswords, with extra rules to follow, messages to find, and an overall theme to discover. Personally, I think that makes them far more rewarding, but they do take a bit of getting the hang of, so if you haven't tried cryptic crosswords at all before, this probably isn't a good one to learn on. If you do give it a try, bear in mind another thing that makes The Listener tricky is that the setter has license to use any word or abbreviation found in The Chambers Dictionary, however obscure; which makes the puzzle difficult, if not impossible, to solve without using that dictionary as well. On the plus side, if you use this site, then you can search for words using ?s as wildcards, so for instance typing ?R?S?W?R? will return 'crossword' (and indeed 'brushwork'). Some purists might call this cheating, but not me. I think it's fine.

If you do tackle it, let me know how you get on...

Friday, 12 February 2016

You're just in time to miss the last episode!

So... the fifth series of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme has been going out!

Featuring this pile of idiots. 

That's... that's definitely the sort of thing I should have been posting about here. Oh dear. Well, the last one was broadcast yesterday, but that does mean that there is now a two day window - today and tomorrow - where all six episodes are simultaneously available on the BBC iPlayer.  On Sunday, the first one will drop off, then a week later the second, then... well, I'll leave you to work the rest of the system out for yourself. Anyway, sorry for being so rubbish at publicity, and hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

24 Doodles - 16 to 24

What, did you think just because I started a series called '24 Doodles' on December 1st, it was some kind of advent thing? Well, I don't know where you got that idea. I'm sure I never said so. No, the idea was always to post one every one or two days for about a fortnight, and then the rest all in one splurge on New Year's Eve. So here, as part of the plan that was definitely the plan all along, are the other nine. Happy New Year!

16. First try at a young Ezra Pound, July, British Library, working on 'English For Pony-Lovers'.

17. Second shot. July, BL, E for P-L.

18. Tiny little doodle that I'm rather fond of, London, November, working on Souvenir Programme

19. Little girl looking for fish in a pond. With, as you see, some success. (It was a very low fence, by the way. She's not a giant little girl.) St Albans, September, working on Souvenir Cabin. 

20. Victorian gent in a photograph on a pub wall. Durham, February, working on the thing that later became Wysinnwyg.

21. Statue. Leros, Greece, April,  working on another element that later became Wysinnwyg. (Wysinnwyg gave me the most trouble of all the Double Acts.)

22. Man off the telly. London, February, working on an idea for a Double Act later abandoned.

23. Weather house people. London, November, during the recording of Hot Desk.

24. Your guess is as good as mine. But I wouldn't want to meet it on a dark night.  Dorset, December, working on Souvenir Programme. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

24 Doodles - 15

Two people who passed my window in November, while I was finishing The Goliath Window. (The woman was carrying a white bag, by the way; she's not dressed as a French maid...)

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

24 Doodles - 14

...and here's the more stylised version.

(The red stains on both come from a drop of candle wax, which fell on the second page, and then, next time I left the book in the sun, melted and seeped through to the first page as well. I rather like the way that, purely by chance, this makes the second stain look like a stylised version of the first.)

24 Doodles - 13

Here's my first attempt at the Edwardian paterfamilias in a photograph hanging in the room in which I was working on Hot Desk in August...

Sunday, 13 December 2015

24 Doodles - 12

You know I said a while ago sometimes my doodling is extremely literal minded? Well, here's half a page of notes from Dorset in September on Red-Handed. Yeah. It's not exactly wild, creative, free association, is it?

(By the way... I would just like to make it clear that I'm not putting these - any of these - doodles up because I think they're good. They're all genuinely what I was doodling in the margins while I was working, and so most of them are rubbish- these hands certainly are. This is not 'Behold - pages from my sketchbook' it's 'Look what nonsense my hands got up to while my brain was trying to solve plot problems.')

Saturday, 12 December 2015

24 Doodles - 11

Here is a marginal piglet from Tuttlingen in Germany in May, in a pleasant Gasthaus where I ended up doing so much useful plot work on English For Pony Lovers that I set the episode there in its honour.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

24 Doodles - 10

More experimenting with repetition to achieve stylisation, this time from March, in a fish restaurant in Greece. By the end I got to something which I think would make quite a fun character design for a druid or something, but really has very little to do with the poor chap enjoying his calamari across the way. For one thing, he seemed to age twenty years with each iteration...

Meanwhile, the notes are the very first seed of what eventually became The Goliath Window, though as you can see nothing about the story beyond the first idea of 'portrait painter and sitter' emerged that evening, with the possible exception of the idea of a model's discomfort at having to pose upside down for St Peter, which arguably eventually turned into the 'holding the spear aloft' sequence. Though just as arguably, it didn't. 

(Incidentally, the French painter I was trying to remember was GĂ©ricault.  )

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

24 Doodles - 9

From August, in London. How are you feeling about those deadlines, John?

24 Doodles - 8

Back to the Souvenir Programme notebook, and back to a bloke who sat near me in a pub, this time in Hampstead. Poor blokes who sit near me in pubs. One day, one them's going to notice. That will be a bad day for me. (Though if it happens in Hampstead, I'll probably be ok.)

Monday, 7 December 2015

24 Doodles - 7

Here's a little bit of research I diligently did into stained glass terminology for The Goliath Window at the British Library in October... none of which ended up in the script. But then, you never know what will be useful until you do it.

That 'Why's it funny?' question was one I had to keep reminding myself to ask whilst writing Double Acts - it was easy to get seduced by the story-telling aspects, and then realise later a page had gone by without any jokes. The answers I came up with here are largely not the answers I ended up with, but at least it reminded me to bear in mind it was a comedy.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

24 Doodles - 6

This is from August, when I was working on Hot Desk. There was a photo of a girl on a horse lying around on the table I was working on. I like the horse's legs in this, but not much of the rest of it.

(Incidentally, the 'Aesop version' actually turned out to be The Tortoise That Fell In Love With A Hare. But the rabbit and the lion were useful staging posts to getting me there.)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

24 Doodles - 5

Changing notebooks, here's a quick and scrappy doodle of a sphinx from a page of my Souvenir Programme notebook where I was trying to work out a sketch about the riddle of the Sphinx. Sometimes my doodling can be quite literal-minded.

24 Doodles - 4

They haven't been all that doodle-y yet, have they? Here's a properly doodle-y one, from May, when I was working on Wysinnwyg in Dorset. It started off entirely abstract, but I think at the last minute the middle section sort of morphed into a picture of one of the characters...

Friday, 4 December 2015

24 Doodles - 3

This chap was sitting along from me in the British Library in June, while I was working on what became English For Pony Lovers. I've been trying to learn to be more stylistic with my drawing, which I only seem to be able to do by doing the same drawing repeatedly, only more so each time.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

24 Doodles - 2

A quick sketch of Evelyn Waugh, drawn in March, on the island of Kos, whilst listening to an interview with him which contained the seed from which A Flock of Tigers grew. The man from whom Edmund Willard got his initials, and some of his opinions. (Though Edmund is fundamentally nicer than I fear Evelyn was, at least by this age.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

24 Doodles - 1

This chap sat over the way from me in the Union Jack pub in Waterloo this February, while I was working on the plot that eventually became Wysinnwyg. You might be able to read the note that says 'Is the problem that the Sues and Adele come from different sitcoms?' The answer to this was... yes. 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stairway to heaven

When I was little, one of my grandmothers lived in a bungalow, and the other lived in a house, with a staircase. And one day, I remember one of my parents - I don't remember which - casually saying that this was sensible on the part of bungalow-Gran, as it meant she would be able to carry on living there even when she was very old. (It must, by the way, be one of the strange hazards of being a parent that, while the vast majority of everything you say to your kids, especially concerning teeth-brushing and room-tidying, is instantly forgotten; every so often you'll say something utterly unremarkable which your kid will NEVER FORGET.)

In this case, I think the reason it made such a big hit with me was it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that old people could get even older. I knew about death, of course, and I knew, without really believing it, that I would be a grown up one day, and my parents would get old. But this idea that either of my grans were not yet as old as they were ever going to be - as old, indeed, as it was possible to get - was completely new.

And I remember having two distinct reactions to the stairs thing: on the one hand, following my parent's lead, I too solemnly commended bungalow-Gran's foresight and good sense. But, at the same time, I secretly rather admired stairs-Gran's daredevil recklessness - her apparent refusal, not that I would have put it this way at the time, to go gentle into that good night...

Stairs-Gran would at the time, I think, have been about 65.

Monday, 17 August 2015

John Finnemore's Souvenir Cabin

Hello! I am very excited to announce that this autumn I will be doing a live stage show for two weeks only at the Shaw Theatre in London. Here's the poster, and tickets are on sale here.

The show will be a mixture of favourite sketches from John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme; brand new sketches; a 'Since You Ask Me' adventure; quite possibly a song or two… and a specially written new monologue by Mr. Arthur Shappey, making his first live stage appearance. He's very excited. Well, obviously he always is, but I mean specifically about this.

Each show will feature one of five guest stars, as shown in the poster: the four cast members of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, plus Kevin Baker, the 'Kevin' out of John and Kevin's Sunday Papers. The selection of sketches will be slightly different for each performer… and on the two Sundays, Kevin and I will do a live 'Sunday Papers'.

Here's who's on when:

30th September, 1st and 2nd October: Simon Kane.
3rd October: Margaret Cabourn-Smith
4th October: Kevin Baker
6th October: Margaret Cabourn-Smith
7th and 8th October: Lawry Lewin
9th and 10th October: Carrie Quinlan
11th October: Kevin Baker.


Tickets, as I say, can be bought here. 

The show has a Facebook page (which is more than I do.) It's a good place to ask any questions not answered here.

It also has a Twitter account. Why not.

The show begins at 7.30, and will be about two hours long, including an interval.

It is suitable for children. We've put over twelve as a guide, but this will not be rigidly enforced. If you have a well-behaved ten year old, bring them along. Come to that, I suppose, if you have a badly behaved fourteen year old, keep them away.

The Shaw Theatre is on Euston Road, next to the British Library, midway between Euston and King's Cross St Pancras stations.

…And I think that's it. Any questions, ask in the comment section, or on the Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 10 August 2015

With Great Pleasure

Since I'm back on this blog, I really ought to mention 'With Great Pleasure', a Radio 4 show I presented last week, and will therefore be available to listen to online here for the next three weeks.

In it, some idiot gets to pick eight pieces of writing they enjoy, and, crucially, two actors to read them out - which meant that I got to stage a partial Cabin Pressure reunion with the wonderful Stephanie Cole and Geoffrey Whitehead. For anyone needing further evidence of their genius: firstly, what's the matter with you? and secondly, I direct you particularly to the way Stephanie says 'accompany me on the harp', and Geoffrey says 'beautiful, beautiful flamingo.'

I hope it's half as much fun to listen to as it was to record.

Click to make readable

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Super De Luxe even includes a bed.

- 'Now, we offer a range of caravans, Sir, what sort of thing did you have in mind?'
- 'I don't know… what have you got?'
- 'Well… for the economy minded customer, we offer the Compact. Value for money, but perhaps a little cramped. Then of course there's our Standard model, which offers rather more space and comfort, whilst still being very competitively priced. And then, of course, for the caravan connoisseur... there is the De Luxe.'
- 'The De Luxe? That sounds good.'
- 'Oh, it is, sir. The last word in luxury. Assuming of course that money is no object.'
- 'Well, I wouldn't say that, but… we're only likely to buy a caravan once… What the hell! We'll take the De Luxe!'
-  'An excellent decision, sir! One never regrets buying the best! Mr Stephenson? Pray prepare for the gentleman… our caravan De Luxe!'

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

One kitchen, two fools, six legs.

…Hello. Remember me? Sorry about the tumbleweed, I've been busy writing things. I still am, but I'm going to try to get back into the habit of putting things up here as well.

Recently, I was for a few days looking after my friends' dog, captured here in a typical moment of meditative thoughtfulness:

One of the solemn duties of whoever is lucky enough to be custodian of this large brown idiot is to give him a pill in the morning. He won't eat the pill on its own, so I found the easiest way to get him to take it was to use a dab of butter to stick it to a dog biscuit, and toss him that. I was constructing this cunning pill / biscuit Trojan Horse the other morning, with the dog watching me attentively, when I accidentally dropped the pill. As it rolled off the kitchen counter to the waiting dog below, I called out, instinctively… 'Leave it!'

Yeah, quick thinking, genius. Because it would be terrible if the dog ate the pill before you put it on the biscuit that makes him eat the pill...

Friday, 1 May 2015

Look, Dobbin - it's got an astrolabe!

I saw this poster recently, from which I have trimmed off the product name out of sheer spite. 

Elegance is an attitude. That's what Simon Baker thinks, and you can tell he means it, because he's signed his name under it. And then typed his name under that, in case you can't read his signature. Simon Baker, you will discover if you Google him, is an incredibly famous actor; and in his important opinion elegance is an attitude. Elegance is not something you can learn, or buy, or get from owning a particular product, presumably... it's an attitude. It's hard to describe what that attitude is, but you know it when you see it.  It's wearing a suit and tie when you show your watch to a horse. It's signing your name under all the philosophical quotes you come up with, like Aristotle would have done if he'd thought of it. It's being in black and white. It's an attitude. Simon Baker has it, obviously. Simon Baker's horse has it. Maybe three or four other people in the world have it. Everyone else will just have to try and make up for their innate lack of it by buying a ridiculously over-priced watch. 

Not me, though. Because as it happens, I too am one of those lucky possessors of that rarest of attitudes... elegance.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Hello! There is no way of doing this that doesn't sound incredibly self-important, so let's all just grin and bear it. The thing is, in the next few weeks I'm hoping to be able to announce a couple of new things I'm doing this year, at least one of which will involve live performances. Now (here comes the self-important bit) in the past, tickets for things like this have gone quite quickly, and I would like to make sure that people who are interested enough to, for example, keep tabs on this blog have the chance to get them. So, if you put your email address into the box below, I will send you an email about these things a week or so before I announce them generally.

(Your email won't be passed on to anyone else, and I won't send you emails very often. And of course you can always unsubscribe again. Your umbrella may go down as well as up.)


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Friday, 27 March 2015


This is G. K. Chesterton and his wife Frances, nee Blogg. They were a devoted and happy couple, and Frances was largely responsible for managing the chronically disorganised Chesterton's life. (He famously once sent her a telegram reading 'Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?')

When they were engaged, Gilbert sent Frances a letter beginning '...I am looking over the sea and endeavouring to reckon up the estate I have to offer you.' You can read all twelve items he came up with here, but here are the first six. The sixth is my favourite.

1st. A Straw Hat. The oldest part of this admirable relic shows traces of pure Norman work. The vandalism of Cromwell's soldiers has left us little of the original hat-band.

2nd. A Walking Stick, very knobby and heavy: admirably fitted to break the head of any denizen of Suffolk who denies that you are the noblest of ladies, but of no other manifest use.

3rd. A copy of Walt Whitman's poems, once nearly given to Salter, but quite forgotten. It has his name in it still with an affectionate inscription from his sincere friend Gilbert Chesterton. I wonder if he will ever have it.

4th. A number of letters from a young lady, containing everything good and generous and loyal and holy and wise that isn't in Walt Whitman's poems.

5th. An unwieldy sort of a pocket knife, the blades mostly having an edge of a more varied and picturesque outline than is provided by the prosaic cutler. The chief element however is a thing 'to take stones out of a horse's hoof.' What a beautiful sensation of security it gives one to reflect that if one should ever have money enough to buy a horse and should happen to buy one and the horse should happen to have stone in his hoof--that one is ready; one stands prepared, with a defiant smile!

6th. Passing from the last miracle of practical foresight, we come to a box of matches. Every now and then I strike one of these, because fire is beautiful and burns your fingers. Some people think this waste of matches: the same people who object to the building of Cathedrals.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Two of a kind

Winston Churchill. Not that one.

This is nice. In 1899, Winston Churchill was 25, an aspiring politician, and the author of a couple of books. He was not, however, the most famous Winston Churchill around. That was the now largely forgotten, but at the time best-selling, American novelist... Winston Churchill. Aware of this, the British Winston Churchill wrote to his namesake as follows:

Mr. Winston Churchill presents his compliments to Mr. Winston Churchill, and begs to draw his attention to a matter which concerns them both. [...] He has no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will recognise from this letter — if indeed by no other means — that there is grave danger of his works being mistaken for those of Mr. Winston Churchill. He feels sure that Mr. Winston Churchill desires this as little as he does himself. In future to avoid mistakes as far as possible, Mr. Winston Churchill has decided to sign all published articles, stories, or other works, ‘Winston Spencer Churchill,’ and not ‘Winston Churchill’ as formerly. He trusts that this arrangement will commend itself to Mr. Winston Churchill, and he ventures to suggest, with a view to preventing further confusion which may arise out of this extraordinary coincidence, that both Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill should insert a short note in their respective publications explaining to the public which are the works of Mr. Winston Churchill and which those of Mr. Winston Churchill. 

To which the American Winston Churchill replied:

Mr. Winston Churchill is extremely grateful to Mr. Winston Churchill for bringing forward a subject which has given Mr. Winston Churchill much anxiety. Mr. Winston Churchill appreciates the courtesy of Mr. Winston Churchill in adopting the name of ‘Winston Spencer Churchill’ in his books, articles, etc. Mr. Winston Churchill makes haste to add that, had he possessed any other names, he would certainly have adopted one of them.

Good work, Winstons.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

John and Kevin's Sunday Papers - Review of the Year

I know it's hard to imagine, but beneath the impossibly slick looking surface of John and Kevin's Sunday Papers, with its sky-high production values, glamorous locations, and billion dollar cast, lie ordinary fallible human beings who occasionally make mistakes.

Here are a few of them...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Well, it's here... yes, it's here...

Happy Fifth of February! Here's a little song Susannah Pearse and I wrote in honour of this deeply unspecial day...

(Yes, I know it's some peoples' birthdays. Doesn't make it any more special, I'm afraid. Every day is some peoples' birthdays.)

However, this particular Fifth of February is at least a fraction merrier than most, because today is the launch of the complete and utter definitive A to Z Cabin Pressure CD box set! Here they are, all fourteen of them:

The discs include:

- All 26 episodes (well, technically 27, but I like to think of Zurich as one two-part episode. It's just neater) in correct, alphabetical order.

- A bonus half hour in which producer David interviews me, mainly about odd little references in the show; and we introduce such things as:

- Some deleted clips and scenes, including Martin and Douglas talking about their fathers in St Petersburg, and Martin X-raying the geese at the end of Uskerty.

- The little monologues I wrote just for the audience at the very first recording, in which each character introduces themselves.

- Two specially written trailers for series 2 of the show, one featuring Stephanie, the other Benedict.

- One 'blooper'. I know you wanted more, but for some reason they generally don't really come across in audio only.  But this one does, and it's a good one...

Then there's the 32 page booklet, which includes:

- Casting and transmission details of all the episodes, obviously.

- Strange little doodles, by me, of things like oboes and green bottles and stuffed sheep and cricketers carrying a fire-truck, all around the above.

- A hand-drawn world map of all the destinations, also by me.

- An annotated diagram of the layout of Gerti; including secret location of the asbestos gloves; untampered with armrests; and the captain's seat for the captain to sit in, because he's the captain. Yep, me again.

- The official MJN Air Games Compendium - a list of all the games played by the crew through the show.

- The Rules of The Travelling Lemon.

- The Rules of Yellow Car. Well, the rule.

- The five double page spreads, one for each main character, showing their notebooks, wall charts, manuals or diaries; as published in the individual CD releases, but now in glorious technicolour, which means Arthur's jelly-babies are finally recognisable, and don't just look like weird stones.

- Eleven hidden lemons.

- A page of plot ideas which never made it into episodes, with explanations as to why not.

- A page of my notebook from the writing of Zurich.

- A double page spread of photos of the cast rehearsing and recording Zurich.

- Two high quality staples (used)

So, yes. We tried to pull out all the stops for this. Hope you like it. If you want to discover whether you like it or not, you can do so by buying it from Pozzitive, the BBC, high street book and music shops, or even big bad Amazon:


I already have the CDs! Can I get Zurich separately, or are you trying to make me buy the whole show all over again, you gang of twisters?

Not at all. Both series 4 and Zurich are available to buy separately, like so:

What about the booklet and the bonus material? Can I get that separately?

I don't think so, no. But that's fair enough, isn't it? That's what 'bonus material' means.

Will it be released in America? Or the rest of the world?

It's definitely going to be released in America, we think in April. I don't know about the rest of the world. But you can always order it from Britain and get it shipped to you.

I am young, and have never even heard of CDs. Are they those things Victorians played on gramophones, in their zeppelins?

That's right, yes. You can of course also still get all of Cabin Pressure by download, from iTunes or wherever else you get your music.

Why are you using Amazon links? Don't you know they're the baddies?

Because they tend to have the cheapest price, and it seems unfair not to point at the cheapest price. Also, because they're the single source most likely to have it in stock. The BBC shop, for instance, is currently sold out, even though it's the day of release. But you are of course welcome to buy it from whatever shop your taste and conscience dictate.

Is this the longest blog post you've ever written?

I don't know. It's right up there, isn't it?

Don't you feel bad that it's essentially just a huge long advert?

...Well, I didn't. But now I do. There's the song, though! Don't forget it started with a song!

We'd already heard the song.

Oh, leave me alone.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Zurich

The Nachzehrer, by Simon Kane. 

(Spoilers follow, obviously.)

Well, I'm glad you liked it! Glad, and very, very relieved.

I've said before that I often give episodes working titles alongside the geographical ones, to help keep my mind on the theme. Zurich's was 'Graduation Day'. My starting point was, why is this the final episode? I knew that everyone would still be doing their respective jobs at the end, so why won't we be following them any more? Because, I decided, as well as the straight-forward happy endings involving gold and marriage; there needed to be another, intangible level of happy ending, in which all five of the crew graduated, in one way or another, from being sitcom characters. We're not going to be following the adventures of OJS Air, or of Martin in Switzerland, because while they’ll still be having fun and playing games, they won't be doing the sorts of things that kept them getting into sitcom-episode-sized scrapes, and that ultimately stemmed from something out-of-joint in their lives. They’ve grown up. Except Arthur. But even Arthur, a little bit.

Martin Crieff was a sitcom character because i) he desperately wanted to do something he fundamentally wasn’t very good at, and ii) he was over-promoted, under-confident and over-compensating. In the last two series we've seen him grow in confidence - and competence - to the point that in Yverdon, it is (I hope) plausible that a major airline could offer him a proper job. There was never any question for me that for Martin, a happy ending had to involve him taking that job. To reject a real career, with a future and prospects (not to mention being handy for Vaduz) in favour of the security blanket of MJN - even with a salary - would be a failure. Certainly MJN is like a family to him, but if it is, he’s the elder child… and what children have to do eventually is grow up, and move out. Not that the security blanket isn’t tempting, of course; so for Martin, graduation was about overcoming his melt-down at the auction, and realising both that he can leave home, and that he should do.

The thing that has kept Douglas a sitcom character - and I've had to bite my tongue so many times not to say this in any of the previous Bear Fact posts, because to me it's so fundamental to his character, but I didn't want to mention it until Zurich aired - is that he's not the captain. So much of his persona, his put-downs, his scheming, stems from the fact that he used to be a captain, he ought to be a captain… and he's not. He pretends not to care about it, but we see as early as Fitton that he cares deeply. The natural order of things, certainly as he sees it, is that he should be in charge, the father figure in the family… and technically, he's not. I’ve always thought that the running joke of strangers assuming Douglas is Captain and Martin F.O. must have been at least as painful for Douglas as it was for Martin. He’s just better at hiding it… and better in general at constructing a super-human persona to hide behind.

So, the thing Douglas needed to graduate from being in a sitcom was to become a captain again… and the test he needed to pass in order to earn that was to act like one. Not just take charge and make decisions in a crisis, but do so openly and honestly. Douglas prefers to hang back, let other people make mistakes, work out the 'something clever' he's going to do in secret, and then present it with a flourish. He's a goal-hanger. This time, he has to act on his sense that it's imperative to get Gerti back before he's worked out all the details. He has to risk his own money, and more importantly, he has to admit to Carolyn and the others that he’s making it up as he goes along. He's not trying to impress anyone with how clever he is, he's trying to do the best thing for the crew - like a captain. And finally, if the crew is a family, he has to be a good parent. He has to look after the younger sibling; and he has to help the older one leave home, by sharing the secret of his persona.

Carolyn had the shortest distance to go to graduate. She's always been eminently capable of running her business, and she remains so; just as she has always been an excellent parent, both literally and metaphorically. So, although I was keen that she, like the other three, should do 'something clever' to save Gerti - in her case, it's manipulating the auctioneer to sell her to Bruce not Gordon - her real graduation is in her personal life. She needs to say 'I love you' to Herc, because the Beatrice and Benedick schtick is all very well - and I'm sure will continue throughout their marriage – but it’s time for her to accept that she can show vulnerability to Herc without suffering for it.

And in order for her to believe that, Herc needs to stop showing off, and actually work hard to persuade her that he is genuine, and she is safe with him. Which he does with the ‘white hair’ speech; but more importantly by putting his money where his mouth is, and accepting both a pay cut and a demotion if that’s what it takes for them to be together. To put it another way, both Herc and Carolyn needed to stop sparring, and work out which one of them actually was the alpha dog. And the answer, of course, is Carolyn.

And Arthur… well, Arthur is never going to grow up, as the ice cream van shows us. But luckily, he’s entirely happy as he is, so he doesn’t need to. So, graduation for him (apart from successfully over-riding a Code Red) is all about dealing with the only thing that’s wrong in his life – his father. Arthur’s test was to stand up to the false (if biological) father in his life, firstly at the auction and secondly and most importantly by remembering his grandmother’s name, realising that he will never, ever have a genuine father / son conversation with Gordon Shappey; and renouncing him once and for all in favour of the two genuine father figures in his life – and in particular, the one who has always looked out for and defended him, even as he mocks him; the one with whom he can discuss the dames and the horses over a few pineapple juices; and the one on whom he can utterly rely to do something clever, and make everything alright.

And because they all did those things, lo, the God of sitcom was pleased with them, and rewarded them with golden buns for tea, and an annoying sunset to fly into… but only as far as a destination beginning AA.