Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

Here to see it in: a Christmas cracker I made for a friend who is Welsh, but now lives in China...

Sunday, 11 December 2016


Just when you thought number five couldn't be more off-putting... lo, it has been made flesh. Well, plastic, anyway.

Friday, 9 December 2016



Thursday, 8 December 2016


This is a different sort of place-holder, in that it's a work in progress, a first layer, and when (if) I finish it, I'll replace the image and delete this text. But for now, and who knows, maybe for ever, here's the undercoat.....

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


You know when you see the clock-tower of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, and you can't stop thinking about how it looks like some mad early twentieth century monarch of a minor Balkan state?

...Oh, don't you? I mean... No. Me neither. 

In other news, the English For Pony-Lovers episode of Double Acts has been nominated for the Writers' Guild Award for Radio Comedy.  Hooray! So, concentrate on that. Forget that nonsense about kings and clock-towers. 

Monday, 5 December 2016


I'm sorry to do this to you, so early on...

Sunday, 4 December 2016


Saturday, 3 December 2016


Friday, 2 December 2016


Thursday, 1 December 2016


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Probably best just to tell your insurance company you work in a cubicle.

Ancient Assyrian careers advisor: 'So, to sum up... you like working with your hands, you don't mind enclosed spaces, and ideally you'd like to work with animals. I think I may have just the thing for you!' 

Ancient Assyrian school-leaver: 'Ok, but will it be boring? I don't want a job where I'm bored all the time.'

Ancient Assyrian careers advisor: 'Do you know what... I really don't think that will be a problem.' 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Over my head

Wittgenstein, enjoying a joke.

This is from a memoir of Ludwig Wittgenstein by his former pupil Maurice Drury:

'After tea Johnson played some of Bach's Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues. Wittgenstein told me he admired Johnson's playing. On the way back to Trinity he told me that at one of these afternoons Johnson had played badly, and he knew it himself, but the audience had applauded loudly. This annoyed Johnson, so by way of revenge he gave as an encore the accompaniment only of a Beethoven violin sonata, which of course was meaningless without the violin part. This gesture seemed to please and amuse Wittgenstein.'

Ways in which, had I been there, I would have failed to get the joke which pleased and amused Wittgenstein:

1) I wouldn't have noticed Johnson was playing badly.
2) I wouldn't have noticed the audience were applauding indiscriminatingly.
3) I might have noticed Johnson was annoyed, but I wouldn't have known why.
4) I wouldn't have recognised the Beethoven violin sonata.
5) I might have noticed the piece sounded odd, but I wouldn't have known why, or that it wasn't meant to sound that way.
6) Even if I had understood all of the above... I don't think I'd have realised the choice of the sonata was intended as a rebuke to the audience for clapping the player's previous poor performance too enthusiastically. That seems to me quite a... subtle point.

I suppose what's happening here is I'm coming to the shocking conclusion that Wittgenstein was a cleverer man than I am. And also that I slightly regret not living in a world in which people take their revenge through their selection of Beethoven sonatas. Though, of course, the above shows that quite possibly people around me are doing things like this all the time, and I have simply never had Wittgenstein around to explain them to me.

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.