Tuesday, 12 February 2019


Some names recorded for fields in England, with explanations.

Eight Day Math - meadow requiring eight days to mow.
Pasty Crust - field with brittle soil.
Handkerchief - small field
Seldom Seen - remote field
Australia - ditto
Happersnapper - 'enclosure with a wicket gate'
The Psalms - 'land on which the psalms were recited during the bound-beating ceremony'
Rumps and Buttocks - 'alluding to convex configurations'

And a selection from my favourite category: 'Derogatory names for unprofitable or unfertile fields.'

Famish Acre
No Man's Friend
Labour in Vain
Raw Bones
Rats' Castle
Bare Arse
Thin Porridge

All these from the excellent dictionary 'English Field-Names', by- in a piece of extraordinarily on-the-nose nominal determinism- John Field.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Sixteen

He seems nice. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Signing off

I was wondering why British convention is to end a letter to someone whose name you don't know - i.e. one that starts 'Dear Sir or Madam,' - with 'Yours faithfully'. How can you be faithful to someone you've never met?

Well, it turns out to be a contraction of what was for centuries the standard valediction to letters, some version of:

'Believe me to have the honour to remain your faithful and obedient servant'

Sometimes, between friends, it got shortened to something like this, from John Wilkes:

Also, I believe it was considered good style to try to end your letter in a way that made your name the object of the last sentence. Here's Lord Chesterfield having a bit of fun with it:

But how did they end letters to people to whom they didn't feel in the least faithful, humble or servile? Well, generally, they just said it anyway, because it was meaningless boilerplate. I gather there's a song in Hamilton about that (No, I haven't seen Hamilton yet. Yes, I know I should). 

But not always. Here's Richard Savage in 1735, writing to a member of the Irish nobility of whom he is... not a fan. 

Friday, 4 January 2019

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme News

Hello! I should probably have said this before, but Radio 4 are currently repeating Series 6 of JFSP at half past six on Thursday evenings, which means you can listen to them again on iPlayer here, at least for a bit.

But perhaps you don't want to listen to sketches from 2016. Perhaps only brand new sketches written in 2019 will satisfy you. In which case... lucky old you, because I'm delighted to say that Series 8 will be broadcast in the spring.

But perhaps you can't wait till then, or perhaps you want to see if the cast's silly voices come out of equally silly faces (Spoiler: Yes. Yes, they do.) In which case.... luckier still old you, because the random ballot for tickets to the recordings in Broadcasting House is now open (though only for the first date so far) and you can apply here.

But perhaps you don't like leaving things up to random ballot; or perhaps you only like seeing sketches that were written earlier that very same afternoon, performed by actors who read them for the first time 45 minutes ago. At most. In which case... luckiest of all old yous, because the cast and I are doing semi-secret try-outs of brand new material at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, and tickets are available here.

But perhaps you couldn't care less about my sketches; or perhaps you could, but are annoyed that two of these four things are happening in London, where I live; instead of where you live, where you live. In which case... truly you are the unluckiest of old yous. In recompense for your distress, please accept this silly doodle of a castle.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Knowing your limits.

Happy New Year!

This is Adlai Stevenson, the American Democratic politician and two-time unsuccessful presidential candidate upon whom Peter Sellers partially based his performance as President Muffley in Dr. Strangelove.

In 1949, when Stevenson was Governor of Illinois, a bill was proposed in that state to restrict the movement of domestic cats, in order to protect rare songbirds. Stevenson vetoed the bill, with this judgement:

"I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard or crossing the highways is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens—with traps or otherwise.

We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency."

I wish he'd won.

(Bonus Stevenson fact: when he was considering whether to run for President a third time, the Russians approached him secretly and offered him assistance. He told the ambassador who made the approach that he considered it "highly improper, indiscreet and dangerous to all concerned", and promptly reported it to the sitting President, his political enemy. I mean, obviously that's what anyone would do. I don't know why I even mention it. )

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Victor Hugo gets his author photo taken.

"Oh, yes, Victor, very nice! Very intense. Like it. Great. Ok, shall we try another pose?"

"...Yep. Yep, that's good too. Ok, I think we've got some terrific options for that look. Tell you what, let's try one without your hand on your face. How about that?"

"......Ok. Yep, ok, that was my fault. I left you a loophole there, didn't I Vic? Fair enough. So! Now let's try one without your hand on your head AT ALL."

"...I'm not an idiot, Victor. [...] YES, that counts as 'on'! [...] Of course it does, it... Look. We're both tired. Let's take a break, shall we, for a few days. Or years, or... decades, even, and then come at it fresh."


"Fine. Very nice, Victor. Very intense. We'll use that one."

"Yeah. And the same to you."

Monday, 13 August 2018

Also, you don't have to do ears.

Here's something I didn't know: silhouettes were, as you might not be surprised to learn, named after a Monsieur Silhouette. But, as you might be surprised to learn, he didn't invent them. Étienne de Silhouette was an unpopular French finance minister in the 18th Century who imposed austerity measures so fierce that to do something 'à la Silhouette' became slang for to do it on the cheap. And having your silhouette cut or drawn was a lot cheaper then having a miniature painted...

I was going to illustrate this with a picture of a silhouette which is thought to be a self-portrait by Jane Austen. But unfortunately, I looked into it, and it turns out there's another, more persuasive theory which is: no it's not. So instead, here's a couple of mine. It turns out silhouettes are a good way of doing quick sketches of people sat next to you at the British Library, because it only takes a few crafty sideways glances now and then, and then the rest is just colouring in.

No, neither are self-portraits.

Friday, 30 March 2018

John Finnemore's Flying Visit.

17th May - Brighton - Brighton Dome
18th May - High Wycombe - Wycombe Swan
20th May - Hastings - White Rock Theatre
21st May - Preston - Guild Hall 
22nd May - York - Grand Opera House
26th May - Cheltenham - Cheltenham Town Hall
30th May - Birmingham - New Alexandra Theatre
3rd June - Richmond - Richmond Theatre SOLD OUT
3rd June - Richmond Extra Matinee Date
6th June - Swindon - Wyvern Theatre
7th June - Leamington Spa - Royal Spa Centre
8th June - Tunbridge Wells - Assembly Hall Theatre
10th June - Dorking - Dorking Halls
13th June - Basingstoke - Basingstoke Anvil
15th June - Edinburgh - The Queen's Hall SOLD OUT

Update: Hooray, Richmond sold out, so we're putting in an extra Matinee there! Be warned - and I promise this isn't just hype - several of the other dates are almost sold out too.

Update to the update: Edinburgh's sold out now, too. I think Leamington and possibly Basingstoke will do soon as well, in case that's useful to know.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Entente Cordiale

Today, it is my job to take a brass tin of sweets to a group of crossword setters in Paris. Just as my careers advisor predicted. He was very good at his job.

Here is a small and silly puzzle I made for the occasion, presented in the form of a square of chocolate, a tube of Love Hearts, and three M&Ms. The solution is in the first comment.

Friday, 9 March 2018

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme - Complete Sketch List

Ok, first of all, here are the ticket links for my tour again, just to keep them at the top of this site. There are still tickets left for all dates at the moment, though not all that many for some.

17th May - Brighton - Brighton Dome
18th May - High Wycombe - Wycombe Swan
20th May - Hastings - White Rock Theatre
21st May - Preston - Guild Hall 
22nd May - York - Grand Opera House
26th May - Cheltenham - Cheltenham Town Hall
30th May - Birmingham - New Alexandra Theatre
3rd June - Richmond - Richmond Theatre
6th June - Swindon - Wyvern Theatre
7th June - Leamington Spa - Royal Spa Centre
8th June - Tunbridge Wells - Assembly Hall Theatre
10th June - Dorking - Dorking Halls
13th June - Basingstoke - Basingstoke Anvil
15th June - Edinburgh - The Queen's Hall

Thank you very much to everyone who's suggested sketches they'd like to see on stage - it's really useful.  But I realised if a sketch got a few nominations, I couldn't tell whether it was genuinely popular, or whether it was just that the first mention reminded other people it existed. So... in an attempt to create a level playing field, here's something I've been meaning to do for a while anyway: a big old list of every sketch in all seven series of Souvenir Programme.

These aren't always the original titles - I've tried to make them recognisable, and where they still aren't, I've put a key word or phrase in brackets. Do carry on leaving nominations in the comments!


Episode One

Mr Frint - No Job Too Big
Three Guards (Tiger with a gun)
Interview Sketch - Before You're Thirty (Be kind, have fun)
To Re-record Your Message
Pooh's Indebevention
I Speak As I Find
The Noise of the Tardis
Jamaica Quickie
Since You Ask Me - Ghost Story (Jacket pocket jacket pocket)

Episode Two

Three Little Pigs
Cat-Nav I
The Interview Sketch - Evolutionist (Hummingbirds)
Cat-Nav II
Song - Ballad 404 ('Where have they gone...')
The Archers Accidentally I ('...if it turns out I own this pub')
Hunger Quickie
Cat-Nav III
Since You Ask Me - Family Curse (Wim-Bim-King-Sim-Sham)

Episode Three

After the Exam (Sealion in a little hat)
Snow Leopards I
Little Trophy
Drunken Sailor Court Martial
Snow Leopards II
National Debate
Jekyll and Hyde
I Thought So (Over-analytical)
Snow Leopards III
Since You Ask Me - Murder Mystery (Turbot Bacardi)

Episode Four

The Seance
Song - Zoo Song I - Meerkats
Old Spies (Thompson Pulse)
Pampering (Pat me dry with a little baby duckling)
Song - Zoo Song II - Penguins
The Emperor's New Clothes
Song - Zoo Song III - Gnus
Since You Ask Me - Treasure Island (Polly wants a bison)

Episode Five (Edinburgh Special)

The Silent Majority I - Speed Cameras, Language
The Quest
The Grasshopper and the Ants
The Interview Sketch - Athlete (Fastest tricyclist in the world)
Architect Briefing
Civil War (Cat people and dog people)
Cheer Up
Since You Ask Me - Edinburgh (Thumb-snatchers)


Episode One

Not Violent
Audioguide for 5-Year-Olds 1
Sun and Moon
Good News Quickie
Wisdom of Solomon
Audioguide II
Stoppable- The Tram Story
Ugly Duck
The Negotiation ('...I thought we paid you?')
Your Decision (Patrick or Trevor)
Audioguide III
Since You Ask Me - Train Adventure ('You are Uncles by trade?')

Episode Two

Call Us Now I - Cold
The Archers Accidentally II ('One of the men who aways sound tired')
Romantic Gestures
Call Us Now II - Bored at work
New Supervisor
Song - My Dog Doesn't Know He's Ugly
Difficult Second Theorem
Mr. Frint - Your New Cinema
The Interview Sketch - Actor (Bumper-Offer)
Call Us Now III - Movies
Since You Ask Me - Christmas (Rufus the magic lion)

Episode Three

Lisa and K
Gone Funny On Me - Churchill
Don't Shoot the Messenger ('We've got out of sync')
Nobody Knows I
Vulture Interview
Gone Funny On Me - Kennedy
Making Money
Nobody Knows II
Criss Cross
Gone Funny On Me - Juliet
Since You Ask Me - Ghost Story (Eagling)

Episode Four

Blind Horse ('I can't tell you your job is safe')
Interesting Theory - Macbeth
Sitcom Character I - Standing Right Behind Me
Security Code
Queen's Knight
Song - Insomnia
Sitcom Character II - Donkey Rides
Interesting Theory - Maths
The Goldfish and King Neptune
Since You Ask Me - Walpurgisnacht
Sitcom Character Coda

Episode Five

Supermongers I
Mr. Frint - Awesome
Famous Five Reunion
Supermongers II
Prawn Casserole (Elbow room)
Elephantine Castle
I Don't Take No For An Answer
Supermongers III
Southend Pier
Since You Ask Me - Fisherman's Cottage

Episode Six

Silent Majority - Language
Spoilers I
Herod's Strategy
Spoilers II
New Police Powers
Silent Majority - Recycling
Pair Up ('Find someone of the opposite height')
Spoilers III
Silent Majority - Immigration
Song - Captain Dinosaur
Since You Ask Me - Credits


Episode One

Campaign For Real Pub Chat
Sponsored Holiday
Caller ID
Towels ('Towels on the bed mean Sleepy Towels')
Mr Frint - Iconic
Hearing Test ('Don't press the button')
Two Man Show
Song - Spiny Porcupine
Help Quickie
Mr Frint - Vibrant
Rat Sanctuary
Will The Train Manager Contact The Driver
Mr Frint - Literally
Afternoon Drama - Lucy's Complex Dilemma

Episode Two

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out
New Friend (Sniffer dog)
The Gilgamesh Experiment I (F. Ronald Huggerman)
A History of Choice
House Sitter
The Gilgamesh Experiment II
Flow Chart
The Interview Sketch - Ice Cream Van Painter
Voice In My Head - Grande
The Gilgamesh Experiment III
Since You Ask Me - Typhoon

Episode Three

Painting The Sun
RNLI Interview
Inner Toddler - Squash
Song - Carmela Vitale
Attention Citizens
Roman Baths
Saul's New Name
Normal Man
What's What (Pandas have rejoined the bears)
Inner Toddler - My Cup
Unspoiled (Korea)
Family Reunion ('Great-great-great-great-great-grandfather!')

Episode Four

Goats and Daffodils
Archers Accidentally III ('The rhythmic thumping of the wooden objects')
Fairy Shop I
Entering Troy
Interview Sketch - Art Historian ('Too many tentacles on the giant squid?')
Dealing With Bullies
Sheriff of Nottingham
Fairy Shop II
Life Class (Too rude)
No Further Questions

Episode Five

Horse Box
Anecdotes - Rubinstein
The Bagsie Tribunal
Comedian Interview
Anecdotes - Churchill
Your Belongings
3D Printer
Anecdotes - Parker
Gunpowder Plot
Anecdotes - Wilde
Since You Ask Me - Noir (Alabaster Tortoise)

Episode Six

Stamp Collector
Niceness Tourette's
The Interview Sketch - Accountant Creatif
Basking Sharks I
Heaven's Gate (No chocolate in heaven)
Expert Witness
Basking Sharks II
Go East
Matter of Taste (Olives and bananas)
Song - Red Trousers


Episode One

Teaching Aid
Bodyguards I
Live to Tell the Tale ('Threw me back')
World Championships of Snap
Bodyguards II
Song - Three Monkeys
Pound Shop
Bodyguards III
Since You Ask Me - Duel

Episode Two

Turning Round a Tanker
Positive Racist
Apology to Belgium
Hotel Check-In (Not a problem)
Watch Advert
Three Legged Dog
Since You Ask Me - Mysterious Trapdoor
Song - Anthem Pour Les Belges
Apology to Belgium II

Episode Three

Wedding Invite
Negotiating With Genghis I
Sun Gods
Poetry Please
Negotiating With Genghis II
What Did You Think? (Film review)
'Serious' Quickie
Very Special Chair
Negotiating With Genghis III
Since You Ask Me - Tortoise Ranch

Episode Four

Ding Ding Good Morning Sir I
Assembly Speech
Ding Ding Good Morning Sir II
Interview Sketch - MP
Ding Ding Good Morning Sir III
Song - My Baby Don't Care
Thomas' New Driver
Ding Ding Good Morning Sir IV
Since You Ask Me - Love Story

Episode Five

Store Detective I (Casterbridge and Snowman)
Action Stations
The Artefact (Museum of human folly)
Store Detective II
Tombstone Engraver
Store Detective III
Camouflage Seminar
Store Detective IV
Russian Revolution by Email
Since You Ask Me - Quickie

Episode Six

Sooty's a Bear
Whale Translator
Farenheit and Celsius
Little Green Men
Song - The Fifth of February
Does Anyone Want Anything?
Tesco Metro
Since You Ask Me - Twisted Science (Dr Kroopenstein)


Episode One

The Capital of Spain
School Slogan
Magic Mirror
Ban Cancer
Song - Even Bluesmen Get the Pinks
PhD Proposal Quickie
Mulligan's Bank
Richard of York
Since You Ask Me - Crossing the Atlantic (Mr. Floofywhiskers)

Episode Two

She Sells Sea Shells
Voice in My Head - Tip Jar
News Coverage
Painting Advice
Chocolate Geek
Heroes of the Titanic
Pavlov's Dogs
Wrong Friend
Since You Ask Me - Spies (A mole in the Zoo)

Episode Three

Dog That Looks Most Like Its Owner
A Friend in Need
Interview Sketch - Politician ('Sorriness is being experienced')
Song - Procrastination
Retirement Do (Barbed wire story)
Overrated Moon
Hunter Gatherers
Since You Ask Me - Limericks

Episode Four

Word to the Wise ('His penny whistle is not worth fourpence')
Talking to Strangers I - Tall
Sports Day (Sodom and Gomorrah)
Talking to Strangers II - Famous
Papal Conclave (Jamelia)
Mocking Christianity
Talking To Strangers III - Beautiful
Since You Ask Me - Deaduncle Hall (Throwing doughnuts to the wolves)

Episode Five

Dancing Lessons
Song - Serving Suggestion (Put it on a plate)
Lawry's Bit I
Mulligan's Donkey Sanctuary
Lawry's Bit II
Middle Age
Lawry's Bit III
Since You Ask Me - Denouement Parlour

Episode Six

Train Delay I
Nice Cop Nasty Cop
Other Offences
Song - Cerberus
Other Interests
Train Delay II
The Most Self-Indulgent Sketch in the World
Since You Ask Me - Robot Queen Victoria


Episode One - Christmas Special

John Mulligan's Advert
Good King Wenceslas
Exit Polls I
Runner Up (Holly and Ivy)
Song - December 27th
Exit Polls II
Baby's First Christmas
Eyewitness (Night Before Christmas)
Father Ramadan
Exit Polls III
Since You Ask Me - Nativity

Episode Two

Kissing Protocol
Phone Number (0-7-7-3482293.....5)
Evil Voices (Save the Children)
Just What I Wanted (Grail)
Self-Driving Cars
Stand Up - Bright Ideas
Waterloo Reenactment
Best Child

Episode Three

Parrot Fashion
Bad Copper
One Hit Wonder (Pachelbel)
Sorting Depot (Teeth)
The Thing About Me
Behind Closed Doors - Bouncy Castle
The Arrest
Song - Loose Canon
Since You Ask Me - Haiku

Episode Four

St. Ives
So-Called Fire Brigade
New Kitchen Floor
Socrates' Worst Idea
Eulogy For a Man in the Right
President's Two Speeches
House on Fire
The Archers Accidentally IV
Since You Ask Me - Proposal

Episode Five

David Starkey
Tufty (Wolverine)
Open Letters
Designing the Snake
What's He Like?
But a Man
Behind Closed Doors - Ferry
King James
Song - Truckstops
Since You Ask Me - Fortune Teller

Episode Six

Is There a Doctor on Board?
Pet Tips I
You'll Set Me Off
Pet Tips II - Tortoises
Which of These Cats Is Bigger Than The Other One?
Pet Tips III - Cats
Celeriac Awareness
Pet Tips IV - Stick Insects
Guest Spots
Missed Connections
Since You Ask Me - The Musical


Episode One

Getting Feedback (Freud)
The Death of Nelson
Past Lives
Starting a New Baby
Kim's Poem
Interview Sketch - Gnu
Song - Stop Saying Gnus
Stand Up - Clickbait
The Woods (Not a picnic)
Since You Ask Me - Biscuits

Episode Two

Otter Sanctuary
Crime Scene (Single live butterfly)
Interview Sketch - Authentic Shakespeare Company
Mulligan's Auto-Citer
Wedding Venue (Magic organ)
How She'll Be Coming (When she comes)
Not My Turn
Since You Ask Me - The Mission

Episode Three

Huge Favour
Have We Met?
Acceptance Speech
Bucket List
The Wisdom of Uncle Matt
Interview Sketch - Owl
Research Help (Winchester)
Ninth Labour
Arse-Covering Meta Sketch
Since You Ask Me - Fight

Episode Four

Bet You I Crash It
New Player Tutorial
The Godivas
Song - Moral Maze
Interview Sketch - Mayfly
Planning to Meet Up
Stand Up - Taps
Johnson and Boswell
Since You Ask Me - Western

Episode Five

Caesar's Last Words
Voice In My Head - Carcassonne
Animal Designers Crisis
Grains of Rice
Interview Sketch - Centaur
George and the Dragon
Animals and Kings
Leaving a Funeral
De-sensitised Crows
One Question Time to the Tune of Another
Since You Ask Me - Card Trick

Episode Six

The Plan
Sponsored Leopard
The Weather
Song - The Terrible Leaving Do of 2017
Memory Technique
A Cake in the Shape of a Cake
Interview Sketch - Linguist
JFSP Accidentally
Since You Ask Me - The Heist

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

New tour date!

Good news! I'm absolutely delighted to say that, in response to many people here and on Twitter quite rightly pointing out my tour was giving the North West an unreasonably wide berth, we've been able to add an extra date, and will also be coming to.... Preston!

We now go live to the people of Preston for their reaction:

Thank you, Preston.

Specifically, we're coming to the Preston Guild Hall, on the 21st May

Which means the full list of tour dates and ticket links is....

17th May - Brighton - Brighton Dome (Tickets go on sale on Friday)
18th May - High Wycombe - Wycombe Swan
20th May - Hastings - White Rock Theatre
21st May - Preston - Guild Hall 
22nd May - York - Grand Opera House
26th May - Cheltenham - Cheltenham Town Hall
30th May - Birmingham - New Alexandra Theatre
3rd June - Richmond - Richmond Theatre
6th June - Swindon - Wyvern Theatre
7th June - Leamington Spa - Royal Spa Centre
8th June - Tunbridge Wells - Assembly Hall Theatre
10th June - Dorking - Dorking Halls
13th June - Basingstoke - Basingstoke Anvil
15th June - Edinburgh - The Queen's Hall

Come and see us! And, if you have any suggestions for sketches or songs from Souvenir Programme you would particularly like to see on stage, do let me know in the comments. I'm trying to persuade Carrie we should do Elephant and Castle, so that every night she'll have to dress up as an elephant, put on a suit of armour, and slowly fall down a massive staircase. She seems unconvinced...

Thursday, 8 February 2018

John Finnemore's Flying Visit

For two days, the whole new series of Souvenir Programme is available on BBC iPlayer. After that, they'll drop off one by one, but you still have six weeks to listen to today's episode, which I think might be one of the best we've done...

And after that, if you're not sick of the sound of my stupid voice, why not see how you cope with my stupid face? Because... I'm going on tour!

John Finnemore's Flying Visit is a brand new full length stage show, featuring the entire cast of Souvenir Programme; with sketches, songs, Pet Tips, Since You Ask Me tales, and a guest appearance from Wing Commander Arthur Shappey. We're doing thirteen dates around Britain in May and June, and tickets are either on sale right now, or will be soon. Here's a handy list of dates and ticket lists. Come and see us!

17th May - Brighton - Brighton Dome (Tickets only on sale to the shadowy figures known as 'members' now, but will be on general release on Friday!)
18th May - High Wycombe - Wycombe Swan
20th May - Hastings - White Rock Theatre
21st May - Preston - Guild Hall
22nd May - York - Grand Opera House
26th May - Cheltenham - Cheltenham Town Hall
30th May - Birmingham - New Alexandra Theatre
3rd June - Richmond - Richmond Theatre
6th June - Swindon - Wyvern Theatre
7th June - Leamington Spa - Royal Spa Centre
8th June - Tunbridge Wells - Assembly Hall Theatre
10th June - Dorking - Dorking Halls
13th June - Basingstoke - Basingstoke Anvil
15th June - Edinburgh - The Queen's Hall

All of the above idiots will be involved.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Fifteen

'Happy' 5th of February! Here's something cheery to take the edge of it...

(Also, check back here on Thursday for An Announcement...)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Fourteen

("Advent"? No, sorry, Guv, can't help you. Never heard of it. I just like the number 24...)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Thirteen

Something a little different today. I may replace this with a photo in natural light tomorrow, so you can see what's going on. But for now... it's a book.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Twenty-Tour Things - Thing Twelve

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Eleven

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Ten

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Nine

A magnificent specimen of the Red Trouser Wearer, seen in the wild at St Pancras Station.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Eight

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Seven


(For those asking where it is: I'm afraid I made it up. But I cribbed bits from the Cathedrals of Wells, Amiens, Rheims and Exeter. And then I put in some completely unnecessary flying buttresses, because what's the point of doodling a cathedral if you don't get to do flying buttresses?)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Six


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Five

This was an experiment in drawing white on black, rather than vice versa. It didn't quite work out, as you see, which is why this is apparently a caricature of the ghost of Michael Caine, rather than the man himself. But I'll have another go sometime.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Four

One of many, many marginal penguins doodled whilst writing Penguin Diplomacy. This is one of the worst of them - what on earth is going on with his feet? But it's still my favourite, just because of the operatic pose.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Three

I apologise for Faraging up your advent so early. But one thing I've discovered this year is the joy of caricaturing people I dislike, and so am not held back by guilt. You'll never guess which public figure taught me this lesson. (I will try to keep him out of this series. But no promises...)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Two

Friday, 1 December 2017

Twenty-Four Things - Thing One

Madame Citron.

(Original photo by Marianne Levy)

Saturday, 9 September 2017

I also like how disappointed they look.

Yesterday, I watched the 1941 Leslie Howard film 'Pimpernel Smith', a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel set in 1939.  I was delighted to find it has what must be at least an extremely early example of a particular type of joke:

That's pretty good, isn't it? Forty years before Ted Stryker met a trombonist in a bar, or Homer Simpson met the Springfield Philharmonic in the woods. Does anyone know of an earlier version? The Goons did it a lot, of course, but not until the '50s. 

I recommend the film, by the way- it's on Netflix at the moment (in Britain, anyway), and has some good jokes in it, and an excellent (and excellently cast and costumed) comedy Nazi. 

- 'No, no, no. Shakespeare is a German. Professor Schußbacher has proved it once and for all.'
- 'Dear me, how very upsetting. Still, you must admit that the English translations are remarkable.'

(I know, I know... I will do the rest of the Double Act blogs eventually. Probably.) 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Double Acts - The Queen's Speech

Well, I have finally finished writing this series of Double Acts - only five weeks after they started going out -  and so have time to write something about Double Acts. The first of the series, The Queen's Speech, starring Stephanie Cole and Kerry Godliman, is still available on iPlayer for the next five days.

There really was - and is - a short recording of Queen Victoria speaking, which you can hear here. (Skip straight to 1.19 for the most cleaned up version, but don't expect to able to make out much.) 

And it really was made at the end of a demonstration of a newly invented recording machine - not the  phonograph, but the graphophone. For a full account of this demonstration, and the fate of the wax cylinder afterwards, read Paul Tritton's 'The Lost Voice of Queen Victoria'. In it, you will find that there is a (remote) possibility that another cylinder exists, in which Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India blurts the word 'tomatoes', because someone is pointing at some tomatoes. The grandchildren of the inventor of the graphophone had memories of a different version which they listened to - without much interest - as children. 

Even if it never happened, the idea of a Victorian inventor gravely indicating some tomatoes in the hope of provoking a comment from the Queen seemed like a promising start.

This one was one of the three research-heavy episodes of the series, and a surprising amount of it is true, or based in truth. Victoria really did have what she referred to as 'treats' - performances by conjurors, singers, and even comedians in the afternoons at Balmoral or Osbourne. She really did try to learn Hindustani from her 'Munshi', Abdul Karim; and the phrase she quotes: 'Anda thik ubla nahi hai', meaning (supposedly) 'The egg is not yet boiled' is one of the ones in the pocket-book the Munshi made for her, along with 'The poor boy has a bad pain in his hand', 'The tea is always bad at Osbourne', 'You will miss the Munshi very much' and... 'Hold me tight'. I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent explanation.

Other true bits: Inventors really were a bit at a loss about what possible use a machine that records sound could be, and Mabel's daftest suggestion is lifted straight from the real inventor of the graphophone, Henry Edmonds:

Oh, and Victoria really did both dislike Gladstone, and find him very dull. And perhaps with reason. Here he is writing to her in the year The Queen's Speech is set, trying to say he's glad it didn't rain in Liverpool:

Of course, the moment I began to write Queen Victoria as a character, there was only one actor I wanted to play her. In the first series of Double Acts, producer David and I deliberately chose not to use any of the actors who had appeared in Cabin Pressure (apart from me, obviously), because we wanted it to have a chance to establish itself as its own thing. For the second series, however, we  felt able to abandon that restriction - with great relief - and indeed someone who appeared in C.P. appears in all six episodes. Although one of them is incredibly hard to spot...

So, anyway, we crossed our fingers and asked Stephanie, and thank God she said yes. She's truly wonderful in it. As is Kerry Godliman, one of the very few actors in the world who could hold their own against Stephanie Cole squared by Queen Victoria. Of the shadowy figure who played Gladstone and the Sergeant, though; little is known. I mean, where would I find someone who could do both Victoriana and Shouting...?

A final note on the machine: I am informed that David Tyler, who co-edits the show, as well as producing, directing, and script-editing it (it's basically more his show than mine) never wants to hear another treadle as long as he lives.