Tuesday 24 December 2019

24 Things. Who’d’ve thought it?. Thing 24.

Merry Christmas!

Monday 23 December 2019

24 Things... surely? Or will he fall at the final hurdle? Don't rule it out. Thing 23.

This was an attempt to use fewer lines. With, I would say, mixed results.

Sunday 22 December 2019

24 Things, probably, but taking nothing for granted. Thing 22.

Saturday 21 December 2019

24 Things, barring hilarious accidents. Thing 21.

After all those people and animals, here's a vegetable.

Friday 20 December 2019

24 Things, though it would be quite funny to drop out now. Thing 20.

These are the practice sketches for yesterday's, but I think I like some of them better than the way it turned out. Especially the cheerful chap in the bottom right corner.

Thursday 19 December 2019

24 Things are no longer out of the question. Thing 19.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

24 Things, they do seem to keep coming, though. Thing 18.


Tuesday 17 December 2019

24 Things, though surely not. Thing 17.

Monday 16 December 2019

24 Things still seem unlikely to me, but who knows. Thing 16.

Sure, you can't stop progress, and it's not as if the old way ever worked in any case, but... still, he kind of misses it.

Sunday 15 December 2019

24 Things, a likely story. Thing 15

Saturday 14 December 2019

24 Things, or so the legend goes. Probably nonsense. Thing 14.

Also drawn for the tour show. And also animated, though that was done by the excellent Chris Lincé, not by me.

And indeed not in Salford. Because in Salford, the computer that we run the show on froze at the start of the Kirates sketch, and Simon and I had to stick our heads round the back cloth and do it live. Whilst in the middle of changing into our red trousers...

Friday 13 December 2019

24 things, or not, but maybe. Thing 13.

Apologies if this is baffling to non-Brits. But count yourselves lucky.

Thursday 12 December 2019

24 Things - Half way point, or possibly way over half way point: Thing 12.

Oh no.
It's happened again. 

We've got Muppets.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

24 Things, plus standard disclaimer. Thing 11.

I've had a request for the Angela fish, so... here she is. Caution: not terribly Christmassy. 

Tuesday 10 December 2019

24 Things: the in-itself-surprising 'Double Figures' post. Thing 10.

All these things can be clicked for bigger-er, by the way.

Monday 9 December 2019

24 Things, more or less. Although definitely not more. Thing 9.

After Ken Anderson

Sunday 8 December 2019

24 Things, or at least, definitely 8. Thing 8.

Saturday 7 December 2019

24 Things, No Doubt About That, Oh No. Thing 7.

'...So, basically a tube?'

Friday 6 December 2019

24 things, and if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. Thing 6.

This is from the tour show. It's the image we put up at the start of the sketch about the designer of the snake, to try to get across the idea of an animal design department. Tomorrow, I'll put up the image that replaces it when the head of the department says he has one or two questions about the new design...

Thursday 5 December 2019

24 Things, Allegedly, But The Smart Money's On About Eight. Thing Five.


Wednesday 4 December 2019

24 Things Are Unreliably Promised: Thing 4

As a rule, the more intricate and over-worked the doodle, the worse the writing's going...

Tuesday 3 December 2019

24 Things Or Fewer: Thing 3

I'm sure he's charming when you get to know him.

Monday 2 December 2019

24 Things, Potentially, But History Suggests Otherwise. Thing 2.

Sunday 1 December 2019

24 Things, Theoretically: Thing 1

Will this be the year I actually manage to sustain this? I wouldn't bet on it...

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Last Call for the Flying Visit

Ok, it's been a while, let's have one last plug.

We're down to the last EVER five shows of John Finnemore's Flying Visit!

We've had an absolutely fantastic time, so we might well do another tour in the future, but if so it won't be this show; so this is the last chance to find out what on earth we're about to do with those Sainsbury's bags and gardening gloves...

So, come along... TONIGHT, at the Leas Cliff Theatre, Folkestone. 

Or, on the 3rd November at Spa Grand Hall, Scarborough.
Or maybe the 4th November, at the Octagon, Sheffield (this one might sell out soon)
Or would you prefer the 5th November, at the Playhouse, Weston Super Mare.

Or, failing all those, our extra date on the 1st December, at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London. 

Or why not go to all five? I mean, you'd have to be a lunatic, but apart from that, why not? 

Sunday 27 October 2019

I also have an excellent idea for a round thing to go under cars.

Yesterday, I was messing around on a piano (at which I'm very bad indeed), trying to work out how to do the fingering on Susannah Pearse's and my version of Pachelbel's Canon. Eventually, after a lot of painstaking trial and error, I found that it seemed to help with the doobie doobies if I tried to always play D with my thumb. Indeed, so helpful was this little trick of mine that I thought I'd leave a note for myself on the top of the score, for next time I tried it. So, I went and found a pencil, and prepared to write down my important discovery. Just under the title. Which is... 'Canon in D'.

Ah. So THAT's what that means.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Millionaire Lifestyle

I have since been informed that a thing is not technically enrobed in chocolate if it is not entirely covered.  I'm glad I didn't know that when I wrote this. Because 'enrobed' is a funny word.

Saturday 12 October 2019


Originally, I played Quasimodo and Simon played Victor. I don't know why it worked so much better this way round, but it really did.

Monday 23 September 2019

Slightly Off

I still don't know what the truth behind this sketch is, by the way. A little bit of research shows that some of the characters are vinyl decals, and some of them are indeed hand-painted. But I still don't know why they're slightly off (the decals, at least, you'd think would be accurate), or why they don't get shut down for copyright infringement, or why that ice-cream in a bowl with cherries all over it - which looks like it was drawn in maybe the 1950s - still pops up on, for instance, this van I saw the day before yesterday.

Bonus points for fadedness, and presence of Donald Duck's nephews, though minus one point because Stanley absent-mindedly included all three.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Spiny Porcupine

I write the lyrics to the songs in Souvenir Programme, and the amazing Susannah Pearse writes the music. Unfortunately, both of us prefer to go second - that is, I like writing to existing music, and she likes setting existing words. So, when she wins, I often write the lyrics to the tune of an existing song, without telling Sue which one. Then, once I hear her music, I rewrite the lyrics to fit them better. So, for instance, 'Captain Dinosaur' started out life to the tune of 'Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory of the Coming of The Lord'... and 'Spiny Porcupine' was originally written to Jake Thackray's 'Sister Josephine'.


We're on tour! I know you know this by now, but just in case. We've done three dates so far, we're having a fantastic time... and we still have twenty-three to go. Come and see us! Dates and ticket links here. 

Tuesday 27 August 2019

New Friend

It's not often that a sketch comes directly from something I see, but this one did. I saw a guy ahead of me get pulled out of a queue at the airport- and the sniffer dog who found him was in a tail-wagging frenzy of joy. And that was the first time it had ever occurred to me to wonder what the dog thought he and his master were doing...

Friday 23 August 2019


"Not entirely horseless, by the sound of it..."

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Special Offer

(I may do more of there. On the other hand, I may start with good intentions, but then quickly run out of steam, and stop after only a handful. It's impossible to say. But I know which way I'd bet.)

Thursday 15 August 2019

Very few camels about today. Precious few mice, come to that.

Photo credit: Mary Lee Agnew

Here is a poem by Kahlil Gibran:
A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, "I will have a camel for lunch today." And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again - and he said, "A mouse will do."

A writer looked at his word count at sunrise...

Still, if you also had a mouse day today, take heart. Here's Ralph Waldo Emerson to cheer us up:

We do not know whether we are busy or idle. In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards discovered, that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us. All our days are so unprofitable while they pass, that 'tis wonderful where or when we ever got anything of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We never got it on any dated calendar day. Some heavenly days must have been intercalated somewhere.

Thanks, Ralph! And nice use of 'intercalated'.

I'm on tour from September to November! Venues and ticket links here.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

What did the crab DO?

Leaning on the wall waiting for a hand out
Ludlow's dog, yesterday.
Some of my favourite Victorian era Cornish Proverbs and Phrases, as recorded by Joseph Thomas, 'late of St. Michael's Mount, Marazion', in 1895.

Gaping like a duck against thunder.
Scrumped up like a hedgehog
All one side, like a crab going to gaol.
Always head and chief, like Jimmy Eellis 'mong the cats.
Worse than dirty butter and bally-ack
All on one side, like Smoothy's wedding.

And my absolute favourite:

Like Ludlow's dog - leaning against the wall to bark

('Bally-ack', by the way, is an ache in the belly. Not where you were thinking. )

Thursday 1 August 2019

John Finnemore's Flying Visit


If you've managed to find your way to see this, despite the fact that I've temporarily redirected johnfinnemore.com to go to a page of dates and ticket links for my UK tour in the Autumn, then you almost certainly already know that from September to November, I'm going on tour with the cast of Souvenir Programme. But in case you don't... I am!

It'll be mostly the same show as the one we did last year, which is why we've kept the title the same, and why we're not going back to any of the same venues. We will be swapping in some different sketches, though. I'd say not enough to encourage you to come again if you saw it last time... but enough not to actively discourage you. Which is just as well, because my producer turns out to have some quite strongly-held opinions about me actively discouraging people from coming.

If we're not coming to your town, my apologies. It will probably be for one of the following reasons:

1) It's too far away to be affordable to travel to, with a cast of five, a crew of three, and some very silly props.
2) There isn't a venue in the right size range for us.
3) There is, but they didn't have an available date.
4) There is, and they did... but they didn't want our show.
5) Margaret has been banned from your town because of something she did in what she calls her 'wild years' (2004-the present day)

For most places in the UK, it's most likely to be either 2, 3, or, of course 5. So many 5s...

Saturday 27 July 2019

Twenty-Four Things - Thing Seventeen

Wednesday 24 July 2019

A Likely Story.

This is Evelyn Cheesman. She was a British entomologist, collector and traveller, who was the first female curator at London Zoo, and collected around 70,000 specimens for the Natural History Museum from across the South Pacific, during a lifetime of long solo expeditions, the last of which she made at the age of 73. If you want to read more about her - and really, at this point, how could you not? - here's a good place to start.

Anyway, in one of her many books about her adventures, 'Time Well Spent', she talks about the types of knowledge that indigenous people were prepared to accept from a foreigner and a woman, and that which they were not. To summarise, she says they were prepared to accept facts about things they'd never seen before - cameras, for instance - but not about things familiar to them.

"I am thinking now of the people on Malekula, New Hebrides, who did not know that a caterpillar changed into a butterfly. That new idea was too much to swallow from a stranger. One serious old man made a speech purporting to assure me that, even if this irregular sort of thing took place in my country, I need not expect it to occur on their island."

Friday 3 May 2019

Flying Visit Flies Again!

Pavlov's dogs have been notified, and are in training. 

Hello! Remember last year, when I and my fellow idiots from Souvenir Programme went on tour? Well, we had a lovely time and we miss it... so we're doing more dates this autumn!

It's the same show - well, nearly - as last time, hence the same title and poster... but all new venues.

And what are those venues, and also the dates, and do you have ticket links by any chance? Well, I've very glad I pretended you asked me that, because I have all those things, and here they are!

Sat 7 September   Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle
Sun 8 September   City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds
Mon 9 September   Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Thurs 12 September  Parr Hall, Warrington
Fri 13 September   The Lowry, Salford Quays
Sun 15 September   Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple
Mon 16 September   The Lighthouse, Poole
Fri 20 September   The Forum, Malvern
Mon 23 September   Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
Thurs 26 September   Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Sat 28 September   Charter Hall, Colchester
Thurs 3 October   Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
Sun 6 October           Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen
Tues 8 October   Palace Theatre, Westcliff-On-Sea
Thurs 10 October   Beck Theatre, Hayes
Fri 11 October           G Live, Guildford
Mon 14 October   The Lyceum Theatre, Crewe
Tues 15 October   Playhouse, Whitley Bay
Weds 16 October   Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate
Sun 20 October   The Hexagon, Reading
Tues 29 October   Leas Cliff Hall, Folkstone
Sun 3 November   The Grand Hall at Scarborough Spa, Scarborough
Mon 4 November   The Octagon, Sheffield

Cor. That'll keep us busy. So, if you'll be in any of those places then, or if you could be with a bit of organisation, come along! There will be red trousers, forgetful goldfish, kirates, brand new stuff... and an exclusive Patsy Straightwoman interview with Arthur Shappey. Hooray!

Saturday 6 April 2019

Emu's Difficult Second Album

Just in case you enjoy fairly difficult crosswords: I have written a fairly difficult crossword. It's the Listener puzzle on page 54 of the Saturday Review section in today's Times.

It's also available in printable form from the Times Online site, but behind a paywall.

Lastly, it looks very much like this:

If you're new to the Listener, it's slightly different to a normal cryptic crossword, in ways I explain in a bit more detail in the post I wrote last time I had one published, here. 

Friday 15 March 2019

The Spiegelhalter Gap.

In 1923, after the success of Selfridge's and Harrod's department stores in central London, a Mr Wickham decided to build his own on the Mile End Road, in the East End. Accordingly, he engaged an architect to design him something suitably imposing, with neo-classical columns and a clock-tower and so on, and bought up all the shops in the location he had his eye on.

Except one. Mr Spiegelhalter, the jeweller at number 81, couldn't be persuaded to sell up. Mr Wickham couldn't force him to... but he also had no other location in mind, and had already bought many of the other shops. And so, when Wickham's Department Store finally opened, it looked like this:

Both buildings - or is it all three buildings? - are still standing today (Spiegelhalter's, by the way, outlasted Wickham's as a business by a good twenty years). However, they are currently being renovated into a swish new development complex called 'Dept W'. In an odd case of history repeating itself (and a less odd case of developers not understanding the value what they have) the developers intended to knock down Spiegelhalter's, and turn it into an entrance way. But after the sort of local protests and campaigning that would almost make me proud to be British, if anything could this month, they have been persuaded to keep it. The new building will now look like this:

Long live the Spiegelhalter Gap.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

"You have been in Afghanistan, nhi-ka"

Wonderfully, the Tariana language of the Amazon has different grammatical tenses that indicate where you got the evidence for what you are saying: Whether you saw it, detected it non-visually, were told about it, inferred it... or assumed it. 

So, according to the fieldwork of the linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald, here are five ways to report on the culinary activities of your father's younger brother:

Nu-nami karaka di-merita-naka
My younger uncle is frying chicken' (I (the speaker) see him)

Nu-nami karaka di-merita-mha
'My younger uncle is frying chicken' (I smell the fried chicken, but cannot see this)

Nu-nami karaka di-merita-pida-ka
'My younger uncle has fried chicken' (I was told recently)

Nu-nami karaka di-merita-nhi-ka
'My younger uncle has fried chicken' (I see bits of grease stuck on his hands and he smells of fried chicken)

And my favourite:

Nu-nami karaka di-merita-si-ka
'My younger uncle has fried chicken' (I assume so: he gets so much money he can afford it, and he looks like he has had a nice meal)

Image result for harland sanders
My younger uncle.
Aikhenvald goes on to say that Tariana speakers use the second of these tenses when reporting their dreams, since they did not really 'see' them. Unless... they belong to the highest caste of shaman, known as yawi, whose dreams are taken to be true. (Yawi are also believed to be capable of turning themselves into jaguars. So I suppose I can see why you'd let them tell you their boring dreams.)

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Charles Darwin menaces an iguana.

Picture Charles Darwin conducting his research on his world-changing expedition to the Galapagos islands. Do you imagine him serious and scholarly, or youthful and enthusiastic? I bet what you do not picture him doing is spending an afternoon repeatedly throwing an iguana into the sea in the name of science. The same iguana.

A marine iguana, for once not being bullied by Charles Darwin.

He did, though. From his Journal of the Voyage of the Beagle:

It's an arresting mental image, isn't it? I would love to know how many times 'several' is. Surely at least six. Nor had Charlie finished playing tricks on lizards:

I hope these two iguanas were related. 'You'll never guess what happened to me today!' 'Wait, wait, me first...'

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. )