Saturday, 9 October 2021

The Mystery of Not Eric Idle's Signature

 On a street in London, between Highbury and Highgate, I recently found a piece of A4 photo-quality paper with what I took to be the signature of the writer, actor and Python Eric Idle.




Given that I have, in the last few years, seen one Python in Hampstead, another one in Highgate, and that there are blue plaques in Highgate pubs to two more, it didn't seem unlikely that a fifth might have been in the area, and signed a piece of paper for someone who subsequently lost it. I thought there was a reasonable chance of restoring it to its owner via Twitter, and was about to try, when I looked up Eric Idle's signature. It looks like this. 



Not even close. So... what I have in fact is a piece of expensive paper on which someone has scrawled the name of a comedian I admire, and then dropped. On a street I often walk down. On a Zoom call recently, I witnessed a friend's small boy bustling in to say: "Dada, I'm making a trap. It's not for anybody. I need your notebook." Had a similar fiendish mastermind set a trap for me? Well, probably not, because on closer inspection, I'm not even sure it does say 'Eric Idle'. The second word is surely Idle, but the first? 



That's not Eric, is it. "Eirc", at best. Or maybe 'Eire'? And there's a full stop after it, so maybe it's a contraction. 'Enc.'? For a moment I thought I'd cracked it when I remembered that engines can idle. But I can't think of a situation where you'd need to scrawl a note to someone telling them that an engine was idling. And anyway, there's no way that last letter's a G. 

So, I thought maybe someone here might know. What does it mean? 

Monday, 20 September 2021

Sisyphus

 


As you can imagine, I am also CONSTANTLY being asked for my recipe for human contentment. Well, here that is too. 

Friday, 3 September 2021

Lasagne

 As you can imagine, I am CONSTANTLY being asked for my lasagne recipe. Well, here it is. 






Monday, 12 July 2021

Scholasticus Hardassus

This is Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish naturalist and taxonomist, who invented the binomial system of naming organisms we still use today (eg 'homo sapiens' or 'rattus rattus')

He seems a genial, easy-going sort of chap, doesn't he? 

Well, now. In 1756, Linnaeus fell out with one of his protégés, Daniel Rolander, who refused to show him some plant samples from his expedition to Suriname, which Linnaeus felt he had a right to see. 

In response, Linnaeus... broke into Rolander's rooms (or possibly just barged in, it's not clear, but entered by force at any rate) and stole the samples. 

Then, he used his influence to black-ball Rolander from any further appointments at Stockholm University, essentially wrecking his career. 

And then... he found a tiny, ground-dwelling bug - this one, in fact -
...and gave it the scientific name 'Aphanus Rolandri', or 'Ignoble Rolander'. 

What I'm saying is... do not cross Carl Linnaeus.  Carl Linnaeus is not messing about.

Monday, 28 June 2021

How to listen to Series 9 of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme


Breed Irish Wolfhound | Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue

First, the straight-forward practical answer: All six episodes of the ninth series of my radio show John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme are now available here, on BBC Sounds. And the CD and digital download will be released in August by Penguin.

Now the more metaphysical answer. This series is rather different from the previous eight series. I'm very proud of it, and I'd love you to hear it. However, it turns out to be one of those shows where it takes a couple of episodes to get into it... but I think it's fair to say the people who do get into it REALLY get into it. Two days after the final episode aired, I was invited to a Zoom meeting where about a hundred people had got together to share theories, analysis, and poetry about it. That... didn't happen with any of the previous series. And not just because Zoom wasn't a thing then. 

So, if you haven't heard it yet, and this has convinced you, then I recommend not reading anything more about it - just click the link above and dive in. All you need to know is that each episode has a main character, and all the sketches are scenes from their life. Start with episode one... and if at all possible, stick with it till the end of episode three. If you're not enjoying it by then, it's probably not for you, and I'm sorry for wasting your time.

But if that hasn't convinced you, or if you've tried it but you're fogged, here's a little more information. Starting with the character of Russ in episode one, each subsequent episode focusses on someone in their family in the generation above, usually one of their parents. So episode two follows Russ' mother Deborah; episode three her father Jerry, and so on. Therefore, all the characters crop up in each other's episodes, and other secondary characters recur as well, and gradually, you build up a picture of a family spread over the past 130 years or so. However... it is not, in my opinion, necessary to follow exactly who everyone is and how they're related in order to enjoy it. Lots of people have enjoyed making family trees and timelines to follow it with, but you'll be fine without. To get you started, though: in the first sketch of episode one, you'll meet Russ, his partner Alex, their daughter Toby, Russ's mother Deborah, and his grandfather Jerry. 

However. If you can't bear not to know exactly who everyone is, or if you're re-listening to the series, then I highly recommend this wonderful resource made by Jamie Humphries: well.since-you-ask.me . It allows you to go to any sketch in the show, and see who every character is, how they are related to every other character, and even how old they are at the time. Even better, it allows you to click on any character or even theme of the show, and see all the sketches featuring them linked in either broadcast or chronological order. Obviously, therefore, it is by its nature full of spoilers; but actually Jamie does a really clever job of making it fairly hard to stumble over a spoiler by accident. 

I really hope you enjoy the show. In the future, I'll do a post explaining exactly why I had to change the format so radically this series... but the short version is: there's this nasty bug that's been going around.

Monday, 14 June 2021

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme - Series Nine


If there's one thing you - the readers of this antique, spam-reply-infested blog which I almost never mention elsewhere, and sometimes forget to update for months at a time- know about me, it's that my real talent is for publicity. 

And in accordance with that, I have allowed an entire new series of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme go out on BBC Radio 4 before it occurred to me I should probably mention it here. 

However, that does at least mean that, at least for now, it's possible to listen to all six episodes on BBC Sounds. I hope you do, because Covid meant we didn't have a live audience for this one; which lead to us doing something quite new, and quite ambitious with this series. I'm rather proud of it, and I think the cast absolutely excel themselves. 

I'm not going to describe it further here, because I want to keep this post spoiler-free, but I hope to do further posts about it later. 

One thing I will say, though - I didn't intend this, but the feedback clearly indicates that this is one of those series where you have to give it a couple of episodes to get the hang of what's going on. Hopefully there's still stuff to enjoy along the way, but if you've enjoyed my stuff in the past, I suggest it might be worth pushing on at least until the end of episode three, even if you don't love the first one. 

To glassware! 



Monday, 4 January 2021

Goats and Daffodils

I think I might start putting these up again. By which I mean, I have started. At least to the tune of one.