Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Edinburgh Fringe Blog 2015

It's that time of year again! After months of anticipation, much rehearsal and considerable coverage in the national press, I'm writing a blog.  Ahahahaha.

This was mine and Kate's fourth trip to the fringe.  You can read about the last two here and here.  Our last in particular was a bit of a washout which is why we've broken our unofficial rule of going every other summer.  We don't go for the weather - you'd be mad to do that - but it was so oppressively wet and cold that promoters were reduced to shouting "come to our show because it's dry and warm".  So we headed back up and (thankfully) enjoyed five almost unsettlingly hot and dry days.  And if there's anywhere you want to be on a hot day, it's in a windowless shipping container in a car park with 78 strangers.  This was also the earliest we'd ever been.  Due to leave availability at work we visited right at the start and over a weekend, which was also a first for us.  But without further ado, the reviews - if you can call them that.  All with the proviso that everyone we saw was far more talented than I'll ever be.  So with that in mind:


Show 1
David O'Doherty: We Are All in the Gutter, But Some of Us Are Looking at David O'Doherty

A "strong start", as they say.  O'Doherty is something of a Fringe veteran, presenting his fourteenth consecutive annual show in Edinburgh. His star has grown in the past few years meaning he now effortlessly fills the sizeable George Square (Lecture) Theatre.  It's more of the same, but with David that is never a bad thing.  Touching upon on the Irish equal marriage vote he tells a terrific story about the after-effects of a celebratory party that left us in stitches.  Self-effacing, modest and hugely talented.
Pleasance Courtyard

Show 2
Chris Martin: This Show has a Soundtrack

No, not that one.  Chris is a hugely likeable comedian who we first encountered warming up for Room 101, and this is the second time we've seen him at the Fringe. The time he is part of the Free Fringe - more on that later - as he points out on the flyer, "this doesn't mean the show's crap, but I'm getting married and still live in my Mum and Dad's shed". The hook of the show is that his friend has composed a soundtrack to the show that will run throughout, just like in film and TV, and the concept provides some early gags.  It's a shame then that it gets almost entirely forgotten about later on, simply rumbling away in the background like hold music.  Chris is also just too nice a guy.  Given the gift of not one but two women-with-silly-cackles in the audience, he seemed more flattered that they're enjoying the show than anything else, and indulged them far longer than necessary when it was clear everyone else was getting a bit fed up. 
Gilded Balloon, Teviot House


Show 3

There have been some medical advancements in recent years as it seems as if Pappy's and Wit Tank have somehow managed to reproduce and give birth to a new all-male sketch trio.  Pappy's Tom Parry has even been kind enough to direct their show as part of his fatherly responsibilities.  I'm being unkind here as BEASTS easily fill an hour and hold the audience's attention around a plot where they attempt to film their show for a DVD release.  It was easily one of the best shows we saw at the Fringe this year, and yet...it all felt so familiar.  The three males all speaking to the audience, introducing their sketches, screwing them up and having to do them again.  The multitude of silly props. The mad sweaty one intent on breaking the rules.  The straight-laced leader trying to get things back on track.  The other one.  Is this harsh of me? After all, I didn't criticise Chris Martin for the unoriginal "solo male standup" act. Perhaps Pappy's and their ilk have created a genre of their own.  After Last Show Ever, though (one of the most outstanding Fringe productions of recent years) they have a lot to live up to.
Kate celebrates the Gilded Balloon's 30th birthday

Show 4
Iain Stirling: Touchy Feely

The third time we've seen Iain live, and he's come a long way from "Seminar Room 2" back in 2012, now filling up Pleasance Above - the definitive "on the up" venue - without a great deal of difficulty.  Sadly whilst voicing Love Island some of the sun has gone to his head, and some of the confidence and assurance has been lost from his act.  To be fair, it was a preview - but then so were virtually all the shows we saw.  From the "catch-all title required by the Fringe in April before anything is written that ultimately has nothing to do with the show" to a confused dialogue about the shame of eating McDonalds (yeah!) that immediately segued into Iain's vegetarianism (eh?), it felt a little...unfocused.  Which is a crying shame because he's a likeable guy who can engage with an audience well, and is undoubtedly reaping the rewards of bringing the older end of the 2010-ish CBBC viewership and Love Island's audience (don't laugh) into his gigs. Trying to get some kind of theme running through the show would be a good place to start next year.
Udderbelly's Pasture

Show 5

A bit of a wildcard, but one of the joys of this end of the Fringe is that if you don't like something you're only a few quid down.  The concept of this "part comedy show, part music quiz" is to guess which song's lyrics a sketch is performed using. The winner gets the "golden mixtape". To help you along each show has a theme - ours was "solo stars" (which hardly narrows it down...). All amiable entertainment and the enthusiastic group of performers really gave it their all.  The format conspired against it, though.  It's quite difficult to write a funny sketch using such a restrictive selection of words, which often resulted in them saying the same words over and over again in an attempt to not make it completely obvious. When they did strike gold with the setup, any laughs they deserved were minimal as everyone was concentrating on trying to work out the answer.  Maybe it works for them - or maybe I was miffed we missed out on the Golden Mixtape by two points.  They do however deserve credit for essentially putting on half a dozen different shows to support the different themes.
Friday's winner of the "Golden Mixtape"

Show 6

The latter end of the by-time-of-day listings is full of music nights that you'd think would struggle to fit into the concept of the Fringe. One we saw had a theme of "crap music requests" - surely that's just a quirky club night paying to get into the Fringe programme for more publicity? But to prove we're still down with the kids (yeah, I've got a Game Boy Camera!) we went to PLAY, a two hour show in the Gilded Balloon which pits DJ sisters The Mac Twins against each other, with the audience "voting" using their coloured wristbands. Much is made of 80s computer game imagery on the big screen, with some impressive choreographed routines from their dancers. Attendance was a little patchy on our night but the crowd really got into the concept - initially choosing genres, before the two teamed up to "take on cheese". Given the reaction of the crowd to C'est La Vie and Cotton Eye Joe they probably wondered why they bothered with the earlier proper DJ bits, but then this is the Fringe on a Friday night.  And if nothing else, it means you don't have to go to Late 'n' Live next door.
The Mac Twins and co in "action"


Show 7
Phill Jupitus is Porky the Poet in Apologist Now!

Our first Fringe cockup. One of the problems with the Free Fringe is there is no way of stopping over-capacity, as after all there are no tickets to sell.  So we found ourselves cramming into a room to see Christian Reilly before it became obvious that not only was there nowhere to sit, there wasn't really anywhere to stand either, so we cut our losses and headed back to bar.  According to the Fringe app, Phill Jupitus was due to start 20 minutes later in the same building. As fall-back options go, I've had worse.  Phill did an hour of poetry - an area of his repertoire I've not really encountered before - but it was enjoyable stuff, in particular a diversion into some of background and family history.

Show 8
Michael Hill: My Two Years in Tokyo

Another Free Fringe show, and with exactly the same problem as we'd just encountered - too many people cramming into a corner of a bar, not helped by a table of mouthy blokes who refused not only to move but to stop their loud conversation once the show began. Newcomer Hill could have demolished this opposition easily as he had the entire audience behind him but chose to instead try to pacify them and carry on. As you can see from the photo ours seats were directly behind him meaning we spent an hour staring at his arse (the Free Fringe, there).  We were inspired to see this show following our trip to Tokyo earlier this year, and it didn't disappoint those with or without any knowledge of Japan (and looking at the crowd there were a few men with a certain kind of "interest" in the country).
Sitting behind the mic stand!

Show 9
James Acaster: Represent

Acaster is one of the most promising comedians of his generation. We first encountered him on Josh Widdicombe's XFM podcast show at last year's Fringe, after which he received a Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for his own show. Expectation was high and he didn't disappoint, skilfully weaving together a story involving a period on jury service and the Christingle service that was layered and peppered with subtle call-backs for those paying attention. Sadly this was Saturday night in Edinburgh so the audience contained a number of individuals were definitely not paying attention (possibly Mock The Week viewers killing time in between hospital appointments). Acaster is a master on the stage and adeptly dealt with the interruptions, although sadly this extended the show length by around 15 minutes, meaning many ended up dashing out during the finale. Despite this, a hugely impressive show and (still) one to watch.
Show 10
Voices In Your Head

And so it came to pass that we were wandering around the Assembly beer-and-food area (enclosure? compound?), thinking of calling it a night when we were accosted by a flyer-er offering us two for one tickets to see Voices In Your Head, an intriguing-sounding descendant of Whose Line Is It Anyway where unprepared performers have to inhabit a given character based on instructions from "the voice" and props given to them by the audience. Our hearts sank when we arrived at the venue and found a solitary person waiting, but eventually the theatre was about a quarter full. And it was a decent enough show, although one you feel would have been improved by a bigger audience and some less petrified performers. Kate bravely volunteered her handbag for one sketch, and the performer deduced that based on the contents he would be "a bitch who works in PR"!  "How do you get through the day" asked the voice.  Looking through her bag, out came some Nurofen and the answer "drugs"...
Pleasance Courtyard


Show 11

One of the stars of the BBC's Hip Hop Comedy night we attended last year, this was Lolly's debut hour, and the flyer promised she was "as head on 1Xtra and Radio 4", which is an achievement if nothing else. After instant brownie points for her audience-entry music being the "Wheel of Fortune" theme on a loop, so many times that it stopped being funny and then started being funny again, the show was based around a regional talent show that allowed Lolly to perform various characters, with local radio-style adverts playing as she changed outfits behind the curtain (my favourite being "Maplin Electronics. If you want electronics, we sell them"). Able to effortlessly nail characteristics of her characters, Lolly is a star of the future. See her now before she's pushed into an ill-advised BBC3 vehicle that kills her career stone dead.
The BBC site on Potterow

Show 12
Ivo Graham: No Filter

Another name we discovered through the XFM show last year, Ivo is a young performer with a strong grasp of his material, although at 24 having been out of uni a few years and in a relationship for one, he doesn't yet have a great bank of life experience to draw on, so heads straight to the old fall-backs of social media and modern technology. Despite this it is an entertaining and promising hour but one you feel could probably be better in a few years time, and perhaps delivered at a slower pace with a tad more audience interaction.
Time-travel adultery.  Monday 8.30 on BBC1

Show 13
Matthew Crosby: Smaller Than Life
Crosby is one third of the aforementioned Pappy's who this year are largely focussing on their solo endeavours.  After many years of performing Cosby is a master of communicating with his audience, and his hour - looking at a trip to Russia and ironically celebrating a certain V. Putin - zips along and doesn't dip at any point.  It's a real talent to be able to engage with an audience with them feeling relaxed enough to not worry about being humiliated.  Although a decent-sized audience for a Sunday the show wasn't sold out, which is a real shame as there are far less talented acts packing rooms out night after night.  Plus he looks like a bloody nice bloke.

Just the Tonic @ The Mash House


Show 14
Bridget Christie: A Book For Her

Ah, Bridget.  Once again a Bridget Christie hour means getting up painfully early (well for an 11am start, which for anything other than children's shows should be forbidden) and trekking over to The Stand.  Was it worth it?  Well, we got a seat this time, which was good.  The book of the title refers to her newly released tome (and is a play on her former show A Bic For Her, which is itself a satire on pink pens for women), but the hour of new material didn't refer to it at all, and instead was another energetic discussion of political and feminist issues.  I find it hard to say this without it sounding anti-feminist - because I'm not - but it does feel, much as with her husband, that we're getting the same show each year. 

Udderbelly's Pasture

Show 15
Rhys James: Remains

A show I'd have been happy to see based on this tweet alone but more heavily endorsed by Kate who's actually worked with the guy in her other life as an online video guru (yep, she works for Real Player).  On the surface another Ivo - early 20s, middle class, white, even the same room at he Pleasance, and not much to talk about other than, yep, relationships and social media, but delivered with a great deal of confidence and presentational zing (including an entertaining opening video featuring - it's that man again - Matthew Crosby playing Rhys's manager).   Once again, one to watch.

Underbelly Cowgate: condemned chic

Show 16
Tom Parry: Yellow T-shirt

Another Pappy's refuge, although a brief reunion in some ways as Crosby turned up to flyer his own show at the start and "the other one" Ben Clark helped with props and the collection.  Not the Free Fringe but a new "pay what you want" tier from Just The Tonic, with a suggestion of £5-7.  Ironically this show could have charged far more given the sheer enthusiasm that Parry delivers it with.  Loosely themed on fancy dress, Parry's incredible engagement with the audience is such that he is able to pre-arrange and rehearse a standing ovation to end the show with in advance, and everyone's more than happy to go along with it. 


Show 17
Reginald D Hunter: Bitchproof

We booked our Fringe tickets soon after the programme was published in June.  Each time we do this we pool together our requests, see if there are any the other is really not fussed by, and as long as there are no clashes we go ahead and book the lot.  This year, Kate was really keen to see Reginald D Hunter.  I can't remember why but she was adamant we had to go and see him, so on the list he went (as our most expensive show, no less).  August rolls around, and checking our planner reveals what is lined up as our final show.  "I don't remember wanting to see Reginald D Hunter", says Kate.  So it was that we ended up seeing a Fringe show neither of us were that fussed about, but we'd already bought tickets.  Notably it was our first show in the Pleasance Grand - a cavernous 750-seater which is more Live at the Apollo that Edinburgh Fringe.  I've nothing against the guy who has been amusing enough on Have I Got News For You, and in the slightly more intimate setting of our old local pub in Crouch End.  But there was nothing about this fairly pedestrian 50 minute set (not even the full hour) that suggested it deserved the enormous patronage it received.

Show(ish) 18
BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals: Vic Galloway

But we weren't quite done!  We wandered over to the BBC area on Potterow.  Conscious we hadn't managed to see anything in the tent this year, we watched some of Vic Galloway's show via the big screen outside.  Vic Galloway!  You know Vic Gallow?  Session in the Nations, Radio 1 Scotland, 1999-2010?  No?  Well he's still on BBC Radio Scotland doing much the same thing.  This doesn't quite qualify as a show but brings me back to the subject of the BBC's presence at The Fringe.  Going to their area is much like going round your grandparents - you know you'll pop in at some point and it'll be well presented and exactly like it was last time.  Fringe broadcasts by the likes of Scott Mills and Richard Bacon were amongst the reasons that made us want to go to the festival for the first time five years ago.  It is somewhat bafflingly that the exercise hasn't yet succumbed to the cuts, but the food and booze sales probably go some way to paying for it.  They do need to remember what the Fringe is supposed to be about, though, and not just use it as a cheap way for a programme to do an outside broadcasts (The One Show, I'm looking in your direction).

The spirit of the Fringe

And that was it.  Our favourite shows?  A threeway tie between Lolly, Tom Parry and Matthew Crosby.  My least favourite?  Undoubtedly Colin Baker.  (and a pat on the back to anyone nerdy enough to get that joke).  To finish with, a few random thoughts.

Free Fringe

The biggest change we've seen over the past five years is undoubtedly the rise of the Free Fringe, which was almost non-existent in 2010 but unavoidable in 2015.  Some big names as well, such as Phill Jupitus, and more of the "squeezed middle" who previously charged for shows, such as Chris Martin.  It is an area that is likely to keep on getting bigger as it means the acts don't have to pay to use the performance space.  They are however reliant on audience donations at the end of the show, which can often be quite miserly.  As we experienced in the Tokyo show, audiences just don't seem as committed and invested during the Free Fringe shows.  Organisation can also be less than slick.  Waiting for Jupitus's show we found ourselves in a stairwell with a crowd not knowing where to go, before the man himself emerged and (to everyone's amusement) pointed everyone in the right direction.

Money Money Money

It doesn't have to be expensive.  Whilst certainly not cheap, it doesn't have to be as huge an outlay as you might think.  As well as the aforementioned "free" Fringe (which isn't free, but a lot cheaper) the opening few days have preview prices and then two-for-one deals on the first Monday and Tuesday.  We travelled by train for free on reward scheme tickets (admittedly one no longer running) and stayed in an Airbnb flat, for around the same price per night as a hotel room - and a price not hugely inflated by the Fringe either.  This then allows you to have as many meals a day at home as you fancy. 

Be Nice to Flyer-ers

They're not chuggers (who incidentally you should be nice to as well - or at least polite) so allow them to give you their spiel and a flyer.  They'll clear off pretty soon as it'll be clear if you aren't interested.  A huge number of these are actually flyer-ing their own show, so smile, be nice and say thankyou, even if you do throw it in the recycling bin round the corner.  This is how the world goes round at the Fringe, so even if you're in town just to see Jimmy Carr on his three nights at the Festival Theatre, remember this is how it all begins.


And on that note - thank you for reading.  I'll be in Pleasance Twelve from 1st September with my new show Bellend in a Courtyard.  I hope you can join me - if not, wait till I'm out of sight before you put the flyer in the bin...

Friday, 16 January 2015

Don't Believe Me? Just Watch...

On 2nd March 2013, for reasons I can't quite remember - might have been around the time of the death of Terry Nutkins, or maybe I was trying to avoid doing some wedmin - I knocked together a homemade extended mix of the theme tune to The Really Wild Show.  28-year-olds up and down the land were spending their Saturday afternoons doing similarly cool things, I'm sure.  I just remember suddenly thinking, "this is amazing, and there's hardly any of it on YouTube".  So I mashed together the opening and closing themes (notice the jump in audio quality between the two, but hey, it was as good as we were going to get wasn't it?), put the result against a montage of the first two title sequences (and that tiger from the 1989 sequence is one of my earliest TV memories) and popped the result online to general indifference and a couple of instances of mild praise. 

Typically, soon after I went to the effort of doing this the full-length track that theme derived from was located.  You can hear by clicking the link below, but beware - after the familiar opening 31 seconds you're going to get a bit of a shock:

Yes - after nearly thirty years associated with a wholesome wildlife show aimed at young children, it transpires the full track (and it really does go on a bit) is some bloke banging on and on about what his "sexy lady" means to him, getting more and more wound up about it as the track goes on.  Before the familiar closing credits theme kicks in at the very end he shouts "now you know how much you mean to me", which after nearly six minutes is very much an understatement.  But despite this its a pretty good track and one that became a bit of a guilty pleasure to throw into the mix at parties (or alternatively to put on via Apple TV or Chromecast without being asked). 

The, the first weird thing happened.  I started getting comments on the video from people who seemed to be under the impression this was actually a Daft Punk offcut from their recent album Random Access Memories.  And eventually I worked out that this had been a running joke on the 6 Music breakfast show.  The YouTube clip that helped spread the lies is below - notice the telltale jump in audio quality between the opening and closing titles.  And the tiger roaring from the BBC Bristol end board.  And that "Vraiment Sauvage Moi" is almost French for...

After the cover was blown, here's a clip of the track being played on 6 Music for no particular reason.  Notice Shaun Keaveny pointing out the jump in audio quality between the opening and closing titles.  Yes, I know.

Then all was quiet for a bit, until about a month ago I started getting more comments saying it sounded like something else.  This time, the offender was Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson, and yes indeed it does.  These comments continued every now and again, until it all went a bit mad today when Us vs Th3m wrote an article about the similarity.  Suddenly my Facebook feed was full of people pointing out the similarity, all based on my time-wasting video from nearly two years ago.  Someone put together this frankly poor clip filming my video off a screen (thoughtfully including the jump in audio quality between the opening and closing titles).  Then someone put together a proper mashup of my mashup and Ronson's track, complete with added Nutkins pics and the BBC Bristol roar.  Notice the jump in audio quality between the opening and...you get the idea.

But that wasn't good enough for Heart Thames Valley (less Uptown Funk, more "Who The Funk?") who have published this bizarre more complex creation which superimposes Terry Nutkins' head on top of Bruno Mars.  They've even moved the Bristol roar to the start - the bit that's not even part of the tune!!

At least all this has drawn attention to what remains a bloody good theme tune - one which Children's BBC naturally yanked off the air in the early 1990s to be replaced by the following oh-so-hip-and-trendy remix.  If you were sick of the other one, cover your ears: this is bad...

So what have we learnt from all this?  Not a great deal, I fear.  I like to think the interest was in part due to my original video (there really wasn't much of it on YouTube at all two years ago) and that it in some way validates the complete waste of time doing it in the first place. 

I'm still waiting for Us vs Th3m to do an article about the Parallel 9 theme tune

Monday, 18 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe Blog 2014

It's that time again! Yes - me actually writing a blog!  I remember the good old days when I'd churn these out all the time.  Then I changed jobs and bought a flat and found I'd rather spend time off sobbing in a darkened room.  But now, it's that time again - we've been back to the Fringe for our third visit, which means another blog chewing over who we saw.  In our four days in Edinburgh we saw fifteen shows, and here is what me - and 'er indoors - thought of them.


1. Holly Walsh: Never Had It
Our first show and...probably the best!  Holly has become an effortlessly brilliant comedian, and this show is based around her opinion that not only has she not "still got it", she "never had it".  To illustrate this point she asks the audience whether certain people have "got it".  Barack Obama has clearly "got it". David Cameron has not "got it".  Gary Barlow "didn't have it, then he got it, but is now being forced to give it back".  We simply loved this show, the only problem being that everything after this point was an anti-climax. 

2. Nick Doody vs The Debonair Assassin
Free Fringe!  And only the second show.  In the two years since we were last in town the Free Fringe has gone from something akin to the consolation prize for not being able to sell tickets to a considerable behemoth, beginning to rival the Pleasance/Assembly/Underbelly/Gilded Balloon four-headed monster for bums-on-seats.  Some acts have begun to complain of a "squeezed middle" between the Free Fringe and the bigger name paid-for acts and it's not hard to see there being a problem in years to come with many punters simply refusing to take the financial risk of a paid show any longer.  Nick was OK. 

3. Tom Price: Not As Nice As He Looks
Thanks to Mr Doody overrunning we arrived at this one slightly late.  We legged it up the hill to the Pleasance and arrived a few minutes late to be warmly welcomed as audience members 11 and 12 to Tom's show.  You'll mainly recognise Tom as PC Andy from Torchwood but he's also an accomplished stand-up comedian who performs a very warm show...trying to defuse the myth that he's a nice guy.  And, to try and atone for an earlier screw-up at a family wedding, I ended up being re-married to another audience member.  My first night in Edinburgh and already a bigamist.


4. Bec Hill in...Ellipsis
One of Kate's recommendations, so over to her:

I found Bec's videos on digital video website 'The YouTubes' and was very impressed with her animation/songs/general comedy. Her set was a combination of stand-up, audience participation and live animation, and I felt she was strongest when she could revert to her marvellous drawings (and probably a blessed bit of relief to have the spotlight on something else after a pretty relentless hour).

The stand up became quite patchy in places (the 'tedious puns' section dragging on 10 times longer than it really needed to) and the varied ways of performing sometimes felt like a burst of creativity fizzling into too many things because of an overall lack of confidence in most/all of them. No doubt she's ridiculously talented, but want to fast forward a few years when she's really honed her craft.

5. Iain Stirling: Everything
Last time around Iain was in a room no bigger than his former berth of the CBBC Office.  His star has grown somewhat since then and he effortlessly filled a much larger room this time around.  His confidence has grown too and his hour felt a lot edgier than the show we saw two years ago.  Apart from an awkward few minutes on politics it's a really good hour that is largely centred around being dumped by his long-term girlfriend.  Stirling touches on the pain of maintaining his kids' TV alter-ego to great effect in this section ("what's that Hacker?  She took the house?") and at only 26 it'll be interesting to see what angle his future career takes.

6. Frank Skinner: Man in a Suit
Rather unusually we decided to see a "name" in one of the biggest Fringe audiences we've ever been in, as Frank Skinner performed his first Edinburgh show in seven years.  Clearly his audience has aged somewhat since the Fantasy Football heyday and it was a rather silver crowd we were sat amongst.  The £17 ticket price is offset somewhat by the 90 minute duration, although you feel that the show could easily have been pruned to an hour.  Despite this, a good opportunity to see a real master at work.

7. Richard Herring: Lord of the Dance Settee
As much as we love the output of Richard Herring it's hard not to feel that it's time he took a break, and after his incredible volume of output of the last half-decade he perhaps deserves it.  Although an enjoyable hour, long-term Herring fans will recognise a number of routines from this "new" show, including his teenage trip to heckle Ted Rogers and the Dance Settee of the title, dating back to Fist of Fun in the mid-90s.  As enjoyable as the show - his eleventh in as many years - is, it does feel slightly like a greatest hits tour to those of us who've been there the whole way.  Given the surprise twist at the end of the show, it seems that Herring may finally take the leave from the Fringe he seems to threaten every year - but it sounds like he'll need it...


8. Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman
Zzzzz.  Not the show, but the staging at 11.10am, which at the Fringe is roughly equivalent to 6.30am, given you're rarely in bed before 1am.  This start time is partly due to the in-demand slots at The Stand comedy club, but also apparently due to Christie sharing parenting duties with her husband Stewart Lee - who performs in the same room later that day.  Anyway, Bridget's star is growing so we ended up standing up for the show at this ungodly hour, such is her popularity.  Here's Kate again:

Bridget was back back BACK after her award-winning show 'A Bic For Her' with 'yet another' hour of stand-up about feminism. I understand Bridget really broke into the mainstream last year but found this whole part of the set a bit strange. Wasn't 2012's 'War Donkey' about feminism? Wasn't 2010's 'A Ant' about feminism (well, the lack of female comics at least)? I feel this does a bit of a disservice to her earlier work which was really fucking good. This was the best show we'd seen so far for a gloriously complex bit of standup, but I found one of the central themes (about her audition for a Muller advert) particularly lacking, and her returning to it again and again started to grate. The rest was very good though, mainly the yoghurty-based bits stopped it being a stand out show.

(I must caveate I was in a massive grump at this show because it was raining, I was hungover and forced to stand for the hour because The Stand doesn't have enough bloody seats and the audience was a load of cagoule-wearing Radio 4 listeners who probably arrive an hour early for every show at the Festival and nick all the chairs in the process.)

9. Frisky and Mannish: Just Too Much
Frisky and Mannish are now staging their sixth consecutive show at the Fringe.  You probably know by now what they do - very slickly staged shows parodying and deconstructing pop music.  And although this latest offering doesn't really do anything new, they do it so so well and with so much enthusiasm and professionalism it's hard to complain.  Both are hugely talented and clearly obsessed with pop music that it doesn't matter so much that it doesn't break any new ground.  You'll struggle to have more fun in an hour at the Fringe. 

10. Josh Widdicombe's XFM Show Live!
Josh is effortlessly funny.  We went to see his live show in Harrogate in May and he makes it look so easy.  Naturally we were keen to see him in Edinburgh, but unfortunately his only appearance was a few nights of his "XFM Show Live".  Of course, we've never heard this before, so we weren't expecting much especially after being told in the queue by a fruity young XFM intern "it's full of in-jokes".  In fact it was a fairly entertaining ninety minutes, mainly carried by Josh's guests it has to be said, on a rather inevitable panel of seven male and mostly white men.  And we got an XFM pen out of it. 


11. Matt Forde: 24 Hour Political Party People
Hmm.  We saw this on impulse at the Pleasance, thinking we might like a bit of political comedy.  And although there was nothing specifically wrong with it, it just wasn't...funny enough.  Although clearly blessed with a slight talent for impersonations, it's perhaps not the best idea to constantly use these sometimes slightly ropey impersonations as part of the jokes for the entire show.  An edge was added by Forde almost losing it when someone's phone went off - admittedly bad form but normally dealt with using a bit more humour and less genuine annoyance.  The finale was a cringeworthy version of YMCA re-styled as "UK MPs", which was about as funny as it sounds. 

12. Christian Reilly: Lost in Music
Christian has a long association with Richard Herring and it was on his podcast As It Occurs To Me that we first discovered Christian's comedy songs.  Another Free Fringe show, Christian managed to fill a not inconsiderable room on a drizzly Wednesday night.  Although the material perhaps stretched at a full hour, it's great to see Reilly's appeal broadening out to a wider audience.

13. WitTank: Old School Secrets
We saw WitTank for the first time two years ago - and although the name still makes me cringe they're very much emerging from the shadow of Pappy's to become a very slick, confident and funny outfit.  As with Pappy's Last Show Ever this year's show, although still sketch-based, is all linked around a single narrative, and all the better for it.  You'll never see Shania Twain in the same way again.

14. BBC Radio nan Gaidheal
This year's "sort of" show entry.  We spent a while in the BBC Fringe area, and out time coincided with a session for Radio nan Gaidheal or "Radio Nan" as Kate insisted on calling it.  It was a Gaelic music set, with a surprising amount of English being spoken.  Hey-ho.  I wrote two years ago about how good it was the Beeb have got involved in the Fringe so much in recent years, but it seems to have got a little out of hand this year.  Various programmes found themselves presenting special editions from the BBC tent seemingly for no other reason than they could (Newsnight? The One Show? Rasta Mouse?).  The nadir was undoubtedly encouraging people to watch The Great British Bake Off on the big screen - surely the modern day spirit of the Fringe.

15. Charlie Sloth presents Hip Hop Comedy
Our last show was another freebie - yep, we were skint - and a surprisingly good effort from BBC Radio 1Xtra's Charlie Sloth.  Kate and I are about as urban as PJ & Duncan, but despite this enjoyed the various turns.  Here's Kate's write-up:

So we headed into the Radio 4 tent for our last show at the Fringe, and managed to sneak into 'Hip Hop Comedy' about 30 seconds before it was due to start. This was hosted by Charlie Sloth, and the audience was more Gardeners' Question Time than 1Xtra gig, particularly at the front (who presumably were sitting through everything in order to see free stuff, tight gits). God, I really felt for the acts! A highlight was Mark Grist (because the bonus of my job is I get paid to watch Don't Flop Rap Battles so I was a squealing fangirl).

But the standout was Lolly Adefope. She came on stage doing character comedy, a Manc working in admin at a construction firm. It produced a very weird reaction in that largely everyone thought she was very funny, but there were about 20 people in the audience (myself included) that found it A Very Very Funny Thing Indeed and were crying with laughter. It was just one of the most perfectly pitched, beautifully executed bits of comedy that I've seen. There was then a lovely atmosphere in the tent of 'shit, this woman is extremely talented and I get to say that I saw her first.' Can't wait to see what she does next.

And that's it!  We love our biennial Fringe visits so much that we rather rashly decided on the last night we'd rather not wait two years till the next time.  Better get saving then.  See you next August!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Blog Gold: Dr No

So it seems I haven't posted here for over three months.  Hello!  Hope you enjoyed the summer.  Thanks to a new role at work and the small matter of buying a flat (more on that story later) I seem to have forgotten to write anything.  Or not had any time to do so.  So, until I get round to it, here's a blog I wrote two years ago but never published - partly because I wasn't confident enough at the time in what I was saying, partly because I just couldn't be arsed arguing the point with those who disagreed (and there were many).  But reading it again it it's worth publishing from a historical viewpoint, and certainly as a (somewhat downbeat) way of linking into Doctor Who's 50th anniversary in a few weeks' time.  I wrote this in October 2011, shortly after transmission of The Wedding of River Song.  And given the intervening period, the first line is especially prophetic!  Enjoy...

First off, a bit of time travel.

I became interested in Doctor Who after the 1996 TV Movie, which really caught the imagination of the twelve-year-old me, if not the US audience it was aimed at.  With the help of the Radio Times supplement I became interested in the rest of the series, and picked up some cheap VHS releases from our local Co-op.  The first full story I bought was The Dominators so it's nothing short of a miracle I came back for more (not really - The Dominators is amazing, everyone who says it isn't it mistaken!).

The next four years were spent buying the videos, reading the magazine, getting my poor Uncle to tape episodes from UK Gold on Sunday mornings and nagging parents to take me to the Llangollen exhibition.  By 2000 however my interest had started to wane - partly due to running out of material to watch, partly due to it being a bit of a depressing time to be a fan (a run of repeats was curtailed due to low ratings), partly due to being completely uninterested in the audio stories which had just been launched and were being heavily hyped, but probably mainly because I was getting older and perhaps "growing out of it".  My interest was reignited a few years later by the superb DVD range, which was just getting going in 2003 and contained much on the making of the show, as well as clips from the likes of Blue Peter and Breakfast Time.  I'd always been as interested in the making of the show as the show itself, and luckily enough shortly after this came the announcement that the show was to return to TV.

Like millions of others I've watched every week since that relaunch in March 2005 (you can see Kate and I reviewing the return of the show on YSTV here from 7.30 in - don't be too alarmed that I appear to be attached to a cable - it's my mic lead, I don't run off mains power).  There have been good episodes and bad episodes in the years since but as a whole it's been a pretty brilliant series.  Along with the X Factors and Strictlys of the world it has helped to bring the family audience back to Saturday nights and paved the way for the likes of Robin Hood, Merlin and Primeval to do a similar thing.

But I've a confession to make.  The most recent run just hasn't worked for me.  I've tried to like it, I really have, and having had it signposted from the start that the storyline would run through the entire series I've waited until the end before writing this.  It's been remarked upon numerous times in the press that the storylines have become "too complicated".  I don't think it's necessarily that they're too complicated, more that you begin to tire after a while of the trick of witholding the facts just to string you out through the series.  That's not sophisticated storytelling, that's just the dramatic equivalent of saying "I know something you don't know".  It didn't work for Lost and it certainly doesn't work for Doctor Who.  Dramatic tension is now almost entirely centered around revealing the solution to topsy-turvy plotlines.  It's also become a bit obsessed with itself.  Too many stories are about how much of a legend the Doctor is, about Amy and Rory doing something or other we don't care about, and River Sodding Song turning up every five minutes to phone in another pantomime-esque performance.  Everything else seems incidental. 

Splitting the series into two - assuming it wasn't to account for delays in the production of the programme, as has been reported - was also a bad move.  The first half of the series accelerated towards an artificial climax halfway through, towards the big revelation - River is Amy and Rory's daughter!  Um, OK.  Now Melody has been kidnapped and we've got to find her.  Except, we haven't, because she's there, fully grown and fine.  Then after the break, the storyline seemed to be completely forgotten for a few episodes with Amy and Rory not seeming at all concerned at the disappearance of their daughter.  It's rumoured that A Good Man Goes To War was originally intended to go much nearer the end of the run (which makes sense given the lack of references to it's events in much of the second half of the series), and that the decision to split the series into two led to it being pulled forward to create a cliffhanger climax.  All in all, a bit of a mess.  The best episodes this series - The Doctor's Wife, The Girl Who Waited and Closing Time - were all the most continuity-lite stories, and were all the better for it.

But it's not just the episodes themselves.  There seems to be a slightly grouchy element to the series and it's defenders at the moment.  Those complaining about the storylines are more or less told that it's they who have the problem and they should keep up.  The days of Russell T Davies jovially dismissing problems seem long gone.  This is matched by some of the writers and "super-fans" on Twitter who seem to have forgotten the concept of an "opinion".  The aggressive reaction to the Private Eye story (which incidentally appears to have been mostly true) shows that they're completely unwilling to tolerate any criticism of the show - a big turnaround from the early days of the relaunch when the success of the show was never assumed to be guaranteed.

This is shown by the constant harping about the ratings by the programme's cheerleaders.  The second half of the current series has been beaten by ITV1 a number of times on overnight ratings, first of all by the launch of Red Or Black.  When it emerged that the game show had beaten the good Doctor, the vitriol poured on the show and it's viewers on Twitter and the forums was quite unprecedented.  And for what?  That show had a hell of a lot of publicity - yours truly was heavily involved in the countdown clock that kept popping up on ITV1 in the days prior to launch - so is it any surprise that quite a few people wanted to see what it was all about?  Was there any benefit to all the energy poured on rubbishing it when it is very unlikely to run for the 48 years Doctor Who has and certainly not endeared itself in the same way?

More worrying was the show being beaten a couple of times by All Star Family Fortunes in the overnights.  For all that Doctor Who eventually regained the lead thanks to a hefty amount of people watching their recordings later in the week, that shouldn't be happening, and anyone who says they aren't bothered by it should be.  The BBC brought the show back to get a big family audience all watching TV on a Saturday night, and talking about it in the playground or around the watercooler on Monday morning.  If the storylines have got to the point where you don't mind catching up at a late date rather than watching the instant it is available and are watching Vernon Kay instead, then we're in trouble.  The idea that the figures for the programme should include iPlayer viewings and BBC Three repeats, as some are suggesting, is ridiculous - how on earth can you ascertain how many of those people are not watching for a second time?  Probably trying to work out what on earth is going on...

Obviously all of this is my view - there are plenty of people who seem to love the series as it is, and good luck to them.  I just don't feel I'm watching the same show as them.  As things stand we're at a turning point for the show, as the mid-noughties Who empire is this autumn crumbling.  I'd be very surprised if Torchwood returns after the disappointing American seriesThe Sarah Jane Adventures is ending for altogether sadder reasonsConfidential has been axed.  The signs are that the next series of Doctor Who will be spread over a much longer period than the current one.  It's unclear what effect the BBC's cost-cutting will have on the programme (if any).  It seems that the show as a whole will have a smaller prescence on television as it approaches the big 5-0.

(TARDIS sound effect)

So, two years later, how does that sound?  Not far off the mark to be honest.  Series 7 was indeed broadcast over a much longer period, despite vain attempts by the publicity team to convince people that they were two separate series.  This means that since the start of 2011, we've essentially missed out on a whole series of the programme.  This in itself is not necessarily a problem - belts are being tightened all over the BBC and I wouldn't blame them if they wanted to make a very expensive show last a bit longer.  But the complete wall of silence over the reasons - cost or otherwise - doesn't give much encouragement.  

And the show itself?  The first broadcast section of series 7 was a massive improvement, and was actually marketed as five distinct "blockbuster" episodes, all largely self-contained, which was hugely refreshing after the continuity-heavy series 6.  The second part of the run - broadcast six months and one day after the conclusion of the first section - was less sure-footed, featuring a worrying number of "duff" episodes that were so unmemorable I'd struggle, six months on, to tell you anything about them.  One bright part was the introduction of Jenna Coleman as Clara who gave a refreshingly sparky performance, but had some rather patchy character development (and let's not even mention the entirely pointless episode where the children she babysits for are taken on an adventure).

What's rammed the point home for me is re-watching the Russell T Davies years again.  I travel to Leeds for work every week and I'm passing the time on the train by watching episodes from 2005 onwards, in order.  And it's so, so refreshing.  You actually come away from an episode saying "so that's what it was all about" rather than feeling you should have paid more attention at an undefined point in the past to understand it more.  You also have one or maybe two dodgy episodes a series, the rest generally rather good - a statistic that has pretty much reversed in recent years.  Matt Smith is superb but has been given some terrible scripts.  I'm optimistic though - the show has been through peaks and troughs in the past and the prospect of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor is very exciting.  I'm looking forward to the next two landmark episodes: the 50th anniversary and the regeneration from 11 to 12 at Christmas.  I just hope the quality and indeed the scheduling of the series becomes a bit less erratic and I'll be able to write something more positive in 2015!  

Monday, 22 July 2013

Overheard at Latitude

We've just got back from the Latitude Festival in Southwold, Suffolk (yes, I had to look it up too).  Latitude was the first proper festival that either Kate or myself have been to, having previously only been to one-day affairs such as Radio 1's Hackney Weekend.  We figured that with the big 3-0 fast approaching it was high time we crossed this off from the life "to do" list and spent some time slumming it in a field.  Within reason, of course.

We chose Latitude mainly because of the wide variety of entertainment on offer, particularly the comedy.  As we're not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year we thought it would make a nice substitute.  We're also middle class Guardian-reading north-Londoners so it's pretty much the law that we go to Latitude at some point.  We also chose to stay at the Pink Moon Camping enclosure on the site - not particularly out of a desire the avoid the masses but because we don't own a tent or sleeping bags, and buying them especially would cost a fair chunk of the fee we paid to stay there.  In that nice enclosure with its own toilets, showers and bar.  Mmmmm.
The Pink Moon campsite.  Hundreds of identical tents.  Good luck finding yours after 6 pints of Tuborg.

And guess what - we really enjoyed ourselves, despite the somewhat eccentric weather (scorching sun on Friday, cloud and showers on Saturday and somewhere in between on Sunday).  We loved the huge variety of events on offer and the type of music on offer on the big stages was more-or-less spot on for us.  Having seen a Reading and Leeds 2007 t-shirt while we were there, it could have been so much worse.  I think the 6 Music stage came off quite badly though, among others housing Texas, Rudimental and Disclosure over the weekend, none of whom I imagine trouble the radio station's playlist much.  But for us, the highlight had to be Pappy's, who as in Edinburgh last year stole the show for us with their effortless act.  Unlike many acts they had prepared a special show loosely based around "A Christmas Carol", with spot-on parodies of Florence (without her Machine), Kraftwerk and Daft Punk as the "ghosts".  There was also an amusing amount of scorn poured on the admittedly questionable decision to headline the first night with Bloc Party and the aforementioned Texas, neither of whom are really in their prime.  As Pappy's pointed out, "who's booking this festival, Chris Evans?  Look out for the Ocean Colour Scene secret gig at the i Arena tomorrow!".

I'm not sure it's really a substitute for Edinburgh though, comedy-wise, given how you drift in and out of each of the performances and most of the comics aren't performing a show as such, just a few of their favourite routines to fill the slot.  The comedy arena is no way near big enough either - the moment someone even remotely popular was on you couldn't get near.  There's also the slightly odd decision to end the comedy programme at about 7pm each night to clear the arena for dancing later on - which means a genre mostly performed at night is pushed into random berths such as the literature tent after dark.

There are also two (or more) Latitudes.  There's the one that you'll read about in the Guardian and see on The Andrew Marr Show which is all very cultural and intellectual and so different to those other noisy festivals.  There's also the Latitude which is pretty much like any other festival, complete with people getting stupidly drunk and all sorts else.  I noticed the huge presence of children too.  Some really young ones with their parents, which should really know better carting their sleeping offspring around in little trolleys in order to see late night gigs, others a bit older  let off the leash for the first time pretending rather badly to be grown ups.  And standing around chatting during Kraftwerk, which was pretty damn annoying.  Kraftwerk were another highlight of the weekend - if not exactly the typical headliner - because of the quite impressive 3D effects behind the ground (and the equally impressive distribution of 3D glasses around the site on Saturday.  If you didn't have any you must have been under a rock all day).  Since the heady days of Children In Need 1993 I've experienced various attempts at 3D outside of Hollywood films and this was certainly one of the better ones.

But there was one thing we noticed.  Our positioning in the Pink Moon campsite, on the end of a row, meant we heard a lot of people chatting as they walked past, but usually only a sentence or two of conversations.  Some of these were bizarre to say the least.  Here's a selection with some others we heard around the festival site:

"I like to think of myself as an alcohologist"

"I actually think that not having sex with someone is more powerful than having sex with them"

(in the poshest female voice imaginable) "Find My Friends?  What's my Apple ID?!  Upper or lower case??!!"

"Look at the shower queue now.  Snoozers are losers"


"Order number 118, pick up your burger now or it's going in the bin"

"Is that the shower queue?  Let's just get in it, we'll only sit here talking about the shower queue otherwise"

"I HATE Blackpool"

"Did you snog him?" "I shagged him!"

"I'm talking about the prostitute killer of course, not the Radio 2 DJ"

And finally one we'll nick from Marcus Brigstocke, who said this is the most Latitudey thing he's ever heard said at the festival:

"Oh hi Nigel, anything happened to you lately?"
"No, not really.  Oh no hang on, I've been made chair of the Forestry Commission"

Monday, 27 May 2013

When You're With Me It's Always Summer

I'm starting to type this as we fly to St Lucia on the final leg of our epic honeymoon.  With a mere 8 hours 15 minutes to kill (not including the delay caused by late boarding passenger Alex Fruger, who they had the courtesy to name and shame) it's probably a good time to address mine and Kate's wedding, which took place on 27th April.  I'm now in the position where I feel we've banged on about this for long enough and that we're probably boring people, but in time honoured Jonablog tradition there's probably a blog left to wring out of it before we wrap this one up!

Long-term readers will remember me writing about our engagement nearly two years ago. We knew from the start we'd probably be getting married in Spring 2013, due to needing to save up and us both being quite keen on a Spring wedding.  Despite this I think we both found that first ten months or so a bit of a struggle, and the finger of blame for this can be pointed at Islington Council.  Since she moved to London in August 2005 Kate had always said she wanted to get married at Islington Town Hall, after moving into a flat in the local area and seeing couples emerging from the building when going past on the number 30 bus on a Saturday morning.  Unfortunately for us, the council operates a strict "year in advance policy" which means it is literally impossible to book your ceremony until there is a year or less to go, which in the world of wedding planning is a little restrictive as it means you then can't book anything else for the day until the venue is confirmed.  So we had the best part of a year of being asked "how's the wedding planning going?" with the answer being that it wasn't really going anywhere.

Luckily Kate managed to fill the time with heavily researching anything and everything to do with the wedding.  I was very lucky to have a fianc√©e who not only had a pretty good idea of what she wanted from the ceremony but also had rather excellent ideas that chimed with my own! I think there must be a gene in women that is unleashed the moment they are proposed to (or in some cases, before...) that contains all this vital information.  Put it this way: I wasn't much use when it came to choosing the "wedding colours".  She also became absorbed into the world of wedding blogs, the modern equivalent of those whacking great glossy bridal magazines, so much so I believe she has now read them all.  There are none left.


By the time our preferred date had rolled around (minus a year), we were ready to pounce on Islington and then to book all our suppliers in turn.  Luckily 27th April 2013 at 1pm was free, but I was amazed to find out that when I rang up on 28th April 2012 - ie. one day into the booking window - the midday and 5pm slots had been taken on our chosen day already! So we weren't the only ones.  Now the real prep could begin - and save-the-date cards were sent out at the start of September accordingly, accompanied by some superb artwork by Kate's brother Lee depicting us in the style of Lichenstein.  Full invites followed in January, and I have to give credit to Kate again for creating wonderful innovative fold-out invites that were so incredible they are hard to describe.  So here are a couple of pictures.

The buildup to the wedding itself was a bit of a blur. After the first 18 months feeling like a small ice age, the final furlong from January flew by.  At the start of March we had a "pre-wedding shoot", a service offered by our photographer (the peerless Eliza Claire), which by fluke took place on a rare dry and sunny day.  We held the shoot on the Parkland Walk, a former railway line-turned-nature reserve local to us which we're lucky enough to be able to walk part of our daily journey to work on.  Eliza produced some really impressive shots, although one was unplanned - local gigantic-bear-dog Winston out for a walk trying to get in on the action, nose-to-nose with me!

Two weeks prior to the ceremony, on the same day were our stag and hen nights.  I think both of us were touched by quite how many people turned up, many of whom travelled to London especially.   Credit is due to my Best Man Tom who masterminded a brilliant afternoon of the Thames Clipper, followed by the British Music Experience and then climbing the O2 in the pouring rain - which felt like one hell of an achievement! After a curry we then went onto a club in Angel, later being joined by the hen party, which was a fantastic end to the day given we don't really split our friends down gender lines in any case.  It was also just down the road from where we'd be getting married a fortnight later...!

Although Kate can rightly take credit for the vast majority of the wedding ideas, I was quite proud of one of mine.  We'd talked for some time about themed table plans at the Wedding Breakfast but not quite nailed something right for us.  Eventually I suggested: why not numbers 1 singles from various points in our lives?  There were bound to be some duds in there but they would undoubtedly make great talking points as well as confirming my chart nerd status.  We decided to have tables themed around Kate's birthday (Only You by The Flying Pickets), my birthday (Hello by Lionel Richie - perfect!), the date we both started at the University of York (some Will Young and Gareth Gates duet, how very 2002), the date we started going out (Obviously by McFly - because she's out of my league!), the day we moved into our first flat (Crazy by Gnarls Barkley) and the day we got engaged (something by Pitbull - my timing not especially romantic here).

For all these Kate managed to get hold of the original vinyl or CD from eBay, the artwork from which would be on the table plan and the discs on the tables themselves.  We took a huge gamble though by saying the the top table would be whatever was number one on the day we got married - ie. announced the Sunday before, giving us not much time to arrange it.  Thankfully virtually no singles are released on CD anymore (I'm amazed we got hold of the 2011 Pitbull one) which meant all we had to do was print off the artwork and label up a CD-R for the table.  Throughout April we nervously watched the charts and at various points thought we might end up with "Let's Get Ready To Rhumble" or "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" as the lead record.  The last week saw a battle between a dire will.i.am/Justin Bieber collaboration and a nice enough Rudimental track.  Thankfully the latter won, although we wished Daft Punk's epic Get Lucky had been released a few days earlier as we both love it!

Our last day at work was Wednesday 24th April. I'd arranged for some flowers to be delivered to Kate at the Google fortress a few streets away, but I was then surprised by cards from both the London and Leeds presentation teams and bubbly in the office, which was a great way to start our longest ever holiday! 

Before we knew it, it was Friday 26th April: t-minus one day, and quite an epic day of organisation.  We always knew that having the wedding in London in two different venues would be quite tough given that a huge chunk of our guests would be visiting London especially and hardly anyone we know has a car.  Luckily my sister bucks that trend and so we spent Thursday picking up the six hire suits from the tailor in Barking, and then Friday dropping our wedding night suitcase off at our hotel, greeting our family off the train, shuttling all the suits, the dress and the ceremony stuff to my hotel (with Kate's stuff then taken from there to her hotel by taxi) and finally taking all the reception decoration to the pub where it would be held.  And while all this was going on, Kate was getting her nails done.  Not that we were conforming to gender stereotypes, you understand.  After a quick run through at Kate's hotel of all the details in the "bible" we'd put together with all the horrendous detail I won't bore you with about who needed to do what when, with most of the bridal and groom parties, Kate and bid farewell and I headed to Islington for some drinks with already-arrived guests.  And then, to bed...

The day of the ceremony is always said to be something of a blur.  I think the presence of a photographer is required not only to immortalise the day but also to remind you what actually happened! Given the huge amount of coordination I'm delighted to report everything went pretty much to plan.  After much nervous checking of the weather (which remained stubbornly stuck on "showers" throughout) we were relieved that not only was a was it dry when it needed to be, there was beautiful sunshine around the time of the ceremony! With my ushers, best man and a number of other guests in tow we walked the ten minutes along Upper Street to the Town Hall.  We'd been told by Islington Council that there was a fairly tight turnaround between ceremonies and so we'd need to make ourselves scarce fairly promptly after our ceremony avoid getting in the way of the 2pm booking.  Sadly that message hadn't filtered through to the midday party, who were stood on the steps having every combination of photo lineup under the sun taken, until we decided we would have to edge past in order to get the council chamber ready.  It was then we found another party on the grand staircase having more photos that needed to be navigated past.  It was like some sort of wedding-themed computer game.  I was half expecting to find an end-of-level baddy at the top of the stairs.

The previous group delayed us by about ten minutes in the end but eventually the ushers got everyone inside and we were ready to go.  The Council Chamber is an incredible space, as you can see from the photos.  The amazing thing about it is that everyone is sat around you in a semi-circle, so you can really see everyone as you're sat there.  Thanks to the previous group I didn't have a long wait but it's a lonely position, sat in the the middle of that room on your own!  I knew that the bridal party would be entering before Kate and her Dad, but I didn't want to turn around too soon and end up staring down the aisle for a long time.  In the end this was made easy for me when I heard Kate's Grandma say "oh, isn't she lovely"!  The moment I saw Kate in her dress for the first time is captured on camera but I was genuinely blown away by how incredible she looked.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the arrival of your bride in the dress you've been forbidden from seeing for months, looking more beautiful than she's ever been before. 

The ceremony was brief but really, really lovely.  My sister Laura read John Hegley's Beliefs and Promises and Kate's brother Lee read John Cooper-Clarke's i wanna be yours,  both wonderful poems that mean a lot to us.  We chose some of our favourite music for various parts of the ceremony.  While guests were arriving we played Digital Love by Daft Punk, Two Doors Down by Mystery Jets and Make Me Feel Again by Edwyn Collins.  Kate walked in to TrueLove Ways by Buddy Holly and we signed the register to Something Changed by Pulp and I Love You by The Pipettes and then, before we knew it, we were married!  We walked out to Don't Falter by Mint Royale, a track that wasn't a massive hit when released but both of us loved independently at the time - it encompassing both of our musical tastes, with the dying embers of Britpop coupled with the big-beat sound popular at the turn of the century.  After some photos on the grand staircase and the confetti shots outside the town hall (in glorious sunshine!) we were off!

We'd solved the issue of transporting people from one venue to another by hiring a Routemaster bus, continuing the London feel.  We'd asked that the bus go to the reception venue via Alexandra Palace, partly to drop us off their for some photos but also to extend the journey and give some of our northern guests a taste of north London.  This worked really well, as everyone had a good chinwag whilst sipping champagne that Kate's parents had kindly brought back from France.

While we were being photographed at Ally Pally - lest we forget the birthplace of what had brought us together, television - a little girl and her mother approached Kate and asked her if she was a princess, as they'd gone to the palace but the princess wasn't there!  Quite a sweet moment.  Before we headed to our reception - at a lovely pub called The Prince Albert in Camden Town - we had some more photos in the pretty streets nearby, before entering the venue.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the high of walking into a room with everyone cheering you - I know this sounds weird on your wedding day but you do forget sometimes that everyone is looking at you two!

After some amazing food - that pub really do food well! - we had the speeches. I'd had a good idea of what I wanted to say for some time - mentally writing it in my head when swimming, mostly! - but had a few nerves about it in the weeks before the wedding, rewriting it a lot. In the end, it went down quite well.  I was hugely encouraged by the reaction to Kate's Dad's lovely speech, and how everyone reacted to mine once I got going.  I did worry I would lose it at some of the more sentimental bits about Kate - and also in particular the section about my Gran not being able to be there - but one of the advantages of reading over it so many times in advance is that you become so used to the words that, to you at least, they lose some of their emotional weight, which did have the advantage that it was the guests who ended up blubbing, not me! Tom also gave a touching best man's speech.  Well, touching apart from the washing machine bit.  If you weren't there, that's all I'm saying.

Kate had decided she would give a speech too, at the evening reception.  I loved this: so few brides do it, and it really gave her a chance to shine.  Although she won't admit it she's really, really good at public speaking, and knowing Kate as we all know her it wouldn't be right for her to go the whole day saying little more than "I do". Plus she said some really nice things about me, so that was good too!  She received so much praise not only for making a speech but for how brilliant it was, and rightly so.

A long time ago, before we decided much else, we had chosen what our first dance would be.  We both love Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You so, so much. The lyrics are pretty much spot on for how both of us feel about each other, the sound is so evocative of the 60s look that Kate was keen for, plus it does have the bonus of being quite short! Neither of us are particularly any good at dancing but we did really want to do the first dance. We kept the song choice a complete secret: only our DJ James knew about it, but Tom nailed it when he said that the lyrics pretty much summed up what we'd both said in our speeches.  We rehearsed it quite extensively, but neither of us are convinced it was that great on the night.  Still: looks good in still photos, and what a tune!

I was tempted to not do "thank yous" in this blog having done them at the time and privately since, but so much of the day was a result of the fine work of so many wonderful family and friends.  So, very quickly: both sets of parents, Steve & Sandra and Anne & Les, for all the financial, creative and general wonderful support they gave; our siblings Laura, Lee and Nick for the readings, design work and general organisational help with the big day; the bridal and groom parties: Tom, Rowan, Dave, Vanky, Graham, Morgan, Claire and Oliver for generally being ace and supportive and making the day go without a hitch, our witnesses Chris and Jamie for returning the favour we did for them at their Civil Partnership a few years ago, the staff of Islington Town Hall and The Prince Albert for giving us such a wonderful, flawless day, Dunns Bakery and my new Grandma Audrey for the tasty cakes, our superstar DJ James for keeping everyone dancing until 1am, Jack Bunneys and Butterfly Vintage Brides for our outfits and finally our wonderful photographers and videographers Eliza, Hannah, Frances and Becky (girl power!). I'd also like to thank everyone that came, particularly from outside of London.  So much of the amazing wedding atmosphere was down to have such a great group of guests who all genuinely seemed to have a great time which meant a lot to us.  We're also very grateful for all the numerous and generous donations to our honeymoon fund.  We had the most incredible three weeks in St. Pancras Renaissance, Berlin and St. Lucia that we simply would not have been able to do without everyone's generosity, so once again: thank you.

I said in my speech but I'll say it again here, the biggest thank you for the day has to go to Kate.  So much of the vision for the day, the style, the look and the feel was down to her incredible taste and general scarily good sense for what works and what doesn't.  I'll admit that a lot of things I rolled my eyes at when they were suggested (giant illuminated letters?!) really made the day.  She could easily go into a career doing this sort of thing.  That she managed to do it largely off her own back is of huge credit to her.  She's currently writing an entry for an influential wedding blog who want to feature the wedding, which is really flattering.

So now it's all over, and the honeymoon we were on the way to when I started writing this has been and gone.  We're yet to have the infamous "wedding blues". I think this is mainly because the day was so, so wonderful and everything that we wished for.  It's a clich√© but it's true: it was the best day of our lives, and not only that but we're so excited about everything the future holds. We've nothing but good memories about the whole day and are so grateful to everyone who made it possible.  I still get a buzz out of calling Kate my wife, and I've a sneaking suspicion that's not going to change any time soon!  I'll end slightly on a slightly soppy note (hey, it's an occasion when I'm allowed to do so), with the lyrics to the chorus of Don't Falter. It's essentially "our song", and given that against all odds the sun came out for our big day, wonderfully appropriate.

Hey, don't falterYou know we ought to be togetherStrange, I saw yaI sort of knew it was for ever

Please stay with meAnd never miss a chance to kiss meBabe, I love yaWhen you're with me, it's always summer