Blog 48

Hi Jay. Yes Arvon is a very good organisation and next year I’m a guest on a comedy writing course, I think in the summer, as well as doing a one-day Short Story workshop on the 26 March (not an Arvon thing but with Vicky Grut my co-tutor at Lumb Bank) .  On reflection I don’t think I’d do another whole week’s teaching, certainly not in a remote farmhouse, down a track in a rainswept valley only a few miles away from Wuthering Heights but I do like doing one day events.  I had a very nice morning at South Bank University last week talking to their 1st year creative writing course.  I am never sure with students how much they know, whether they think the Second World War was fought between the Allies and the Martian Federation for example but this lot were very knowledgeable and a great audience.

Earlier in the week I signed a letter to the Guardian concerning Julian Assange along with John Pilger and a couple of other old lefties.  Since then I have been trampled in the rush by a lot of his other more famous celebrity supporters eager to be associated with this cause.   I don’t mind, I’ve only met Vanessa Redgrave once but somehow when I did she persuaded me to stand £50,000 bail for some Chechen warlord the Russians were after. I wasn’t worried about him skipping since if he’d gone anywhere else he would have been assasinated but I was a bit concerned that they’d make him come and live with me as part of his bail conditions.  What would he want for breakfast, did he like cats, would he hog the TV remote control?  In the end I think they just let him go but its tougher than you think being a celebrity activist. I can't imagine Julian Assange being much of a laugh around the house if he had to come and live with me and you'd never get him off the computer.


Blog 47

My thoughts continue to dwell on Stephen Fry.  If, as I do, you continually flip around the thirty or so Freeview TV channels he can occasionally seem to be on every single one of them.  It's as if we are living in some capitalist North Korea and he is Kim Jong Fry our glorious leader.  

You do though sometimes witness a curious phenomenon with repeat editions of the quizz show QI.  Various channels such as BBC 2 and Dave broadcast episodes of this show from different times over the last five years or so.  A couple of year ago, Rob Brydon (a regular pannelist) got himself a very convincing hair transplant and Stephen lost a lot of weight.  So it’s possible to see as you click round the channels a combination of, Bald Rob/Fat Stephen, Hairy Rob/Thin Stephen, Hairy Rob/Fat Stephen and oddly Bald Rob/Thin Stephen which would seem to be a temporal anomaly. 

And talking of time and Freeview channels, the history channel now called Yesterday (formerly UK TV History) used to go off the air on the Freeview platform at 6.00p.m.  At which time they would put up a card which read “Yesterday will be back tomorrow”- a statement with which you cannot argue.

And talking of history and repeats the now almost forgotten 1930s philosopher George Santyana wrote “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them” while Karl Marx wrote  “History repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce” to which I would add “and then twenty years later its repeated again on ITV 4 and everybody’s wearing terrible trousers”.



Well Evelyn I don’t know anything much about the effects of the March for Sanity/Fear but Jon Stewart is certainly a figure that we do not have in the UK, which is a shame.  I suppose we don’t have as great a need for him since our news media have not yet sunk to the depths of Glenn Beck, Fox News or indeed the vapid US network channels.  Still it would be good to have a comedian of such politcal intelligence and engagement doing a daily show over here.  I read somewhere that Marcus Brigstock was supposed for a while to be our John Stewart.  Yikes!   We can do better than that.

Of course the perfect person to do the job would be me but it is a testament to the blindness and uncreativity of the British TV and radio that nobody has ever offered me the job and it is a testament to my own laziness, arrogance and complacency that I have never made any effort to put myself forward. (which answers your question Viccus)

I suppose the only figure in the UK who spans the media in a similar way to Jon Stewart  is The Stig who not only stars on the hugely popular Top Gear but also using his full name of Stig Larsson wrote the trio of novels “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”  “Girl Who Kicked Over The Hornet’s Nest”  and “Girl With The Slightly Underpowered MINI Clubman Estate”.


Blog 47b

Yes last night I recorded an episode of "The Infinite Monkey Cage" with Robin Ince and Prof Brian Cox which goes out at 4.30 next Monday on Radio 4.   

As I was saying to Brian Cox there are more astrophyisists in comedy/presenting-him, Dara Obrien, Ben Miller than there are art students.  Astro-physics must be really easy was my only conclusion.


Blog 46

Well my book reading tour is finally over and Wilf is very glad I’m back, I did twenty-five dates and adding it up I have driven over six and a half thousand miles read for twenty hours and answered something like two hundred questions.  I can’t recall where it was (I think Folkestone) but I was asked what I would do if I ruled the world.  After giving it some thought I said that I would introduce a law capping the price of Pilau Rice in a restaurant or takewaway at £1.95.   If I find myself paying more than £2.00 for Pilau Rice I always feel like like I’m being exploited unless the restaurant is very fancy.  Apart from that I said I felt the world was pretty much OK.

I noticed a review by Roger Lewis ( a very funny writer, I recommend his "Seasonal Suicide Notes"  ) of Stephen Fry’s new book in the Telegraph. He wrote “As Stephen says often enough, he possesses a mind imbued with “fundamental dishonesty. I never tried to engage authentically or truthfully with an intellectual issue or to answer a question” because he thought it preferable to “have fun, tell jokes and not hurt or intrude on anyone’s feelings”.

But here we have a problem with The Fry Chronicles. As most of its cast are not dead, Stephen has to be gushing. Only Alexei Sayle gets it in the neck, “for his bullying unkindness towards Ben Elton”, though for that most of us would want to shake Alexei by the hand.”

I was asked about this at a reading but chose to take the high ground.  After all as I said I have apologised to Ben for how nasty I was to him and he in response invited me to the opening night of his Rod Stewart musical “Tonight’s the Night” (which hoped to replicate the success of “We Will Rock You”) and in those three long hours I paid for every cruel remark I’d ever made to anyone ever.



WARNING! I've just been round with my £5 off voucher to the new Robert Dyas hardware store that's opened around the corner from me and they had free chocolate on the counter which I of course had a bit of but it's Marmite flavoured chocolate! And I still feel sick half an hour later.  Learn from my mistake or I will have suffered in vain.


Blog 45

The spambot seems annoyed that I'm making fun of it and appears to have inserted more ads in my blog than usual, as a way of getting its revenge.  Does it turn out to have a brain and feelings?  Can it cry?  Can it love?

Wilf Mbanga has a review of a book about Robert Mugabe in this week's Guardian.  That's one clever cat!


Blog 44  

Have you noticed that the spambot that occasionally invades the comments section is getting more sophisticated?  In blog 43 it pretended to be a person with an Indian name.  Now its going one further and writing my blog for me half-price mackerel. So now I am over two thirds of the way through my book-reading tour gucci wellingtons and its felt like quite an epic undertaking, I don’t know how many thousands of miles I’ve driven already but its been a lot used leg irons.   Its been great to meet so many people and good to hear how much they’re enjoying the readings microwave waffle ovens.  At one reading in Wellington I actually had two and a half mayors in the audience pogosticks.