Class Of ’92 Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 5 October 2017

Partly inspired by my chance encounter 18 months ago (and subsequent re-encounters) with Chris Stanton at the real tennis court at Lord’s

…partly inspired by the fact that many of us who gather for these Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners have been hanging around NewsRevue now for 25 years…

…John Random decided to theme this get together around the notion “Class of ’92”.

I didn’t realise that John had actually persuaded Chris Stanton to come along this time, which was a very pleasant surprise. Chris brought a couple of ringbinder files with scripts from his 1992 runs, including the late Spring run, directed by John Random, in which I (or rather, my material) made its NewsRevue debut:

Seeing those files, it made me realise what a challenging job it must be for performers to do NewsRevue. The sheer volume of scripts, the mixture of sketches and songs, the changes to the show every week…

…Chris showed me one running order, for example, in which there was an unbroken sequence of fourteen or fifteen pieces in which he appeared.

John Random brought along a photo album which had lots of photos of NewsRevue types…even one of me and Janie from our very early days together…most people in the room were represented by at least one photo.

Mark Keagan was there, as was Barry Grossman, Nick R Thomas, Colin Stutt and Gerry Goddin, the latter of whom produced a particularly fiendish version of his “quiz” game and tortured us with it at the end of the evening.

Prior to this evening, when chatting at Lord’s, Chris Stanton had been threatening to have a bonfire of his old scripts. Part of my purpose was to help John Random to rescue this treasure trove for posterity. But by the end of this evening, Chris explained that he did not want to part with his scripts and had no intention of destroying them.

On the way home, my song “Coppers are Dressed as Hippies” popped into my head, as did the notion that I too have a ringbinder file at home with correspondence and one or two old running orders and programmes.

In the morning, I copied/wrote up “coppers” (click link here or above) and found a running order, programme and writers’ newsletter from Paula Tappenden’s summer run; the run that followed the John Random/Chris Stanton one.

In some ways, I thought, I had blooped by not bringing those artefacts to the evening. But in other ways, it seems more fitting that I use Ogblog as a medium, following up on the Class of ’92 evening, to circulate copies of my 1992 artefacts, shown below:

  • the programme for that Paula Tappenden run (late June through August 1992);
  • the running order from week four (late July 1992);
  • John Random’s unusually short writers’ newsletter w/e 31 July 1992…who was your visitor from Idaho, John? Do tell.

Postscript. In response to my request for details on the mystery visitor from Idaho, I received the following beautifully-crafted missive from John Random a week or so later:

…the friend from Idaho was my former flatmate Janet.

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t spend the whole of 1986 simply writing down everything she ever said. Here was comedy gold, narrative gold right under my nose and I didn’t recognize it for what it was.

Without ever trying to be funny, without even KNOWING she was being funny, Janet contrived to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. This was chiefly because everyone she’d ever known was either barking mad or the victim of some cruel yet ludicrous twist of Fate.

I recall she had a pioneer ancestor who was run over by the very train that brought his family out West to join him. Apparently, he had started the celebrations a little too early and was a little too merry by the time the train pulled in.

Not that this should be taken as meaning she was catty or scabrous. On the contrary, she was a big motherly woman of the sort you might get if you crossed Jenni Murray with Claire Rayner.

Sadly, Janet’s not much of a writer, so I have very few letters of hers, and she seldom even e-mails. However, she recently broke a seven-year silence indicating that she might be coming over in a week or two. I do hope so.

In my grateful reply to John, I described Janet’s interruption to his newsletter writing that week as John’s “person from Porlock” moment.

My own offerings from that Paula Tappenden Week Four are all now up on Ogblog, btw, all clickable below:

If anyone wants a better quality copy of the artefacts, just message me and they can be whizzing your way in next to no time.

Ultimate Love and Happy Tories, Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 3 March 2017

NewsRevue’s 2004 Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show – Gerry Goddin far left, Barry Grossman back left, a wide-eyed me front right

NewsRevue goes back all the way to 1979. When the show turned 25, in 2004, it was awarded the Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show. I was there. I’d been there since 1992. This year my involvement with the show turns 25.

Those of us who wrote for the show in the 1990s still gather a few times a year for Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners.

Earlier this week, coincidentally, I played real tennis with Chris Stanton (another NewsRevue alum, in his case a performer) at Lord’s. Chris was reminiscing with me about the show, not least because he was rummaging through his old files and found many complete runs of scripts from “our era”, which he was planning to shred. I think John Random might rescue them for posterity.

Chris then gave me a pretty-much word perfect rendering of Brian Jordan’s wonderful Arthur Scargill song, to the tune of My Guy. As John Random later reminisced:

He may not be to everyone’s liking/But as a union leader, he’s striking.

Hearing about Brian Jordan reminded me of my first big hit; The Ultimate Love Song, which Brian made his own for a while and took to Edinburgh (my material’s debut there) in his show “Whoops Vicar Is That Your Dick?”  I am so proud to have had my Edinburgh debut in a show with that name.

After seeing Chris, I looked at my file and realised that The Ultimate Love Song turns 25 this week; I copyrighted it 29 February 1992…so perhaps it turns six-and-a-quarter. Anyway, it seemed right to mention it at the Ivan Shakespeare and I was badgered into giving a quick rendering, as much as I could remember.

I have now upped The Ultimate Love Song in its entirety – together with the tale of its early use – here’s the link again.

Here is a link to Ben Murphy’s rendering of The Ultimate Love Song from 1993.

Mark Keagan was at the Ivan Shakespeare dinner; he’s one of the more regular attendees. He mentioned that his father-in-law and former home secretary, David Waddington, sadly passed away last week. Which reminded me that I did once write a song with a verse about Waddington; again nearly 25 years ago. We all (Mark included) agreed that the song might come in handy for him over the coming weeks…well you never know…so I have upped that one too. Happy Tories it is called – also about Maggie Thatcher and Chris Patten – click here.

Below is a picture of John Random and Mark Keagan from the previous Ivan Shakespeare dinner.

Mark was awarded the 2016 trophy, but should he have been? Rumour has it that John might have been handed the wrong envelope…

Gerry Goddin and John both produced quizzes. Gerry’s was infernal as usual; I did well at first but tailed off at the end, letting Barry Grossman take the honours at the line. John’s was suitably silly and superficial for my mood – a small collection of “shock and awe” pun headlines to unfathom. Perhaps naturally, I won that quiz.

As always it was good to see the gang – a slightly depleted gathering this time but at least when that happens you get a chance to have a proper chat with everyone.

How The EVA Air Girl Transformed Me Into Kung Fu Pandaman, 22 February 2017

Don’t be fooled by this benign-looking in-flight scene…

We flew EVA Air (a Taiwanese airline) to and from Thailand on this occasion, on an excellent business class deal. Janie and I were both hugely impressed by the quality and professionalism throughout the journey.

But on the flight home from Bangkok to Heathrow, the strangest thing happened; I was transformed into Kung Fu Pandaman.

It seemed a benign enough flight and interaction at first. Lillian, the air stewardess in the picture above, handed me, amongst other things, a pair of pyjamas for the flight. I have not worn pyjamas since escaping the clutches of my parents’ mores around 1980, so I attempted to return the pyjamas to Lillian.

On the outbound journey, my polite, “no thank you” to the air hostess was simply accepted. But when I tried similarly on the return journey with Lillian, she abruptly said, “you must have them,” and insisted that I retain the pyjamas.

Then, when clearing up after dinner, she again challenged my attempted rejection of the pyjamas. “Our pyjamas are wonderful. You will love them. In fact, you must try wearing them.” Janie captured this exchange in the picture below; it could be argued that Lillian’s entreaty came with menaces.

“I insist that you will like these pyjamas”

I asked Janie what she thought the protocol or etiquette was for donning aircraft pyjamas. Janie’s view was that these business class seats were so individual and private that I could change into the pyjamas discreetly in situ, but that if I felt self-conscious about doing that I could change in the loo.

Self-conscious – moi? Change in the loo – moi?  No way and not on your nelly, respectively.

A strange transformation

As I donned the unfamiliar garb, I felt a strange transformation coming over me. Was it my unfamiliarity with nightwear? Was it the glass of port I’d had with my cheese? Or was it a more profound transformation than that…

…super-human skills…

…suddenly I felt that I had supreme martial arts skills. Only my deep-seated good manners and concern for other travellers prevented me from releasing a bestial roar…

…no doubt about it…

I rose to my feet and Janie gasped, in awe and wonderment, “oh my! It’s Kung Fu Pandaman”.

“Wham bam, thank you ma’m”, I replied; an ejaculation quite out of character for me, but not, it seems, for someone who is transforming into Kung Fu Pandaman.

Some serious moves – chiropractors and masseuses should look away now

I imagined that my superhero transformation was to some purpose; perhaps the plane was about to be hijacked or the pilots were all about to fall sick; something of that kind, requiring a superhero to restore calm and safety for all passengers.

But strangely, no superhero requirement was forthcoming. Which was a bit of an anticlimax.

Tai Chi Pyjamaman

“On second thoughts”, said Janie, “perhaps you look more like Tai Chi Pyjamaman”.

“Z/Yenshin!” I said, as I started to transform back to the reality that awaits when we land.

Tragically, when we got off the plane, I “forgot” to take my pyjamas with me, just as Janie “forgot” to take her pair too. Stewardess Lillian is no doubt still stewing over the pyjama rejection.

A Ponder On Dystopian Comedy Songs, 17 November 2016

Ahead of seeing Brexit The Musical and NewsRevue today – click here for my write up of those – I had arranged to meet neighbour, writer and old NewsRevue pal Jasmine Birtles on my way back from the gym, to hand over some of our corporate gimcrack as giveaways for some charity do of hers.

On the way to the gym, the superb Randy Newman song “Political Science” popped into my head and wouldn’t leave.

Here and below is a link to a YouTube vid of Randy Newman performing the song – the lyrics are there too.

I have subsequently worked out how to play this song on my baritone ukulele. It seems to me that the song summarises Donald Trump’s foreign policy as we currently understand it in November 2016.

I mentioned this song to Jasmine as we walked around the block together. She said she vaguely remembered the Randy Newman song but wasn’t there a Tom Lehrer one with a similarly dystopian/armageddon quality.

The Lehrer one didn’t pop into my head immediately, but while walking to the Canal Café that evening it did pop into my head. So Long Mom (A Song For World War III). I remembered not only the Tom Lehrer song itself but my 1993 parody of the same – all linked and shown if you click here.

Now I can’t get either tune out of my head. Happy days.

On a slightly less dystopian note, I also now recall that I used a Randy Newman song, Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear, to parody Tony Blair in NewsRevue surprisingly early in his political career – April 1993 – here is a link through to my materials on that.

PowerSolo Cricket Bat, King Cricket Piece, 17 October 2016

One of the joys of writing for King Cricket is that you never know when your piece is going to be published.

For example, I wrote a little piece about a spunky spider we encountered in the Lower Compton Stand at the Lord’s test match on 7 September 2017; within a fortnight King Cricket had featured the item – click here.

Then, two days later he published another quirky piece entitled, “A cricket bat in a Danish nouveau-punk duo’s video” – click here. My first thought when I saw this headline was, “I vaguely remember seeing this video before”. Then I saw that I was credited with the piece. I had to search my outgoing e-mails to find the thing – nearly a year ago I wrote and sent it; 17 October 2016.

If by any chance anything ever happens to the King Cricket site, I have scraped the PowerSolo piece to here.

Still, the pleasure from seeing my little contributions go up there is just the same eleven days or eleven months later.

I’ll keep a more efficient log from now on though…

…there are still a couple of neglected masterpieces from 2014 on King Cricket’s pile that should eventually see the light of day one way or another; on King Cricket, on Ogblog or eventually on both.

I commend the PowerSolo King Cricket piece to you – not least for the bants in the comments section, but if all you want do is see the vid, then that is embedded for yuo below:


King Cricket Explained by Sam Blackledge, 10 October 2016

king-cricket-logo copy

As regular Ogblog folk might know, I write occasional pieces for Alex Bowden’s wonderful website, King Cricket, using my nom de plume, Ged Ladd.

punim de plume
Punim de plume – Ged Ladd

I’m still in the process of linking through to all of my published pieces there; a few dozen now, over the years. But readers might not realise that I far more regularly (like, most days) put down scribblings in the comments section of the King Cricket site, which is remarkably active and indeed one of the site’s main attractions for us regulars.

Indeed, it has occurred to me occasionally that I should, one day, write a piece on Ogblog explaining what the King Cricket site is about and what it means to me and to those of us who read and scribble there regularly…

…but now I don’t have to…

…because journalist Sam Blackledge, bless him, has written a simply delightful piece about King Cricket and us on his own blog. I really couldn’t have put this as well myself – click here to read Sam’s piece – trust me you’ll enjoy it. While you’re there, you might enjoy some of Sam’s other pieces about cricket too. I certainly do.

The Sound and The Fury, Four Versions of One Trip To Edgbaston, 26 August 2016

king-cricket-logo copyClick here to read my four-part literary report on a visit to Birmingham/Edgbaston in September 2015; The Sound and the Fury, as published on King Cricket.

For some reason, during 2015, I felt motivated mostly to have my artifacts report cricket matches for King Cricket. It started with the idea of Dumbo the Suzuki Jimny reporting on his first cricket match, in Dublin, May 2015 and grew from there.

By the end of the season, Ivan Meagreheart, my smart phone, was also an occasional reporter.

Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting
Ivan The Smart Phone Reporting

For my visit to Birmingham to see best part of three days of the Warwickshire v Middlesex match at Edgbaston (early September 2015) and to get some business visits in to boot, I decided to go for short versions of the same story told from four different perspectives, starting with Benjy the Baritone Ukulele and ending with Ged himself.

The result is this short literary “masterpiece” which I thought King Cricket might choose to serialise but instead he (probably wisely) chose to publish the whole piece as a a magnum opus just ahead of the bank holiday – here.

Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie, An Aside, 20 August 2016

With thanks to Claudia Lesley for this picture
With thanks to Claudia Lesley for this picture of Janie

One of several conversations over our lengthy dinner at The Stables, ahead of the Never The Bride concert – for more about that outing click here. For some reason, the film Thoroughly Modern Millie came up. One of the youngsters asked, “who starred in that movie?”  “Shirley MacLaine”, replied Kim and I, pretty much straight away and more or less in unison. “No, it was Julie Andrews,” said Janie.

A short debate ensued, with most people siding with me and Kim. Janie was pretty sure it was Julie Andrews. Kim was absolutely sure it was Shirley MacLaine. Kim and Janie wagered a future meal on the outcome.

Out came Mr Google for the answer: Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967, starred Julie Andrews.

Kim and I were surprised. I was pretty sure I could visualise Shirley MacLaine in the movie, whereas I just couldn’t envisage Julie Andrews in the part. Kim similarly. I suggested that, in our subjective realities, it really was Shirley MacLaine. So at the very least MacLaine, not Andrews, was the star of our movie, Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie.

With the 2016 Olympic Games drawing to a close that evening, the conversation reminded me of a little thought experiment I put to some friends at the end of the London 2012 Olympics. An event named the modern pentathlon (fencing, show-jumping, swimming, running and shooting) was pretty much the last thing playing out. Loads of people (me and Janie included) watched it for the first time ever; we didn’t want the 2012 olympics to end.

My thought experiment was the post-modern pentathlon. I quote myself:

The post-modern pentathlon is all about subjective reality, so you may choose your own events. MY post-modern pentathlon events are pinball, table football, playing tennis with the wrong hand and payroll giving.

I know what you are thinking. That’s only four events; a pentathlon has five events. But in the subjective reality of MY post-modern pentathlon, four events is plenty.

In the post-modern pentathlon, of course, the scoring is down to oneself (subjective reality again). I am pleased to inform you that I won the bronze medal. You might have expected me to award myself gold, but I am surely not competitive enough to get the very highest score. I would naturally aspire to best-of-the-rest; silver, but my record in competitive sports has always been to disappoint myself to some extent, so at best I think I would achieve bronze. A little disappointing, but I gave my all for Team GB, did my best and left it all out there on the fields of play. That was all I could ask of myself.

On reflection, I think Janie would make an excellent Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie – see photo above – even more than Shirley MacLaine.

And with subjective hindsight, perhaps I should have a fifth event in my post-modern pentathlon after all; marathon ogblogging.

We’ve Bin To A Meeting, HHGE AGM, 12 April 2016

Janie and I don’t like public meetings. We really, really don’t. We went to this one, because of our involvement in the Hanger Hill Garden Estate (HHGE) wheelie-bin campaign. So, we felt more or less obliged to attend, despite our near-allergy.

The committee provides a small incentive for people to attend; some half-decent wine to help the time pass. That pleasant gesture only helped us to a limited extent.

The opening act was supposed to be our local MP, Rupa Haq, but her arrival was delayed, so the opening act instead was a local copper explaining crime (or lack thereof) in our neighbourhood. The unfortunate spokesperson wasn’t really “our main copper”, although he is part of the local police team, so he didn’t seem completely on top of HHGE issues.

After the quintessential AGM business of accepting accounts, nominating committee members, etc., eventually Rupa Haq arrived on the stump, making much of the fact that she is a local lass, but mostly being party parochial rather than geographically parochial. I suspect and hope that public speaking is not what Rupa does best.

Eventually the meeting got round to the wheelie-bin debate; arguably the biggest deal on the agenda. Many people wanted, understandably, to have their say and raise questions and issues. But basically, when it came down to the vote on whether people wanted the service road collection idea (the idea I had advocated and helped get the Council to agree to do, if the local people want it), the vast majority of people voted in favour of the idea. Hooray.

It had been a long 135 minutes in the community hall, but basically a successful meeting, from a rubbish point of view.

Janie and I won’t be putting up our hands to attend public meetings again in a hurry. But I shall certainly be putting up my hand for the amazing pasta Janie had prepared for us to eat when we got home; a venison and veal ragù that defies description beyond a big adjective; tremendous.

A Mini-Revolution in Hanger Hill To Avert Giant Wheelie-Bin Chaos, 20 March 2016

I was feeling quite cross after Janie and I were fobbed off last week when we got no joy when we phoned the Council and then were refused a reassessment on-line, ahead of the impending wheelie-bin regime here in Ealing.

The problem here is that our conservation guidelines for the Hanger Hill Garden Estate, quite rightly, do not permit bins at the front of the houses. But how terraced houses are supposed to bring giant wheelie bins to the front safely and hygienically is anybody’s guess.

I suspect that simply no-one has thought it through, as we have rear service roads here that should be able to do the job. After those unsatisfactory responses from the council’s regular channels last week, I decided to leaflet all the affected houses and e-mail same to the local big cheeses on Saturday.

As I went off to start my mini-revolution, Janie decided she needed an appropriately belligerent-looking picture of me. As I’m sporting one of my new Nicaraguan bandannas, she describes it as my “San-bin-ista look”.


Within 24 hours, I had received personal emails from the leader of the Council and from our local MP. The Director of Environmental Services has already been in touch asking for a meeting on site to discuss the sensible possibilities asap. Not bad on a Sunday.

If you want to see the note that kicked all of this off – here’s the very note, this is what I wrote: HHGE Wheelie Bin Chaos Prevention 18 March 2016 Version Sent

Meanwhile, a version of the above piece has gone down well on Facebook, with some friends preferring to describe the look as Wheelie-Bin Laden or perhaps Jeremy Cor-Bin rather than San-bin-o. Feel free to choose your own preferred name for the look. I’m more concerned about getting the right result. With so much progress in such a short time, I am quietly confident that common sense will prevail.