Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Florist

I can't be the only person to have googled my own name. Surely everyone out there has found themselves alone at their terminal at work and has quickly typed in their name whilst furtively glancing around the office to make sure they aren't caught. Is there a Jon Norman Dot Com? Is there someone famous somewhere with the same name? Are they moaning about you again on an internet forum? I am so over that, honest!

I may have mentioned it in a previous post that there's a Jonathan Norman out there who was sent to prison after he was found guilty of planning to rape Steven Spielburg. Spookily there was also a John Norman whose love of cricket meant he recorded Garfield Sobers world famous six sixes in an over. And then there's me. The one who appears when you type in the words Jon Norman talkSPORT.

Several pages come up where my name is mentioned alongside my cricket reporting work. There's a couple of links to the talkSPORT unofficial page. There's even an interview with Steve Morgan, my former producer on Ian Wright's Drivetime Show where he jokily refers to me being his tea-boy. All of which I've seen in the past.

However the other day I had another look and found something quite unexpected. Something new that I hadn't come across before. Something very recent. Something by somebody I have known for a very long time.

It was a conversation on a lower league football clubs messageboard between four or five fans looking ahead to the weekend's game. A match to be reported on for talkSPORT by me. The game in question took place last month between Southend & Stockport County.

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As my old Uni friend Manky Jon is a lifelong Stockport fan I thought I'd tap him for some info in the build up to the game. And he duly obliged with an indepth guide to the team's fortunes, the players to look out for and even included some useful info about the club. The kind of info only a true fan knows. Or pretends to.

....."Michael Rose is a skilful fullback who has the ability to score some rude free kicks. He is also a keen horticulturist and has a chain of local florists"......

All good stuff and I took all this on board and went to the game fully prepared for any eventuality. I was slightly concerned that my Southend knowledge was lacking somewhat. If needed how would it be possible to compare the off field business affairs of the home players with that of their northern opponents? But I looked forward to using a couple of the snippets I'd been handed.

As it was the situation where I could have mentioned Michael Rose's entrepreunereal skills failed to materialise and it proved to be a faily uneventful 1-1 draw. Indeed it's unlikely the game will ever warrant anything more than a couple of lines in an end of season review. And it had started to slip from my mind when I stumbled upon this Stockport messageboard.

I was smiling throughout until I read the final line.

2. I may have given him a little bit - just a little tiny bit - of misinformation to see if he'll use it. Stuff like Michael Rose is a keen horticulturalist and owns a string of florists...

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Ha ha! Cheeky bastardo. It appears my trustworthy nature had been taken advantage of. Although thankfully I'd not made use of the falsehood it could so easily have happened. And with Manky Jon listening intently at work I could only imagine his reaction if I had done so. Payback my friend will be sweet.


But what to do about it? Part of me felt that I should actually be annoyed but most of me saw it in hilarious light. And I wracked my brains how I could get him back. I thought about pretending that my boss had picked me up on the fact and that I had been suspended. Then I thought about pretending a listener had written in to complain. But neither would work because Mank had listened to the game and knew I hadn't actually said it. So instead I emailed him this.


From: Jon Norman
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 5:07 PM
To: Jon Saunders

Hey mate, what was the name of the Stockport dude who owns a chain of florists? I've got a big bet with someone at work. But can't remember the name of the player.


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There was no response until I got into the work the next day when this was waiting for me.


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From: jonpsaunders@hotmail.comTo: mailto:jonno_norman@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 17:47:10


What, Michael Rose? I hope you didn't bet too much... it was actually a small bit of misinformation in order to mildly amuse myself and see if you'd read it out on air.


hahahahaha!!!!


(you now think I'm a cock, don't you?)

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Knowing Mank as I do (he is a cock) I was sure he'd been sweating on this a little bit. Unsure of my reaction. So I thought I'd try and drag it out a little more by pretending I'd not read his email properly.


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From: jonno_norman@hotmail.comTo: jonpsaunders@hotmail.com
Subject: RE:
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2008 10:41:24 +0000

Michael Rose that's it. Cheers dude! In a dash. Will send you a (very small) percentage of my (£100!) winnings when I get them. Cheerio!


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Fast forward a few hours and no reply. No text from Mank. Nothing. So I thought I'd add to the scenario with another follow up.
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From: jonno_norman@hotmail.comTo: jonpsaunders@hotmail.com
Subject: RE
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2008 12:01:24

Hey dude, just read your email properly. Are you serious? Were you joking with me? Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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By now he was either beside himself with worry, desperately trying to get £100 together to pay my betting debt or just out at lunch without a care in the world and with complete disregard for my long winded attempt to get him back somewhat.

The weekend came and went with still no reply. What a pussweed. And so this morning I sent one more email over to him.

From: Jon Norman
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 11:02 AM
To: Jon Saunders
Subject: RE:

Oi chieftain! Answer me! I know you're out there..............

and finally he replied.

From: jonpsaunders@hotmail.com
To: jonno_norman@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: RE:
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 12:40:56 +0000

hahaha

I suppose this makes me chief of the week, doesn't it?

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Not quite the groveling apology I was expecting. Nor the teary plea begging for forgiveness. But it'll do. And as for whether it made him Chief of the week - which was a weekly competition we held in our house in our second year of University. The person who acted out of turn would have their crime written up and posted on the living room wall. Well yes, yes it does. Funny though it is. I'll be sure to watch out next time I cover a Stockport County match. And at the rate they're going this season that might be next season if they make back to The Championship.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Mark always delivers

It's 62 days until I arrive in Kingston, Jamaica. And despite the slightly unnerving fact that Kingston 'boasts' over 1,500 murders every year I'm looking forward to my third cricket tour.

The Windies Tour takes in four different countries and promises to be as far removed from the tranquility of Hamilton & Napier as, no doubt, from next winter's tour to South Africa. It's one of the benefits of following cricket that you take in such differing cultures.

However I'm not sure I'll make it over to South Africa next winter. Funds will have to be directed towards more mundane expenses. A house for instance. And then there's The Ashes Tour 2010 to plan for......

But for now my attention is firmly locked on the six weeks set to be spent in Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago. My old Barmy Army travelling partners Mark, Danny and Nathan will once again be reunited. Although for the first couple of Tests it'll just be me and Mark and if I needed any further reason to look forward to spending some time with my old buddy I found it yesterday when he sent a catch-up email detailing a mishap he suffered whilst on postman duty in Germany.

.....Had an accident at work last week and tripped over a sewage grid that was sticking out. was going downhill at a fast rate as well and my hands were full with post. injured both hands (nothing broke - thank god) but am a bit helpless. should be back at work on thursday. am still a clumsy dickhead eh?......

Yes, yes you are my friend. And I can't wait to see you in action in February.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Chuck the Pope?

I went to see a musical in Chelsea on Saturday called 'Steel Pier'. It was performed by the 3rd year under graduates at Mountview which is the University that Fe is studying her own MA in Musical Theatre. The standard was exceptionally high. I didn't realise it was an amateur performance until the intermission. And there was a couple of stunning performances. And a couple of dud ones.

Like most people, there's usually nothing I like better than to rip into an act, performance or opinion that I do not abide with. It's one of those things in life that enables me to feel better about myself at the expense of someone else. All dressed up in an intellectual bubble that adds to the self-loving. And I'm careful to make sure the person or persons I am referring to are far enough away not to hear.

It's like the scene in 'True Romance' when the character played by Christian Slater insists his 'date' for the evening accompany him to a diner to eat pie and dissect the film they'd just watched. For this is exactly what I wanted to do following the musical. Head to a bar on the Kings Road, bunker down with a bottle of wine and go through the likes and dislikes with Fe of what we'd just seen.

But this enjoyment was marred by something that had happened at work on the Friday. As I watched a couple of the lead characters completely fail to take centre stage I realised I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. Here were two people who'd put their heart and soul, time and effort into a performance that was stunningly underwhelming.

Before I would have wrung my hands in mock frustration at his lack of stage presence, tutted inwardly at her limited acting range, exaggerated a yawn at his lacklustre singing, and wondered aloud what the professional future holds for two actors at the end of training that seems to have got them nowhere near the finished article.

But instead I felt sad. Sad for them and sad for myself. For I know what it's like to be publicly criticised, slammed and written off as rubbish. I know how it feels to put yourself out there and have your work ridiculed. To put yourself in the public eye and be voted off. And it's not nice.

Over the past few months I've been hosting my own quiz on talkSPORT radio. It's no big deal. Just a ten minute segment on the 'H&J Show' on the station every Tuesday afternoon. Aside from this I've been sent out to conduct interviews with various sports bods. Andy Murray, Courtney Walsh, Shane Warne and the rest.

I'd never considered my work to be award winning but I thought of it as worthy of the show. It adds texture to the finished product, throws in new voices, and adds to the freshness of the show. But it appears there are those out there who disagree.

For talkSPORT has its own unofficial forum page where listeners post their views about the show.

http://forum.talkforum.org/

For the most part it's all pretty negative stuff. Nobody seems to get away with having their character or ability condemned. Regular strand titles include 'name your worst five talkSPORT presenters', 'talkMISERY' or 'Danny Arsehole' where listeners slam the presenters. It's hardly high brow stuff and ultimately it leaves you wondering why they listen to a station they all seem to hate so much.

And on Friday my colleague Laurie alerted me to a new strand titled 'Chuck the Pope?' Which went like this.

Post subject: Chuck The Pope?

Nov 28th: 16:00

KD

"The assistant producer on H&J who is given air time to do Pope Quiz and an audience with the Pope, both of which add nothing to the show. Is it because he is Hawksbee's mate?"

FatBoy MFC

"pope quiz is shit"

KD

"Yes they build it up even with it's own music and he comes in and does a silly pointless quiz in an amateurish way, why? Is he Hawksbee's mate?"

2dans

"Is he a catholic? Do bears shit in the woods?"

4-4-2

"I think 'The Pope' is Jon Norman, a producer and, sometimes, a reporter at football and cricket."

Dmcmahon

"No quality control in general. Too much gets thru as another 5 minute filler which says to me that they struggle to do 5 days a week. "

Now I'm not going to go through everything that was said, point by point, in a bid to 'prove' them wrong. They're entitled to their opinion. And considering the level of hatred on this page it's no surprise my turn came round eventually. But it did provoke feelings in me that are difficult to deal with.

After a busy week I found myself relaxing at home and every now and again my mind would turn back to the comments on the page. I tried to brush them off but couldn't shake the angst that they'd created within me.

Speaking with a couple of colleagues at talkSPORT who'd experienced a similar thing it appears my reaction wasn't unusual. It's pretty unpleasant to have people you don't know agreeing that you are shit. Especially when you're still trying to make a name for yourself in the industry. But it made me realise that it's something that I'm just going to have to get used to. As will Fe who will be entering the public domain herself. Becoming prey to professional critics not just the amateur ones!

What is noticeable though is the way some presenters actively encourage such criticism. They appear to delight it. Some people in life have the need for a reaction, negative or otherwise, and when it's missing they do whatever they can to stir things up again.

Maybe this is the only way to deal with it. You can't let such comments affect your performance. You can't let it prevent you doing what you want to do. And I guess ultimately it gets to the point where it either defeats you or strengthens you. And maybe those that react with glee whenever something negative appears are the ones who've worked through this process and got the stage where they realise it doesn't matter what anyone thinks or says just as long as what they're thinking or saying. Is about you.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Loony Toons

Last night I fell asleep dreaming of Andy Johnson. No joke. I lay there in the dark imagining him running in on goal with the ball at his feet. I re-ran the sequence over and over and again until I dropped off. Blissful sleep awaited and a long pleasant daydream kept me snug on my rain soaked way to work in the morning. Before and after these hidden moments I found myself staring dreamily at the league tables. Needless to say I had derived much happiness from Fulham's 2-1 win over Newcastle.

Fe was also pleasantly surprised. This is the text conversation we had shortly after the final whistle.

Me: Hey babe, we won!
Fe: Wow!

I love it when she's enthusiastic but couldn't help notice how shocked she was. Gives you some idea of how highly she rates Fulham. Before I had left the house I'd shown her the league table which had us in 18th place. She peered at the screen, gave a warm sigh and an exclamation that made me realise she understood the plight we once again find ourselves in.

I still don't think she can quite understand why our family persist with Fulham. Like we have a choice. Since she landed in England Fulham have been flirting with, nay, having full sexual intercourse with the relegation zone. And Fe sees through the blind hope and tells me how it is. We're not very good and are unlikely to EVER be any good. So why not drop give up now and start supporting a good team. I've noticed how she perks up a little whenever Theo Walcott appears on the screen or another one of those 'young footballers with those good tricks'.

Although I argue that it's to be admired that we stick by a team that is always going to have to battle for each and every small success she's still not impressed. Rooting for the underdog is not something to be proud of it seems. It appears I'm starting to see a cultural difference between the English and the Kiwis.

But fast forward a couple of hours as I sat there watching Fulham drop deeper and deeper against Newcastle it crossed my mind she had a point. And after our opponents scored the off-side equaliser that had been coming since the resumption of the second half they had one too. And not for the first time I questioned when I would finally decide enough was enough. It was only the presence of a pensioner to my right that convinced me my body and heart could take many more years of this.

But in the end we won. And we all walked away talking excitedly about our position in the top ten. Looking forward to the Tottenham game and agreeing their luck was bound to come to an end sooner or later.

My luck on the other hand shows no signs of taking a dip for the downturn. Friday saw me sent off on talkSPORT reporting duty once again. This time to a 'street cricket' event in West London which involved the legendary West Indian cricketer Courtney Walsh. And also Devon Malcolm. Over 600 Test wickets between them. It was class. And the highlight was without doubt the six deliveries I faced off them both. I've attached a couple of photos. I've chosen the onces that make it look like I came close to getting bat onto ball. I'd have needed a slice of luck far greater than the one Fulham got at the end of last season to have connected with a single delivery. I was hopeless. They, anything but.

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And you can hear the interview. If you so wish on by visiting this site.

http://new.talksport.net/index.asp?id=104204&c=&t=

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Not a single 20/20 appearance between them

Well I didn't get to star in an advert with Shane Warne. Which was a real pity. I ended up being on standby. Effectively I came fifth out of four. Which was as frustrating as it was illogical. But any thoughts of self-pity were wiped from my mind this week as I got to meet another true legend. Mr Ian Botham.

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And as for tomorrow? I'm off to interview the highest wicket taker in West Indian cricket history. Mr Courtney Walsh. My job is pretty cool at times.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The name's Bond

The curtain opens on an open-planned office at a radio station in London. It has just gone 2 o'clock and autumnal sunlight is streaming through tatty blue blinds. An assortment of producers, news-readers and researchers are at work. The post lunch lull where digestion takes priority over productivity is in full swing when.......

*Phone rings*

It's an unfamiliar mobile number so I answer it.

Me: Hello
Voice: Hello. Is this Jonathan Norman?
Me: Yes
Voice: This is Roger Moore. Did you just try and call me?
Me: (thinking: Now this is a surreal moment in my life) Um, yeah!
Roger Moore: Sorry about that. The woman at the hotel reception didn't put the call through on time. Do you want to call again?
Me: Yeah!

Roger Moore hangs up.

Me: (to the office) Roger Moore just called me. How strange.

So close yet so VBloody far........

From: Mavreen Brown - Mustard [mailto:mbrown@*******.com]
Sent: 21 October 2008 10:11
To: Jonathan Norman
Subject: VB advert - Standby.

Good Morning Jon,

My colleague Nick asked me to get in touch regarding the VB advert. I’m afraid that you didn’t make the initial group of four that we were casting for, however the director was very happy with your audition and asked for us to hold you on standby whilst they look into the possibility of a 5th member. I know this may not be ideal but was wondering if you were ok with this situation?

If you could keep the following dates on a pencil it would be much appreciated……

Mon 27th – 1pm onwards: Wardrobe Call
Thur 30th-Fri 31st: Shoot Dates
Wed 29th & Saturday 1st Nov: May need to film a few pick up shots.

We hope to be able to clarify the situation soon. Please do let us know that you received this email well and are available on the dates we have asked you to pencil?

Kind regards,

Mavreen

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Bowled Shane............

My job has many perks and one of them happened today when I was sent out to interview Shane Warne. He was in town to promote his new book 'Shane Warne's Century'. And for those of you who are interested you can hear the interview here.

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Back to black

I learnt something new today. Something that would have become apparent long ago if I'd given it much thought. And that is that powercuts are boring. Tedious things they really are.

It was dusk when I found myself walking down the hallway towards my front door. The security lights were already on and I was looking forward to a relaxing evening as in the previous 24 hours I'd had my senses battered by Batman at the Imax, my nerves jangled by a meeting and interview with Shane Warne and my self loudly berated by workmates after I mistakenly sent a 140MB file to everyone in the building - which led to the collapse of my company's entire email. Oops.

The last thing I needed was to be plunged into darkness as I pulled out my keys and attempted to get into my front door. Something had happened in the neighbourhood as my entire estate disappeared from view.

A quick trip to the shops followed to pick up some candles and I soon lay there on my sofa looking up at the ceiling wondering what the hell I could do. So I listlessly called a few mates and then my brother who was the first to remark 'ooh, how cool' when I told him there was a blackout in the Battersea area in town. I quickly disagreed. For what exactly is there to do when there's no electricity? No reading, TV, computer, tea-making opportunities, no shower or bath, no music no nothing. BORING!!!!!

Fast forward two hours and Fe had finally got back from uni after another knackering day. We popped out to get some food and then had crossed our fingers on the way back that power had been restored. No such luck. She started her MA two weeks ago and had homework to get in for the next day. You can't fault her dedication.

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And then without warning the electricity clicked back into gear. And we both jumped up and felt deliriously happy for about five minutes as we marvelled at all the things that were once again possible.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Barmy times

There's something very sad about spending a Friday evening in, alone, armed only with a £12 box of red wine and nothing on the tv to watch. What's a boy to do? That's the sad bit. I've spent the last hour or so going through my own 'blog and laughing at it. Well, someone's got to I suppose. It's a nice way to remember times that don't always spring readily to mind while all the time mentally correcting some of the grammar. It's great to remember great times as I have been tonight. New Zealand was a blast.

That's not to say things haven't been interesting back home. For it was only last Wednesday that I ducked out of work early and scampered across London to a secret location in the middle of town.

I'd received an invite by the Barmy Army to audition for a commercial. A commerical that would pay £1,000 for three days filming. All of which sounded pretty darn good on a number of levels.

Few clues have yet been given about who is behind it and the premise. But what I do know is that it is to involve a 'world famous cricketer' and that four lucky Barmy Army guys (or gals) would be selected to appear and who will be broadcast all over Oz in the build up to next years Ashes.

My knowledge of the audition process has grown in the past year or so thanks to Fe who often comes back with horror stories. But I was in a relaxed mood as I turned up at the studios near Centre Point. I sat down next to a few other non-plussed England cricket fans before having photos taken and signing a couple of forms.

And before you know it I was standing in front of a camera singing Barmy Army songs and punching the air, all the while waving a 'St George' flag and wearing an orange wig. The songs of choice were 'The Australian National Anthem' & 'The Aussies Love the English'. All delivered with aplomb.

It all lasted five minutes before we were thanked for our time and allowed to leave the building.

In all there must have been between 20 and 25 people who turned up to try their luck. And with four positions up for grabs it's anyone's guess whether I'll be one of the lucky ones. We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Red sky at night

From our doorstep on the third floor of our Battersea estate you can see the delightful Crown pub to the left where local chieftains hang about outside spitting and doing drug deals.

To the front is usual estate action. Kids running about on the corrugated iron topped garages, rubbish building up at the base of a streetlamp, CCTV cameras pointed at the parked cars below us.

To the right, during the winter when the trees are bare, you can make out the tip of the House of Parliament and the Millenium Wheel. Did I mentioned I have an 0207 dialling code? Anyway. It's not a view that would lead you to gasp for breath. Neither good nor bad nor remarkable in any way.

But cast your eyes to the heavens and it's a different story. Close enough to see the flight path above but far enough from the sounds the planes make for it to be a nuisance the sky is often dissected by jet trails and spiralled cloud patterns. When the sun goes down it's often quite beautiful.

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Friday, 26 September 2008

Bestiv.all good things must come to an end

Bestival 2008 was my last ever festival. It was at approximately 7am on the Saturday morning that I realised I’d had enough. That the years of knocking down fences, traipsing through mud, starving myself to avoid using the toilets, choosing to drink strawberry cider, £200 to camp in a field, flat batteries with no mobile signal, destroyed tents, damaged bodies, burnt out brains and lost souls had come to an end.

And so, sadly, had the evenings of Orbital, the nights with Darren Emerson, magical dawns at the stone circle, wristband swaps, Underworld, Kasabian, Smashing Pumpkins and acid for free, big belly laughs, grazing and lazing in the sun, enjoying the dirt, smoking and dancing and smiling, Beastie Boys, South London pals and the Reverend Al Green walking on stage in the middle of Glastonbury and screaming ‘Hello London!’ After thirteen years of festival action it was finally time to hang up the wellies.

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It was a combination of factors that led to my decision that first morning. I was alone, dehydrated, hungover and a little chilly. My only pair of trousers lay caked with mud on one side of my bed, my only jacket soaked heavy with rain on the other. My wallet was £100 lighter while the wind that hadn’t abated since we rocked up was buffeting my tent so badly I feared the roof would tear off while I lay there.

The rain that also hadn’t let up since I’d battled to put up my tent on the Friday was still pelting down. Although not as bad as Glasto’05 as this time my tent did its job and was holding up rather nicely despite severe misgivings I was at the very least dry. Unlike the evening before when heavy thunderstorms forced us to dive for cover on several occasions.

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We’d received ample warning that conditions were going to be ‘challenging’. For once the Met office had got it right as the dire weather forecasts leading up to the event proved more than correct. And the weather when we reached Southampton at 7am on the Friday didn’t augur well.

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And by the time we reached the campsite it was starting to rain heavily with the wind whipping up nicely. All of which made putting up our tents such a test of skill and dexterity that it made me think of nominating it as a new sport for the 2012 Olympics.

Thankfully Bestival is a friendly sort of place; one of the reasons we enjoyed ourselves so much the year before and a bunch of strangers helped us out. And after we’d put the tents up, had a walk around we went back to our base and started on the red wine I’d brought along. It was a nice moment and to mark the occasion the sun finally appeared which led to 20,000 people cheering up and down the campsite.

For the first time since our 5.30am wakeup call it was time to relax. We’d arrived, the weather looked good and we chilled out inside my four man tent watching the world go by and waiting for the others to arrive. As it was we ended up sitting inside our tent through the only two hours of sunshine that we’d see for the next 24.

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Luke and Tash joined us soon after and pissed on wine and rum we helped them put up their tents. And not a moment too soon as it started to tip it down once again. This time we were drunk and found the situation fairly amusing as we huddled under a lowered gazebo. All the gazebos had had their legs shortened. The reason for this was the nightly high winds; which had deposited them all over the field. One girl we overheard said that hers had been blown off in the night and they hadn’t been able to find it. Which gives some idea of the strength of the wind hitting the Isle of Wight that weekend.

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Taking advantage of a clear spell we left Luke and Tash to arrange their stuff before wandering back into the main area with plans to meet up later that evening. We didn’t see them, or anyone else, until 6pm the following evening.

What we did see a lot of was pissing rain and despite being veterans of hard time moments at festivals after a couple of hours of extreme soaking (another possibility for 2012) all three of us hit the wall.

While waiting for Richard to come back from the toilets it started hammering it down. And as we had no shelter we all got drenched. It was dark, cold and as we made our way to the Big Top our moods worsened and a severe sense of humour failure was experienced.

Once in the shelter we all started shouting a lot about our lot. We were so fucked off we even considered going back to the tent. It was eight o’clock. We’d reached the tipping point and we all stood there in the gloom waiting for a band we’d never heard of to come on.

But instead of admitting the defeat that crossed all of our minds we dipped into our manbags and produced more rum and red wine. Abandoning our no smoking policies we purchased cigarettes and tucked into vodka jellies that a random was selling at the back of the tent.

The answer to the problem was alcohol and lots of it. We got slaughtered and spent the remainder of the evening staggering around, failing to find our mates, awaiting bands to appear on stage, getting drenched, eating overpriced food and cleaning Annabelle after she fell over in the mud. It was hardly a classic evening’s entertainment.

And so my moment arrived. After years of watching friends reach their own personal limits at festivals in 1998, 2005 and 2007 I hit mine the morning of the first day of Bestival 2008. The love affair was over.

But that’s not to say I didn’t have some good times throughout the remainder of the festival. Similar to Glasto 2005 things got easier as it went on. But if the major bands we had come to see weren’t playing on the Sunday night it’s likely I would have gone home a day early. But as it was we soldiered on.

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Saturday was another grim day with frequent showers. And most of it was spent looking at the time and wondering when it would be okay to start drinking again.

After a short stroll up to the bandstand and a tasty fishfinger sandwich (that isn’t an analogy) we succumbed to the inevitable and bought a couple of brews. Our mood started to rise and even another strong shower dampened our bodies but not our spirits as we sought shelter in nearby bushes.

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After spending the previous night sending and receiving several thousand unsuccessful texts that went along the lines of ‘where are you?’ ‘am by the big tent, second pole from the front’, ‘am near main stage, just to the left but can’t see you’ ‘see you by the entrance at 9’. We actually managed to meet up with Gabe, Oli, Joe, Rohan, Dave D and the others.

And I had a really enjoyable evening as unlike the one before several bands and dj’s were playing that we actually wanted to see with the highlight being The Nextmen in the Bollywood tent.

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But after the sleepless nights before and the early starts I was knackered and headed back to my tent just after midnight for a good ten-hour sleep. It was exactly what I needed and another example of why camping weekends are for me a thing of the past as while I write this ‘blog the thought of that sleep feels me with more than pleasure than nearly every other incident I’ve mentioned.

Sunday saw me awake in far better spirits than that of the morning before. Like the year previous I’d brought a huge double airbed & duvet and unlike Bestival 2007 I’d brought a four man tent (for one) rather than a two man tent (for two) which meant I could happily stretch out at every opportunity. Bountiful amounts of snack bars, fruit, hula hoops and bottled water meant I was more than happy nestled away in my corner of an ever increasingly muddy field.

Richard and Annabelle on the other hand were struggling. Stuck in a smaller tent than mine their opening flap was caked in dirt, they had a hole which meant a constant stream from one side of the tent to the other and their moods were worsened by the fact they were forced to blow up their airbed every night by mouth as it had a puncture and the airbed pump didn’t work. Happy days.

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The picture above wasn’t their tent but you get the idea. I don’t know what they were moaning about to be honest. It could have been a lot worse.

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By the time we got ourselves into gear it was approaching midday on the Sunday and once again we found ourselves trekking along to the bandstand area attracted by the taste and smell of the fishfinger sandwiches we’d tucked into the day before.

When we got there we bumped into Gabe, Oli and Dave D who was busy trying not to laugh at his girlfriend Megan who’s just fallen into the mud. It meant he had to leave us to go back to their tent so the five remaining chilled out in weather approaching acceptability. And as we relaxed in the sun we were given wristbands which granted us free gins at one of the tents.

Despite misgivings due to hangovers we ventured in and were greeted by the unusual sight of Sanjay of Eastenders fame simulating sex with a purple flamingo. I kid you not. It made for an interesting hour or so and while we couldn’t get a photo proving how far a man can fall we did get one of us posing inside a picture frame and also one of Sanjay.

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The weird thing about Sanjay is that when the group of us had been up to Edinburgh in 2004 he’d been there then as well. Strange.

Now that we had gin in our bellies and a text from Luke to meet up we were back on our way. We also had some bands to look forward to seeing. So with something approaching the festival spirit we headed off to the Mohito’s Bar for a catch up with the rest of the gang.

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After a few drinks and with the main acts of the night soon approaching those of us who hadn’t left met up to dance to the Freestylers and then onto the main stage for Underworld. For despite listening to their music for approaching fifteen years I’d never seen them live and it was a fitting end to the festival. I couldn’t wish to see a better band on my final foray.

Their set didn’t disappoint and after a couple more brews and a bit of food on the way back that was it for Bestival 2008. And as trying as it had been at times we had enough good memories to make it worthwhile. Thankfully Dicky was driving us back in the morning so we didn’t have a journey from hell awaiting us. And it was another early start before our drive back to London in glorious sunshine. Typical.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Edinburgh ‘Festival’

Conjure up an image of a festival in England and what should immediately spring to mind is a windswept field, moody musicians and their bad acoustics, plenty of mud and people desperately trying to convince themselves they’re having a good time (Bestival ‘blog coming soon!) If this is what makes a festival then Edinburgh should start looking into a name change for it couldn’t be more different than that.

It’s quite the most laid back festival going. Set against the backdrop of an idyllic historical city its crammed full of creative types, antiquated buildings and thousands of fringe theatre acts of interest. And there’s plenty of scope for some serious drinking.

The other huge difference between this festival experience and every other I’ve been to is that instead of waking up bleary eyed and dehydrated in a tent I did so in student digs. Instead of struggling in the morning to locate a mouldy old toilet roll before traipsing through swampland en route to catching hepatitis C on a toilet seat. This time I just pulled back my duvet, strolled down the centrally heated corridor and used freshly cleaned facilities shared by six people rather than thirty five thousand. It was quite pleasant.

But it couldn’t be a festival without rain and this was no difference. And by all accounts it had made more than a guest appearance in the weeks preceding our arrival. Several of the comedians used it as material for their shows as for the first two weeks of August it had pissed it down.

By the time we hit town a sighting of sunshine was being talked about as excitedly as any of the 2,000 acts on show. And that included Hans Teeuwen who may well be the long lost son of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ I met in Perth back in 2006.

Arriving just after midday on the Friday it seemed that those certain things that occur whenever I arrive in a country continued. Firstly, that it’s raining at the moment I disembark. And secondly, that Fulham choose this moment to beat Arsenal. And both occurred once again to spark reactions at separate ends of the emotional spectrum.

As we struggled with our luggage in the pissing rain I immediately regretted wearing my suede shoes with holes in the front, back and bottom. I think it was god’s way of telling me not to be a cheapskate and buy a new pair as within ten minutes they and my socks were drenched through and I was keeping an eye out for shoe shops rather than soaking up the Edinburgh atmosphere.

Thankfully it didn’t take long to walk to our digs as we’d booked rooms near the centre of town. Unlike last time there were to be no late night long drunken treks back for us just short ones.

Fe and I, Luke and Tash, Fe’s sister Lizzie, Calum and Bradford were in the same block which meant we had a floor to ourselves, with bathroom and kitchen facilities to share. It was like being a student again but with money in the bank, an inclination to shower and the intention to actually do something apart from getting trashed.

Thankfully for those amongst us unsure of this new world order the first event we were booked into combined the arts with the art of drinking. ‘Office Party’ takes audience participation to a whole new level. For without an audience there would be no office party.

The premise is that you turn up and are immediately split into different groups/departments within a fictitious company. Everyone is given a name tag and I was put in the ‘domestic services’ along with Fe and Lizzie. And we were almost immediately whisked away into nearby toilets to have a celebratory drink and a talk with our departmental head, Cath.

Being actively encouraged to drink alcohol throughout the show and the unusual start to proceedings immediately impressed me. But Fe was clearly petrified that Cath was actually going to get us to clean the toilets.

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After drinking shots by the urinals, we trooped out and me and Cath led a conga line around the hall before being joined by those in the other departments.

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All this was followed by several trips back to the bar in the auditorium that ‘Office Party’ is staged. While a live DJ, various stage acts, and ‘appearances’ by the various divisional heads and the boss of the company reminded everyone that they weren’t just at a normal run of the mill disco.

It lasted for a good two hours and was more than worth the £18 entrance fee. It featured nudity, limbo, fake puke and tribalism between groups that up to two hours previously had never come face to face.

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The spirit that those involved participated reminded me of School Disco during the late 90’s. And I believe ‘Office Party’ could go somewhere to replicating the success. As it draws on experiences everyone over the age of 21 can relate to, it allows attendees to have a big drink and a dance while also providing entertainment and a lot of fun.

And at the end of the show everyone is expected to stick around and continue dancing away and drinking at the bar. In fact even those who don’t attend the show can pop in and join the disco. I don’t want to ruin the surprises in the show but it matters not that I say this. Unless I go again it’s unlikely you’ll see this drunken fool anywhere near the stage.

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Nor will you see these crazy types strutting around on the dance floor.

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It was a fantastic evening. The perfect start to what would be one of my best festival experiences of all time.

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The remainder of the evening was spent at a local bar where we drank late into the evening. And my cousin Stuart learnt a valuable lesson after Calum went to get him a burger. In trusting Fe and Lizzie to pass it to him when it arrived he realised that these Kiwi girls aren’t the types to let free food pass them by.

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The next day Stuart had stopped moaning about losing half his burger to the two gannets and we all took the chance to watch ‘Pluck’ in action, have a look around the Golden Mile and visit the Scottish Museum for a view over the city.

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Several of us were nursing huge hangovers for the second day running. And because of our advancing years a couple even took the opportunity to go home for a nap. But for the hardcore amongst us the afternoon was spent sitting down and having a nice chat and taking a photo of Calum’s name in the floor of the Museum.

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That evening we went to see ‘The Time Step’ which featured our friend Marnie and the mother of our mate Sam, the award-winning actress Linda Marlowe. It was a fantastic play which boasted some superb one-liners, good intense acting and a neat twist along the way. And it ensured we could all say we’d witnessed a bit of culture during our stay.

Later that evening we went to see the American comic John Pinnette. I’d booked these tickets and so it was on my head if he turned out to be a bit of a turkey. But we were all in good spirits before he hit the stage. And his act didn’t give anyone any reason to complain. Another big boozy night soon followed.

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For Stuart there had been another painful lesson to learn. After being promised a sofa to sleep on back at our place he’d stayed on drinking with Luke, Tash and Lizzie. But on arriving back at ours in the early hours found out that Fe and I had stolen it from the living room to add more space to the single bed we were sharing. His pleas for a spare duvet fell on deaf ears and he spent the night on the kitchen floor covered only in a coat. That’s South London hospitality for you.

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For the rest of us, Sunday started much like any other with a headache, memory loss and a single confused eye open with a mind working overtime behind it trying to work out if an ass had been made of oneself the evening before.

Again the day was spent milling around the town centre and catching up on the football reports from Fulham’s 1-0 win over Arsenal.

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The sun was out and spirits were still high despite the effects of alcohol on our aging bodies and minds. For what better fill-up than a trip to see Pluck in action and their new show ‘The Titanic’ which plots the last moments of the band that sailed on the doomed ship. Sounds depressing? Anything but as it was given the Pluck treatment in front of a packed out crowd that lapped it up. It was magnificent stuff.

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Following this we had a couple of hours before the second comedy act I’d signed everyone up to. A strange sounding man by the name of Hans Teeuwen and his Underground Amsterdam Comedy Collective.

We headed to a nearby curry house that we’d visited in Edinburgh on our last visit back in 2004. We were running a bit late so had to wolf down the tasty hot food and hot step it to the theatre.

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Just in time for the evening’s entertainment and we joined the queue which was already filing into a small, blacked out venue which had us in a sweat moments after entering.

On the stage was a piano to one side and a single mic on the other. The rest of the stage was blacked out. And some upbeat Eurotrash pumped out of the speakers. It was all boding so well. And then he came on.

Offensive, physical, aggressive, overtly loud, childish, musical, extreme, uncomfortable, sweaty and did I mention offensive? Hans ticked every single fucking box. And split our group firmly down the middle.

For the likes of me, Luke and Bradford it was the best show we’d seen. For Fe and Lizzie it was most definitely the worst while Tash was somewhere in the middle finding some of it funny and amusing and some of it childish.

It was to be the talking point of the weekend as his act veered from one outrageous subject to another. Every seen a comedian touch on paedophilia one minute before embarking on a sexual encounter with God via a story about a disabled firefighter? I did mention it was a comedy show didn’t I? This is a guy worth seeing.

The last big night of the festival ended with me and Luke arguing on the dance floor about who would take the woman’s role as we ballroom danced our way round a tacky Edinburgh club. Thankfully there aren’t any photographs of that particular moment but embarrassingly I have to admit to succumbing. I obviously consoled myself with a spot of air guitar.

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And that was about it really. The Monday was probably one day too far for us all. With Stuart having gone home the day before and with Luke and Tash flying back that night the holiday was coming to an end. And after three days of hardcore drinking it was time to head back to London and normality. But with promises we’d return and do it all over again in the not too distant future. Edinburgh rocks. It really does.

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