Category Archives: Television

14 Moments in Life When We Are All Joey Tribbiani

Hello, dear reader.  How’s life been treating you?

We all spend a lot of time quoting stuff at each other, whether it’s religiously meaningful, historically significant or something funny from a film we like.  My generation are particularly prone to this, because we grew up watching Friends.  Although we all love a Phoebe weird-ism or a choice Chandler put down, the truth is that we tend to cope better with life when we view the world through Joey’s eyes.  That’s right: Joey.  The oversexed, jobbing actor with an insatiable appetite and a tendency to come across as a bit dim.  I’m not suggesting that we possess those characteristics ourselves – not all of them, anyway – but for some reason, Joey’s sweet and simple nature makes him the most quotable character in the whole show.  Don’t believe me?  Here are some of the most prevalent life moments when a Joey quotation is the only way to go:

1) When you try but fail to understand current trends.
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2) When you don’t understand what’s going on in your social circle.
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3) When you don’t understand what’s going on AT ALL.
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4) When you need a way to explain how much something means to you – maybe even food.
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5) When you need an excuse to be childish.
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6) When you need to express your fear of ageing.
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7) When YOU’RE CURVY, AND YOU LIKE IT.
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8) When something has come back into circulation that really, really shouldn’t have – I used this one the other day in reference to scrunchies coming back into fashion.  The horror.
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9) When you’re not even sorry
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10) When you’re lost.  (This one happens to me a lot.)

11) When you’re so angry that you don’t make a lot of sense.
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12) When you’re really trying to encourage your friend.
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13) When YOU know what you mean (even if no one else does).
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14) And of course, last but by no means least: when you’re flirting…sort of.
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Sex and the (Hammersmith and) City

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Hello, you brilliant human being!  How are things?  I can see you’ve caught the sun.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Sex and the City as much as the next twenty-something girl.  It’s funny, sometimes touching, and a few of the characters are actually quite loveable.  It’s excellent put-your-feet-up, do-we-have-any-junk-food, sod-it-let’s-have-a-duvet-day television.  Best of all, watching it with your best friend gives you ample opportunity to complain about the insane behaviour of the characters, the implausibility of the plot lines and the animal cruelty issue of Sarah Jessica Parker being forced to act.

Maybe New York is exactly like Sex and the City, and we London girls are missing out on a whole metropolitan man-fest.  I doubt it, though.  Anyway, Sex and the City just wouldn’t work on our side of the pond.  Here’s why:

1) Is It Actually Raining Men?
As far as I can tell, New York is having some kind of eligible bachelor epidemic, because the four main characters meet men all the time.  I mean they can barely get out of the front door in the morning before a charming chap with a cheeky grin comes along.  That would never work here.  Londoners are usually slightly cross-looking and in a tearing hurry; we don’t have time to stop and smile winningly at random strangers.  Also, we’re British, for God’s sake – we don’t smile at strangers.

2) “And just like that…”
Probably as a result of number 1), the main characters go through the same emotional roller-coaster in pretty much every episode: meet man, flirt, date, sleep together, discover unconquerable flaw, have internal struggle, break up with man, feel immediately ready to go back out there.  I know some Londoners do date like that, but in general our cycle seems to be much more meet man, try to flirt but end up saying something silly/embarrassing, show great surprise and glee when he gets in contact, go on dates, discover a slightly concerning flaw, think about it, carry on dating until an actual problem comes up, break up, feel sad/angry/hungry, get back out there several weeks later feeling insecure because of getting hurt and having put on weight from all the ice-cream.  Not good television, perhaps, but it’s how we do things on this side of the pond.

3) We Don’t Talk Like That
I realise that as a smart, city-slick show about a fast-paced lifestyle, it makes sense to script sharp and sassy dialogue for the main characters.  Here is my problem: London girls are totally capable of being witty and hilarious, of course, but a) not ALL THE TIME – we all have off days when all we can manage is a “nhuh?” and b) not when our friends are telling us about their emotional problems.

4) No one Would be Friends with Carrie
Which leads me neatly on to my next point – why are the other three friends with Carrie?  She is so busy trying to be funny that she never listens to her friends, and as a heroine she leads a spectacularly bad example of whining, hair-tossing and flirting in the most cringe-worthy manner.  If she were a London girl her friends would have taken her aside a long time ago and told her to stop being such a diva.  And for God’s sake, stop putting your cigarettes between your teeth, you look ridiculous.

5) We’re a Bit Busy, Really…
One thing I really do appreciate about the concept of Sex and the City is that it spins a typical female insecurity on its head to make women laugh, i.e. it portrays women comparing men in bed rather than the other way around.  Having said that, the four main characters always manage to get the conversation back to sex, even when one of them is having a major life event, like a career crisis or getting married.  I mean, REALLY.  Talking about sex that much is just too time-consuming, too awkward and too un-British to work over here.  When would we find time to talk about the weather and public transport, for goodness’ sake?

Have a beautiful Thursday.

You Are Not Sandra Dee (Thank Goodness)

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Good morning and welcome to a brand new week!  How the devil are you?

First and foremost, I would like to apologise for the gaps inbetween my blog posts recently.  My work schedule has prevented me from writing every day, for which I can only apologise and offer you a compensatory biscuit.  That being said, I have decided that from now on I will only be posting on weekdays, mainly so that you can go about your weekend unpestered by my ramblings.  Sound good?  Marvellous.

Today’s blog post is about the sneaking suspicion most girls have about themselves, which is (brace yourselves, ladies) that we don’t actually want to be the heroine of a story.  Oh, sure, we want the romance and the struggle and the ultimate happy ending, but we want to be allowed to get there on our terms.  We want to know that we can succeed without the necessary caveat of being beautiful, or the genetic good luck to have incredibly long, climbable hair.  The women we most admire and aspire to are the funny best friends and the sarcastic sidekicks – the characters who get the best lines and the best results.

Female characters who have an amusing foible or a deplorable flaw are, in film, literature and television, much more empathetic to modern women than their swooning, seductive counterparts.  The heroines of stories are willed by the reader or viewer to get the prescribed happy ending, because that’s what we are programmed to expect: give us a pretty girl in a pickle and we are desperate for her to find her bliss.  But show us a character who is less impeachably perfect and more honestly human, and that’s who we want to be.  We want to be the girl on the sideline who manages to win just by being herself.

Wouldn’t you rather be a Rizzo than a Sandy?  Nessa wins over Stacey, outright.  And deep down, don’t you think it would be fun to be more of a Karen than a Grace?  Why do you think movie writers keep inventing ‘kooky friend’ characters, anyway?  Because they know that those are the women we actually relate to.

These female characters are not perfect, but they are perfectly believable, which is definitely more important.  They might be bitchy, crazy or even prone to singing at high school for no reason, but there are worse things they could do.  (Geddit?)  These women are actually doing us all a favour by reminding us that you don’t have to be blonde, adorable or star-crossed in order to get what you want – you can (and should) just be yourself.

And why wouldn’t you be yourself, while we’re at it?  You’re brilliant!

Have a miraculous Monday.

What A Character!

Good morning, dear reader.  I hope you’re feeling well-rested today.

Yesterday was a very sad day for comedy fans everywhere: it brought news that Rik Mayall had died at the untimely age of 56.  My heart goes out to his family and friends, and although there is sadly nothing I personally can do to comfort them, I would like to pay a small, silly homage to Mayall in today’s blog post.

Performers like Mayall are a rare and wonderful breed: not only do they portray truly unique and memorable characters, but they do it with a very individual skill and energy. We love these characters because they are like and unlike us at the same time: we could never (for reasons of practicality, society and/or the law) be these characters, but something about them speaks to us very clearly.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Rik Mayall – Flashheart

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The bolshy, boisterous and alarmingly cavalier Casanova of the Blackadder series – a perfectly outrageous foil for Rowan Atkinson’s devastatingly sarcastic protagonist.  In Blackadder Goes Forth, Flashheart’s daring exploits, enjoyment of adventure and constant references to his sexual prowess represented everything that the British public secretly wanted their men in the air to be.  We would all like to think that we could be as dry and witty as Edmund Blackadder, but there can be no question that we would also love to have Flashheart’s eye-watering confidence and bravado.  After all, it does seem to pay off.

Dylan Moran – Bernard Black    

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Moran’s performance perfectly captures the absurdity and lovable awfulness of this very unique character.  On the surface of things, there is nothing particularly sympathetic about a man who drinks, smokes and tyrannises his way through life; this is a bookseller who cannot stand to sell books.  The reason we love this man so much is because he is acting out all of the ridiculous, socially unacceptable and vice-based behaviours that we all wish we could get away with.  Narcissistic, alcoholic, abusive and anti-social: oh, to be allowed to behave like Bernard Black!

Richard Ayoade – Maurice Moss

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Setting aside for a moment that Ayoade is just a freaking awesome human being who has far too much talent for one person, Moss is one of the nation’s favourite comedy characters because he is a naive genius: his intellect is superior, but his experience is lacking.  Moss reminds us that it is possible to be unbelievably clever and endearingly ignorant at the same time.  We tend not to want that trait for ourselves, but the uncomfortable fact is that we all do it from time to time – we just couldn’t function with the same levels of extremity that Moss does.  Who else could become embroiled in the dark underground world of street Countdown?

 Emma Chambers – Alice Tinker

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Loyal, loving and full of joy, Alice Tinker is also (as the other characters constantly point out) very, very stupid.  If we went around saying the kind of things she says in The Vicar of Dibley, none of us would be able to leave the house unsupervised, let alone get a job, make friends or find true love.  Yet despite all of her eccentric idiocy (“I haven’t been so excited since I won that Beauty Contest, d’you remember?”  “Yes.  We were playing Monopoly at the time, weren’t we Alice?”) the other characters genuinely love her.  Sadly but truly, we could never live in her fantasy world, but we love her because she gives us hope that even those of us with the most extreme deficiencies can be happy and be loved by others.

I’m not suggesting that you have any extreme deficiencies, obviously.  You’re flipping wonderful.  Have a spectacular Tuesday.

A Realistic Romance Recipe

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Hello and happy Wednesday!  You’re looking lovely today, if I may say so.

Not for the first time, my inspiration for a blog post has come from an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  If you’re not a fan, don’t worry – I’m only using a tiny snippet.  Two of the characters are discussing what it takes to make a relationship materialise, and one of them claims that chemistry is the key ingredient, and that “if you have chemistry, you only need one other thing: timing, but timing’s a bitch.”

Chemistry between two people is obviously very important in romantic situations, and timing is clearly essential (and also a bit of a bitch).  But relationships are very rarely that simple, and I think we need a few more bits and pieces to make the blasted things work:

Referees

As in people who provide references, not the football people.  I’m not suggesting that we turn the pursuit of a relationship into some kind of emotional job hunt, but it can be much easier to let your guard down with someone if a mutual friend will vouch for their behaviour.  Lots of people meet their significant others through friends or family, and I think that they start relationships with a very clear advantage.  If you meet someone in a bar and they make a great first impression then that’s lovely, but it’s a massive bonus if someone you trust can tell you for certain that this person has no criminal record, is good with kids and usually remembers to return phone calls.

Confidence

As Dexter says to Emma in One Day, “You’re gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this: confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.”  Confidence covers all sorts of things, including the belief that you are a lovable person, the ability to look (and more importantly feel) good in your own clothes, and the willingness to start a conversation.  You might have unbelievably strong chemistry with someone and the timing may be perfect, but if all you can do is mumble into your shoes then your would-be romance will go nowhere incredibly rapidly.

Communication

This one is the most difficult (especially for us Brits), and annoyingly it is also the most important.  Nothing will work between two people unless they communicate.  (I’m starting to feel uncomfortable even typing this bit, to be honest.)  We don’t like talking about our feelings, do we?  Oh, sure, over a drink with our friends or in a post-break up rant, absolutely.  But with the person we want to go out with?  Good heavens, no.  It can’t be done!  We’re supposed to tell each other where we stand, how we feel and make sure that no one is being led on or getting confused?  What a ridiculous notion.

Communication issues are the reason that Jane Austen novels are longer than two pages, why Bridget Jones takes so long to get Mark Darcy, and they make up the basic plot line of every rom-com film ever made.  If the characters told each other the truth earlier on in these stories, they would be happier much sooner.  Sure, the films would be rubbish and the books would be abysmal, but you are not a character in a story.  You’re a real person, and no one is going to write your happy ending unless you flipping get on with it.

Besides, you deserve to be happy.  You’re a legend.

Have a superb Wednesday.

The Upsides to Unfair Truths

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Good morning, and happy Thursday to you!  I hope you are feeling very well-rested today.

I’m a very lucky girl.  Yesterday I got to spend a sunny afternoon in a kids’ playground, chatting to my lovely mates and escorting my friend’s eighteen-month-old son on his (many, many – seriously, millions of) excursions down the climbing frame slide.  Apparently, some things are not made boring by relentless repetition.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we grown ups still found utter delight in something as simple as going down a slide?

I think that one of the reasons we don’t necessarily have the same capacity for joy as a toddler in a playground is that we know something the little ones don’t: life is full of hard truths.  Here are a few of the most annoying/inconvenient/unfair, each with a little optimistic upside to help us recapture some joy:

Television Shows End
I feel very sad for the people who watch Community, which I hear was cancelled recently.  It sucks to fall in love with a show, invest in the characters, get emotionally involved with the storyline and then discover that the big, bad L.A. producers don’t agree with you.  How very dare they.  The upside here is that new shows come out all the time: when Friends ended, nobody could have predicted that something as fun as How I Met Your Mother was on its way from the same brains.  So don’t panic, Community fans: you never know what’s around the corner (of the television executives’ board room table).

Justice is Unfair
Bad people hardly ever get what’s coming to them, terrible things happen to the loveliest people, and the theoretically just concept “freedom of speech” means that the BNP Youth are allowed to upload horrible campaign messages to YouTube.  We just can’t win.  the upside to this is that our instinctive “that’s not fair” reaction leads us to have interesting debates, learn lessons from bad situations and work out which horrible people to avoid in future.

Feelings Make No Sense
You can know what you love or hate about a person – their sense of humour, their attitude, their hair style – but you can never know exactly why you feel that way about them.  We fall in love with the least suitable suitors, and we cannot bring ourselves to fancy the people with the best emotional prospects.  The upside here is that the lack of logic makes love more exciting, romantic, weird and wonderful.  Wouldn’t it be horrible (albeit slightly more convenient) if a physical trait plus a personality characteristic automatically equalled love?  We’re not robots.

Life is Short
Scratch that: time is short.  I mean, it’s Thursday already; how did that happen?!  As we get older time seems to go by faster, and our to do lists get longer instead of shorter.  We forget to text people back, we miss birthday parties and there is always at least one household task that we’re just never going to get around to.  (Mine is hoovering the stairs.  It just isn’t going to happen.)  Here is our upside: the diem is ours to carpe.  Go on that holiday, take up that hobby and tell that person how you feel about them.  Go on, I dare you.

Wasps Exist
I can’t think of an upside to this one.  Sorry.  Wasps are just mean.

Have a brilliant Thursday.  I hope that this day goes down in your personal history as Unbelievably Delicious Dinner Day.

Tech: No Logic

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Good morning, you lovely thing.  How’s Tuesday treating you so far?

It’s a sleepy, chilled out kind of morning at Bag End.  (Bag End is what Ash and I named our flat, by the way.  We don’t actually live in a hobbit hole.  Which is kind of sad, actually.)  As I write this, my friend Rob is lounging around on the sofa in our living room.  He stayed over after a group of us went to the pub quiz last night.  Ash is lying in bed with her laptop, probably browsing Pinterest  and Facebook messaging people.  I am sitting at my desk (in pyjamas, but still – at least I’m sort-of vertical) talking to you, dear reader.

Bearing in mind that our flat is roughly the size of a shoe box, it seems bizarre to communicate with one another via social media, and yet a few moments ago I found myself offering Rob a cup of tea via Facebook.  It’s not even a laziness issue, because obviously I then had to stand up and make the cup of tea and take it to him, so why did I bother?

Using social media to talk to people who are in the same room (or teeny tiny flat) is one of the weirdest little bonuses of technology, and was parodied in an excellent episode of The IT Crowd called Friendface.  I have a few ideas as to why we behave in this strange and illogical manner:

  • Novelty value: we are still at a point where using social media unnecessarily makes us feel raffish, kooky and hilarious.  This is because we are all gleeful little children deep down, and that’s ok.
  • Illusion: social media and Skype allow us to talk to people all over the world, which is amazing.  When your friends have bogged off to far-flung countries, the technology makes it seem as though they could be right next to you, so using it when they actually are right next to you puts the whole thing on a level playing field.  Basically, it makes it easier to cope when the person you’re talking to actually is in Italy or what have you.
  • Posterity: we are the first generation who will be able to look back at their youth and see our entire lives documented, photographed, liked and retweeted.  Having real conversations is obviously an excellent thing, but we like to keep birthday cards, notes passed in lectures and other bits of memorabilia, don’t we?  We like having a record.

I’m not sure that mine and Rob’s little messaging interchange about a cup of tea will be my most prized memory aide in forty years, but it’s nice to have just the same.  I might go and have an actual conversation with him now.  Have a spectacular day.

Dull Young Things

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Good morning, dear reader!  How was your weekend?

Reality television is a double-edged tennis racket.  On the one hand, shows like Come Dine With Me are very entertaining, and you can get recipe ideas from them.  On the other hand, Made In Chelsea is an abomination before God and our eyeballs.

When we were first exposed to reality television, it was in the form of a socio-psychological experiment that had a few ethical grey areas, but was essentially an educational undertaking: the first series of Big Brother.  That show in particular has become hideously bloated into something that manages to be skull-crackingly boring and criminally immoral and a damning indictment on the state of television.  Almost an achievement, isn’t it?

The ones that worry me most are the geographically specific shows that follow a set of people around: Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex, and now We Are Watford, which makes me want to burn my home town to the ground, just to prevent the show from being filmed.  The participants of these shows have sold their social lives and rights to privacy.  They have allowed a producer to tell them how to conduct their love lives and friendships, and they have the conceit to believe that a soulless, fabricated version of their petty little lives is television-worthy.  The worst thing is that we watch, and we validate them.

In the 1920s, tabloid journalists and photographers made a huge fuss of a group of socialites and aristocrats, referred to as the Bright Young Things (or Bright Young People).  After the huge losses suffered in the First World War, the young people of London decided to take life into their own hands and really, loudly, raucously live it.

The difference between the Bright Young Things and the cretins on reality television is that the 1920s counterparts didn’t sell themselves to producers who then orchestrated their lives.  Bright Young Things is an excellent film (based on Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh) that tells us what we should have learned in over ninety years: other people’s lives are not supposed to be pursued by the media.

Besides, you’re flipping brilliant.  Your life is immensely fascinating and important, and living it takes up quite a lot of your time,  so why would you want to watch a bunch of morons leading their own lives badly?  People tell me that it amuses them and it’s a case of “it could be worse; I could be him/her”, but I don’t think that that’s enough to waste a whole hour of your life on once a week. Have an absolutely spiffing Monday.

Here We Go Again

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How are you today?  Love the bag, by the way.  Where did you get it from?

Tomorrow my flat mate Ash and I will be returning to Elstree to film our second episode of Pointless.  (For those of you who don’t watch the show, everyone records two shows because you get two chances to go through to the final.  Very generous of the producers, no?)  I am very excited about this, but also very nervous.  You’d think that having done it once before I would be able to swan into the green room and make myself right at home, chat chummily with the make-up lady, wave coquettishly at Alexander Armstrong and generally ooze confidence, charm and wit.  (Sounds exactly like something I’d do, doesn’t it?)

In reality, I will probably fall gracelessly into the studio, make no verbal sense until Ash has force fed me at least three of the complimentary green room coffees, have a sulk because I have’t done enough revision and generally panic about sounding like a moron in front of Alexander Armstrong, whom I absolutely adore.

The last time we went to Elstree Ash and I had a blast: the people were all really nice, the food was good and the experience as a whole was very interesting.  However, because we know what to expect I am hoping that Ash and I will both feel more confident the second time around.  This time I hope that I remember to tell Alexander Armstrong how much my brother and I enjoy his and Ben Miller’s RAF pilot sketches, and that I manage to do so without coming across as slightly weird.

Revision?  Yeah, I should probably do some of that…but I have The Armstrong and Miller Show boxset, so you know… priorities.

Have a glorious Wednesday!  May your professional interactions be productive and courteous.

Pointless Preparation

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Hello, dear reader!  How are you getting on?

I admit that I’m a control freak (although we prefer the term “relaxationally challenged”).  It probably explains why I like directing so much, and why I enjoyed being the social secretary of a drama society when I was at university.  I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and when.  Unfortunately I’m not very organised, so despite my best intentions I very rarely have a clue what on earth is going on.

This weekend is a perfect example.  I have to be in several different places over the course of a few days, and I have not yet figured out transport, timings or how much clothing to pack.  (While we’re at it, what the heck have I done with my suitcase?)  One of the places I have to be is a television studio in Elstree, because tomorrow Ash and I will finally be going on Pointless.

I am, if I may use the common parlance, pooing myself a bit.  I know that this brilliant opportunity has been on the cards for a while, but because there were so many dates that Ash and I couldn’t do I sort of convinced myself that it wasn’t really going to happen.  Except now it is.  Oh crap.  I mean, oh good.

In this situation the only control I have is over my last-minute revision.  I should be poring over a map of the world learning all the countries that border Germany, or finding lists of obscure films featuring Sandra Bullock.  I will probably do both of those things later.  This morning my plan is to write this blog, dye my roots and find my favourite nail varnish.  I have never been one for sensible prioritising (or being able to find suitcases, apparently).

I think that a lot of people have this problem: when we are worried about something, we deliberately under-prepare for it so that we can always claim “well, I didn’t try very hard” if we fail.  It’s a philosophy that got me a very mixed bag of GCSE results, but given that I am knocking on twenty-five I should probably have grown out of that approach by now.

It’s a bit late at this stage to do any serious learning, but I promise I will try.  It might be too late to change my personality and become sensible, well-prepared and knowledgeable, but at times like this we have to stay optimistic.  You never know what you can achieve if you try, even just a little bit.

Ash and I have to be at the studio appallingly early tomorrow, so I will update you lovely people on our progress when we’ve finished recording.  Wish us luck!

Have a fantastic Thursday.

P.S. Ash just called me to tell that the Piccadilly line is on fire.  This does not bode well…