Saturday 7th October was an amazing day.
As is traditional, I delivered the fourth best speech of the day. Here’s (approximately) what I said.
Marriages, like births, signal new beginnings.
When Emily was born, one of my most vivid memories (apart from being useless in the delivery room) was collecting her and Jane from the hospital, driving them home, and wondering how good at parenting we were going to be. It felt a little overwhelming.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry too much, because despite my many shortcomings as a parent, Emily and I were both fortunate to have Jane in charge.
Today is another new beginning. I hope that Emily and Ben aren’t feeling too overwhelmed by it all!
I’m proud to call Emily my daughter. She has many, many excellent qualities.
One of these is her geekiness. Her love of science fiction, her Tardis themed 21st birthday cake and of all things Buffy for example. Her plays “wot she wrote” about being marooned in space, the perils of social media and her latest play, coming to a theatre near you soon, about the computing pioneer Ada Lovelace.
And even, yes even, Pokemon. (sigh) She shares this “interest” with Ben of course. I trust that this is a good thing? I still remember taking Emily and her sister to watch “Pokemon the Movie” at the cinema some years ago. It’s a morning of my life that I’ll *never* get back.
But I think the quality that stands out for me most is her determination. It was evident at an early age – her catchphrase as a small child was, of course, “My do it!”
This determination stayed with her throughout school, university and continues to serve her well today. Emily is not afraid to challenge the status quo and call things out when they’re wrong or an injustice is being committed. I hope that she continues to do this – it’s an incredible strength.
And what can I say about Ben?
Well, it’s been a genuine privilege to get to know him. Especially over this summer, when he lodged with us for a couple of months – while he was claiming to be a time-travelling gardener at Chatsworth House, no less. I understand that he was able to offer some good advice to the Duke and Duchess, even if the location of our lawnmower remained a permanent mystery to him throughout his stay.
Seriously though, it was good to have you staying with us and both Jane and I know that you and Emily will continue to make a great team together. We’ll both be there to offer our love and support along the way.
Thank you all for coming to take part in this special day.
I’d like to especially thank everyone who has helped to make this day possible and for your individual contributions of time and resources. It’s been great to meet your family and friends, Ben, as well as catching up with ours. It genuinely means a lot to Jane and me to see everyone here.
I have one duty left to perform. If you could all please stand for the toast …
Emily and Ben, I wish you both health and happiness for the future.
My toast is “To the Bride and Groom”.
This week (11-17 September 2017) is Lymphatic Cancer Awareness Week – and there’s lots you can do to get involved. In the UK, someone is diagnosed with lymphoma every 28 minutes. It’s the fifth most common cancer type, but one of the least well understood. The graphic shows five common symptoms of lymphoma. If you are worried, please make an appointment to talk to your doctor. I’m glad that I did three years ago and happy to still be here to ask others to do the same if they feel at all concerned.
A few photographs from today’s visit to Calke Abbey – the “un-stately home”, as the National Trust calls it.
I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable week at the Edinburgh Fringe. Unlike last year, we were fortunate enough not to encounter a bad show. However, the “star” system is clearly broken, as everyone’s literature only ever owns up to four (or occasionally, five) star reviews. For example, here’s a random sample that accompanied my gin and tonic at the Pleasance one evening.
So given that everything we saw almost certainly had a 4* or better review somewhere, I’m not going to play that game. Instead, everything gets a sentence or two. That seems fairer to me, as it doesn’t attempt to quantify something that is inherently subjective. In no particular order, here are my star-free reviews of everything we saw this year.
Shaken not Stirred – The Improvised James Bond Film
Coincidentally the first show we saw last year as well. Alexander Fox and Dom O’ Keefe with an hour of silliness – this year we saw A Quantum of Sausage. Good fun throughout.
Education, Education, Education
Set in a secondary school the morning after Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, bringing a whole new twist to the question “did you stay up for Portillo”? Brilliantly staged and performed by an ensemble cast. The Stage presented an award for the production at the end of the show we saw – definitely deserved. Hopefully audiences elsewhere in the country will get to see this excellent production too.
Henning Wehn – Westphalia is not an option
Proof (if any were needed) that the Germans really do have a sense of humour – especially after he enthusiastically encouraged us all to clap along to an old Hitler Youth song. “That’s how it starts”, he said …
Alexander Fox again, this time with a new solo show. It took a few minutes to get going, but the final 2/3rds was one of the funniest and most innovative shows I saw during the week.
Jane Upton’s bitter-sweet play about how memories of our grandparents formed in childhood affect us as we grow older, and what happens when we eventually lose them. Cleverly staged, with Phoebe Frances Brown providing an emotionally charged solo performance.
Showstopper! – The Improvised Musical
This is the third time I’ve seen this (twice at Fringe) and I’m still in awe of the sheer amount of hard work that clearly goes into making the concept work. It’s really, really funny too! This time the audience came up with a country pub setting for The Pint Before Christmas. Improvised musical numbers in the style of Rent and My Fair Lady were the highlights.
Adam Meggido and Sean McCann (both of Showstopper) hold a Shakespearean (and sundry other theatre styles) improvisation duel. Like Showstopper, it clearly takes a huge amount of effort to make it work as well as it does. A particularly creepy ‘poltergeist’ anecdote from an audience member helped make this year memorable.
Great British Mysteries?
Probably the strangest show I saw this year. Memorable because it was so unusual and funny, as well as being brilliantly performed by Will Close (Dr. Teddddy Tyrell) and Rose Robinson (Olive Bacon). If you’ve ever had to suffer in silence through pseudo-science tv shows, you’ll love this. “Evidence schmevidence”, as Olive Bacon would say. A great handout (and badge) at the end to remember the show by. I’m glad that the car park at Loch Ness will still allow an hour’s free parking, even though the monster has now been found.
Whose Line is It Anyway?
Clive Anderson, with Mike McShane, Colin Mochrie, Steve Frost, Tony Slattery and Kirsty Newton. Still as fresh as it was when it first appeared on Radio 4 back in the 80s. Improvised comedy at its best.
The only overtly political standup we saw. Matt happily took apart May, Corbyn, Farron, Sturgeon and Nuttall (remember him?) with equal vigour and humour. Naturally, his evisceration of Donald Trump was the highlight of the show. Happy!
Sara Pascoe – Lads Lads Lads
I’ve enjoyed her performances on television ever since her role in the ill-fated “Campus”. Her stand up material is delivered with great pace and timing. Sadly, I’m clearly a bad person as I really don’t like dogs.
Lucy Porter – Choose Your Battles
Another standup who deliberately avoided political topics this year and instead made me laugh at her “benign neglect” approach to parenting, wince at the thought of the extortionate cost of losing your electronic car keys and made me determined never to watch Coronation Street ever again.
Reduced Shakespeare Company – William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)
Great fun. The Tempest meets Richard III meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others. Sitting in the first few rows is dangerous – as water pistols *may* be involved …
Murder, she didn’t write: The improvised murder mystery
Similar format to Showstopper! but without the music. An entertaining hour of improvised comedy.
The fringe also helps to get you fit – I took 82,534 steps, climbed 267 floors and logged 714 active minutes over the course of the week. Even the weather was good. Food was generally found on the hoof, with two of the best meals of the week had at The Cellar Door and 56 North.
I’m looking forward to 2018.
I filmed a clear run on the B5023 from Duffield to Cowers Lane in March. Today I managed a clear run from Cowers Lane to Middleton via Wirksworth. The weather was much better and the sky looks amazing. The video follows, but for those of you who are interested, this is what Croots Farm Shop on the route I filmed in March has on offer this week …
Gnu did his bit for Derbyshire tourism by filming along the A57 Snake Pass last weekend. It’s beautiful. This is the stretch from the turning for the Fairholmes Visitor Centre near Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop. I must have been lucky – no sign of another vehicle in front or behind me (on my side of the road) for almost the entire 18 minutes or so it took to drive. I haven’t been along this route in years, so I was sticking faithfully to 49mph the whole way, rather than pushing the 50mph limit. And it’s too pretty at this time of year to go any faster of course.
The video (and my complete 120 mile route) follow, but here are a few stills from the journey if you don’t have another 18 minutes to spare …
Visit us in Derbyshire soon, and blat carefully!
While heading South on the M40 tonight at 6pm, my car’s music player selected this Graham Parker track.
Only about an hour and thirty-four years too late. Oooh.
Josh Friedman’s recent article for Time, “It’s Okay to Be a Coward About Cancer“, is an interesting piece about the language that surrounds the disease. It’s written from the perspective of someone who has experienced cancer for himself. In it, he takes issue with the dominant interpretative repertoires (*) of “fighting” and “surviving” the disease.
When I was first diagnosed with MCL, I initially adopted positions from the “fighting” repertoire. After all, it seems the logical thing to do. No-one wants to die from cancer – and not many people want to die, ever! “Fighting” is how I perceived that the majority of people were talking about the disease, and I started to talk about it in that way too.
However, over time, I started to think of myself as being more of a survivor than fighter. This was because I found it difficult to declare war on my own body, regardless of its faults. But even that phase didn’t last long. These days, given my current non-treatment status, I feel more comfortable with the idea that I’m “living” with the condition rather than fighting or surviving it. My twitter and facebook biographies have reflected this progression over the last three years since my diagnosis.
While understanding and respecting Josh’s position, I think that rejecting the dominant fighting and surviving repertoires as cowardice undersells his own strength. Coming to terms with cancer by rejecting the culturally dominant discourses is definitely not cowardice. Taking a position against what the majority believe to be commonsense is always hard.
I wish him and all other cancer patients well, regardless of their approach to coming to terms with the disease and their own mortality. After all, in the words of Brian, “You are all individuals, you don’t need to follow anybody!”
(*) For those of you who aren’t discursive psychologists, interpretative repertoires provide commonsense and relatively coherent ways of talking about a topic, providing a basis for shared understandings to be reached. They are culturally and historically situated – for example, it is unlikely that a Victorian would have talked about cancer in the same way as a citizen of the 21st century.