27 December 2006

No One Does A Sale Like BHS & Woolies!

Forget DFS - you know that company who brag about how great their sales are but never both talking about the quality of their sofas – there are new kings in town! Everyone loves a sale, especially me. So as I'm hunting around for some bargains, I came across this rather sweet looking jewelry box in BHS that was in a sale from a different universe. Not to be out done I was in Woolies a few hours later and they came up with an even bigger 'discount'. I think I prefer Woolies' previous attempts at a sale.

25 December 2006

Please Clean Up All The Christmas Rubbish on TV

Sigh. Why am I paying >£100 to fund such rubbish on TV. Yes, Planet Earth was great but the quality of the comedy on the BBC is appalling. The writing on The Green Green Grass is dire, as too is the acting. At least David Jason saved some of the poor writing in OFAH by his acting. With the second lead male in TGGG being the original Kryten in Red Dwarf who failed to be recalled when the character was made permanent. More catchphrase comedy from Little Talented Britain this evening, preceded by the resurrected from the dead Vicar of Dibley. A wasted Christmas special a few years ago trying to make a clever point but failing finally killed the show off. Dragging their remains back to the screen tonight involves the Vicar being head of heals in love with a beautiful stranger. Hmmm. Isn't that the Christmas special from about 8 years ago? In addition, doesn't this make a mockery of the final show closing with an appeal to help people starving in Africa? The only plus side is that these three shows are not repeats.

24 December 2006

What Has Romania Ever Given Us?

Fear, pain and suffering. Now in return they get to come to the UK as part of the even bigger and better (or new and improved, either way they are both oxymorons) EU come January 1st. I refer of course, in no particular order, to Vlad Dracula, Michael Howard and The Cheeky Girls. Anne Widdecombe has tried to combine the first two ("there's something of the night about him")and lots of men have dreamed about combining the last two, probably in cream (I wonder if that includes Lembit Opik, current boyfriend of Cheeky Girl A?). You know, I actually like all three major exports from Romania (well, I tolerated one song from The Cheeky Girls) so I don't think that's a bad return. I wonder which Premiership team will be the first to bring in Romanians or Bulgarians now they won't need a work permit. My money's on Portsmouth or Reading. Oh yeah, Happy Christmas!

23 December 2006

No Sting In This Tale

As I'm sure you'll remember, I had my car broken into twice in the space of two months. The reason was the Sat Nav mount on the dashboard. The week of the second break in the Edinburgh Evening News reported it is the growth crime of 2006. As much as it pains me to say this, but Manchester Police seem to have the solution. For the past few weeks they have been running a sting operation by parking cars with Sat Navs left on display and waiting for opportunistic thieves to grab the bait. This has currently resulted in 11 people being arrested and one already going to gaol. As it is repeat offenders that commit the majority of these crimes, why is every other police force doing it – especially Lothian & Borders!

Who Makes Money Out Of Sandwich Shoppers?

Going shopping two days before Christmas - I must be mad! To be fair it was quite quiet in the nearby Asda, well about as busy as a normal Saturday if you ignore all the rollers (large gold cages) on the shop floor. I was standing at the sandwich chiller, waiting for my father when I noticed these mini bottles of Fanta. Only 250ml, obviously for people who think the extra 80mls is too much for them. Cans come in at 40 -60p, depending on where you get them from and these mini bottles are available in multi-packs on the shop floor for around £2. So how much are they? 69p each. That's £5.52 for 2 litres, the same two litres that are on sale for £1.14 in one bottle. Even the 500ml bottles are only 89p and they are extortionate themselves! Just because Asda has won The Grocer's Cheapest Supermarket award for the past seven years doesn't mean everything in the store is good value for money.

21 December 2006

What if We All Dressed The Same?

I announced a little while before the Christmas Party that I'd be wearing, for the first time ever, my white linen jacket. Lo and behold when the party comes around 9 out of the other 14 members of staff are also wearing the same white linen jacket! It was so embarrassing - ten people in the same outfit. There can only be one original though. Despite my jacket being passed around it managed to survive relatively unscathed. The rest of the night was quite fun, unfortunately my camera lost its charge by about 10.30pm so the really embarrassing pictures I usually haunt people with were never taken this year :-(

16 December 2006

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Every year, Edinburgh tries to out do itself by arranging a bigger Christmas event. This year we have the big wheel; the swingy chairs; the trampoline with guide wires; a huge German market and the ice rink. There are some great shots capturing the beauty of the city here but I'm most proud of my blade-level shots from just inside the ice-rink. As Irwin just said to me this even, having left Edinburgh a couple of years ago to work in Dublin, "Edinburgh is such a beautiful city isn't it?". Nobody disagreed.

15 December 2006

No Smiling at your Christmas Meal - By Order of the Management

We've just received an email: "Dear Guests, Thank you for booking your Christmas Party at Le Monde. We would like to take this opportunity to lay down a few ground rules. No fancy dress; no party hats; no poppers or indoor sparklers; no laughing and no smiling. Actually if you could keep the noise down as well, imagine you are in a library. Other than that have a great night, especially as we are overcharging you so much for a mass produced meal of rather unexceptional quality". Hah, that's where I've outsmarted them! £30 for pumpkin soup, turkey and a chocolate cake? I think not. I've order from the A La Carte menu and gone with Haggis and Clapshot parcel with Whisky sauce (£4.95); Lamb Rump with mustard mash and spicy lentil veg (12.95) and Sticky Toffee Pudding (£4.50) - All for less than £23! Even if I had of gone with the Duck Breast for £14.95 it still would have come in over a fiver cheaper than the mass produced Christmas menu. Now that's eating smart.

13 December 2006

Edinburgh introduces public umbrella buckets in Princes Street

Edinburgh have introduce new communal umbrella buckets in Princes Street for shoppers to leave their wet brollies in before stepping into shops. I know what you are thinking, they actually look like bins that just have half a dozen broken umbrellas stuffed in them as frustrated shoppers get blown about by the random gales. I on the other hand, prefer to think positively ;-)

11 December 2006

Advertising for foreigners - okay. Aliens? No way!

I've mentioned before that shops have started to advertise that they stock Polish brands - nothing wrong with that. Advertising on buses in Polish on websites to help you buy a place is a bit much. This morning I have noticed they are now running adverts for people from parallel universes, the ones where everything is a mirror image. You can see from the correctly assembled one on the left (as you look), the Magners is on the right and the message reads "The magic of a little ice". On the left there is tree with holes in the plastic so the light can shine through from the back to back it look like ice. The incorrectly assembled billboard is actually white during the day. It's only a night when the lights are on behind it and the sky is so dark that you can see through the plastic and read the reverse image. Some one needs sacking for managing but put up a huge advert backwards, not noticing that is entirely white.

6 December 2006

Dancing In The Moon Light

I think I've found the position in my new office for the perfect pictures. A huge moon is hanging low in the velvet blue sky and I've done my best to capture it. Unfortunately we are really facing the wrong way to catch the amazing Edinburgh sunsets but then again I suppose I'm here to work and not create art!

5 December 2006

The Best Birthday Present Ever!

Okay, there are still a few days left until my birthday but I've just received a present through the post and I am so grateful with my great friend who got it for me (take a bow Donald). Having heard me rave about a copy of Private Eye I bought for my flight down to London a few months ago (to see him), he went out and got me a subscription. I cannot tell you how good the journalism is in this magazine. Political, legal, business or even health - everything gets scrutinised with effort and intelligence. Of course there are some fantastic jokes and cartoons inside as well as some great satire. Highlights from this issue include Blair saying to Putin "We need a replacement for Trident" and Putin replying "Have you considered Sushi?" as well as the Christmas Special Gnome Mart Mail Order section offering Microwave Ping-Tones: "Fed up with the same old boring Ping when you M&S Individual Fish Pie is done? Download a whole host of new Ping-tones to liven up cooking. Includes Nokia Ring tone, X and Crazy Frog". Do yourself a favour, open your mind from the megalomaniac controlled daily papers and read something stimulating. On the other hand just turn to the back page and read the "Eye Need" section where people is desperate situations beg for help. The most contrasting two this issue are "Forces - Iraq / Veteran: £22k needed to clear debt ex-wife left! Help deeply appreciated" and a few inches further down "Beautiful student yearns for benefactor for sophisticated wardrobe".

Traditional Jenners Now Part Of Kinky House of Fraser

Yes, this is not new news. Nor is my recent attack at the misleading advertising from Jenners (now House of Fraser) or their obscene APR on their store card. No, this time is was the once marveled window displays at Jenners that has fallen into disrepute. Now I'm as kinky as anyone, but I draw the line at covering myself in plastic and half-suffocating myself for a thrill. It seems Jenners thinks this is a common pastime now and you'll want to look your best to take part.

26 November 2006

The Reason Why The Train System Is Dying

The rail network in this country is doomed. I have just received a letter from Network Rail...

23 November 2006

Is this the World's Messiest Office Desk? AKA Spot the Phone

The title says it all really. Is this the world's messiest office desk? My desk at home is bundled with stuff but a) at least it's in some sort of order and b) it's not my work desk right next to my boss! Another little game we can play here is find the phone. I swear to God there is a phone on this desk and this desk does belong to a salesman who is supposed to be on the phone all the time!

17 November 2006

All Smash, No Grab

Bastards. They did it again. It seems overnight someone has broken in to our car again, but this time taken nothing. Six weeks ago someone broke in and took everything of minor value, including £2 in silver change. This time the thief seems to have only been interested in the Sat Nav that they mistakenly believed would be in the car. I (stupidly) left the holder mounted on the dashboard which tipped them off. That said the Evening News have just run a story this week saying that there is a mini crime-wave in Edinburgh as regards stealing Sat Navs and they even look for suction marks on the windscreen. They came prepared and forced open the locked glove box (as you are not insured unless there are signs of forced entry including the glovebox) and left everything in it untouched. From now on I'm only going to keep gloves in there.

14 November 2006

Tick tick tick tick ... Kup-dom! A Different Type of Housing Boom!

Everyone in Edinburgh and indeed most of the UK acknowledges that there is a boom in the number of people coming over from Poland to live and work here. I have no problem with the influx of Polish people to Edinburgh and the UK in general, however the language of this country is English. There are now adverts appearing on buses in Polish (about buying houses). If you can't read that sign in English then you are not at the level to be working in this country. (Just to point out though, every Polish person I have met so far has exceptional English.) Maybe the sign has a secret code that is only meant to be read by Polish people. Now hold on, that sounds like something a crazy right wing nazi totalitarianism like David Blunkett or John Reid would say before locking up all foreigners. Have you noticed that of the last year Home Secretarys, Charles Clarke is the distinct odd man out. Blunkett is See No Evil, Clarke was supposed to be Hear No Evil and Reid is Speak No Evil (as no one can understand him). Instead of fitting in Charles Clarke had to end up being Hear All Evil, even stuff that wasn't there or plans being plotted by mice, his supersonic ears didn't care.

11 November 2006

Woolies - *THE* Place For Sale Bargains

Over the years Woolworths has had some great household items on sale. I don't care about the kids clothes, I get annoyed about Bratz and I worry about the intelligence of their staff. But without them I wouldn't have some of my favourite items. Most of the year they have 50% off sales on the kind of gadgets I like to buy. I doubt somehow that I will be wowed by the discount they have on these digital bathroom scales. The time and money gone into creating and printing a barker card (those big flappy thing that stick out from the shelf edge) and paying someone to place it on the shopfloor has to be more than the sale discount, surely!

4 November 2006

Woolies Staff Can't Read

Jasper Carrott used to do a great joke about the staff in Woolies. He says they never changed, were always bored, monotonous dis-interested staff. "Excuse me I've just put some anthrax in the pick and mix!". "Ohhhhh", the staff member replies despondently, "It's not my department". To this extent you fail to wonder why when living bowls arrive in store they leave them to die. These boxes contain round bowls with plants inside, called the Bottle Garden, that desperately need light. The box has four windows with perforated sides that say "Store Staff: Remove this panel on receipt so plants can get light. Also enables customers to see bottle garden". I know this because three of the four sides are still on all the boxes.

It's Christmas!!!! in Retail Land

Yes, Hallowe'en has only just passed and we are yet to celebrate Guy Fawkes's escapades on Bonfire Night. Yet all around everywhere is plastered with Christmas decorations. That said, Livingston's McArthurGlen actually looks quite nice (as it did last year too). This year they have white reindeer as their centrepiece, last year it was polar bears. Of course if all this excessive early festivities are starting to annoy you you could buy yourself an early advent calendar to cheer yourself up!

31 October 2006

Phill at Night is Very Distracting

The nights are drawing in and I'm standing out more and more. You see I have these rather wonder headphones from Jabra that I use to listen to my music from my phone (with 1gb storage card). The magical thing is that they are bluetooth enabled so no messy wires between my phone and my ears. The down side is Jabra have set the circles to flash blue, no doubt to draw attention to them. You can turn this off, but you have to do it everytime you turn them on. This evening I forgot and while waiting at the bus stop I saw the driver pull away starring not at the road but my flashing profile. Friday night I was asked by a 50 year old couple about them as I came home from work (via the pub)!

25 October 2006

Two Weeks Away From Bush Being Neutered

In two week's time, on Tuesday 7th November, Americans will go to the polls to vote in their Mid-Term Elections for the entire of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. With Dubya's approval rating at an all time low of below 40%, there is a very real possibility that the Republicans may lose one, if not both, of the houses. If that happens Dubya will become a lame duck, ready for the slaughter. A vote could be taken to withdraw troops immediately from Iraq or Afghanistan or even for an inquiry into the Iraq war to be called, the possibilities are almost endless!
The BBC has a very good blog from their various reporters tracking the progress as well as their microsite. The blog is worth a read, not least of all to find out that so far the two parties have spent over $1bn combined campaigning for these elections. That pails into insignificance when you then read that the 300 million people living in the US will spend just shy of $5bn kitting themselves out for All Hallows' Eve.

14 October 2006

This Isn't the Original Magners, It's a Poor Imitation!

Standing at the Pleasance Bar this year on the opening night I asked the bar man if they had any Magners. They had sponsored several venues in 2005 and they have four big adverts at Haymarket stating "Time dedicated to the Festival". The bar man replied, "er, no. We have Bulmers which is the same thing, just a different name". "Noooo!", I screamed. Magners is called 'Bulmers Original Irish Cider' only within Ireland. For 12 years the English Bulmers and Irish Bulmers were a partnership. That ended over fifty years ago. The 'Bulmers Original Cider' sold in the UK, notice the lack of the word 'Irish', is a nasty chemically tasting cider made by 'our friends' at Scottish & Newcastle (long story, ask Sean Olivier or Steve Lorriman about it one day). It's from the same makers of Strongbow and Scrumy Jack, both poor ciders (although Strongbow Sirrus is actually quite respectable). So when you see Tesco's finally selling Bulmers - don't buy it! It's not the original Magners it's just a cheap imitation. Likewise when you see adverts on the tube trying to push "the original" you will no longer be fooled. It's Magners everywhere on Earth, except in Ireland.

10 October 2006

Ice is Back with a Brand New Invention

What am I taking about? Ice. Ice. (Baby). We spent the weekend in London with some very good friends. As an enticement for me to visit him, Donald suggested we go to drink in the Ice Bar. It worked. I was down their like a flash. Saturday afternoon, £12 per head in cash, we were queueing up for the Absolut Icebar London. With a refill cocktail at £6, a soft cocktail at £3 and a replacement glass at £4, you could be forgiven for thinking I would be shocked by the costs (£48 for four of us to get in but we did get a free Absolut cocktail each). Be prepared to be shocked. It is the most impressive bar I've ever been in! I even resisted the gag of saying it was the coolest bar I've ever been in. Everything in the bar, except the menu; metal floor; projector & screen and of course Absolut Vodka, was made out of ice! The first page of pictures gives you a good feel for the place, now just imagine being there at a constant -5°ree;C. The second page of pictures however is not for the faint-hearted. You find Donald getting rather cosy with an ice bust; me getting my tongue stuck to the wall; Donald doing a damn good impersonation of the scary 'monk' from Da Vinci Code posters; me getting encased in an ice tomb and most importantly, me as chief warlock/priest presiding over my cult. If you are ever in London, make sure you experience it too.

9 October 2006

London In Irractic Pieces

Living out on the DLR in Limehouse is pretty cool. There is a nice waterside bar called Narrow Street that has apparently been purchased by Gordon Ramsay. They sell Indian wine in there and you know what, it's actually pretty good. Very reminiscent of a light Portugese wine. It tastes even better when the give you a second bottle free for messing up your food order! It must be nice living near the canal with barges drifting by through locks. Then again, maybe not. I wonder if you can spot the tourist in this picture? If only those gates could speak, they'd probably say 'why is there an Irish chain pub in the middle of China Town'? At least the ducks seem happy (and the Canadian Geese). Did you know there are only mallards in this picture? Behold, an honest representation of everything else going on in London.

8 October 2006

Two Dozen Doughnuts Not For My Caped Colleagues

What a guy I am! 24 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts bought for my coleagues back in Edinburgh, from Harrods, out of the kindness out of my heart. What's that Donald? I can't carry these on the plane in case I use them to take over the plane (will the huge sugar intake give me super human powers or can I force feed them to the pilot until he throws up?). Hmmm. Oh well, no doughnuts for my colleagues. You can't buy these north of Birmingham. I was impressed at the american company for having 'doughnuts' everywhere rather than 'do'nuts'. I did have one thought though. As you can see here, Donald is currently ordering and is tempted by their coffee sign above his head. Why not re-brand themselves Krispy Kreme Kafe? I think I'll write to their head-office and suggest that...

7 October 2006

Flying Pigs Spread Diseases And Shouldn't Be Fed.

We are all aware of the pig-eon aren't we? Otherwise known as the feather rat (otherwise known as the un-feathered pigeon). Most people, except for tourists and the mentally unstable (maybe they are one and the same), adhere to the mantra 'do not feed the pigeons'. I have however learnt that the council actually feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square to keep large numbers coming back. Why? The tourists like them. What the hell, I'll take a few shots of a naive young boy trying to do what Dick Dastardly and Muttley could never do; catch a few in flight a la The Matrix and finally so one of the earlier mentioned people letting one eat out his hand and sit on his head. If you are squeamish and afraid of disease then don't look at the pictures (that means you Eve Fraser).

6 October 2006

The Last Thing You Want To See Before Flying - A Coffin

What are Edinburgh Airport thinking? Three coffin lids in a row where people are sitting waiting to board a plane. It's enough to drive you to drink! Fortunately there is a Whetherspoons in the back of the shot. Damn it, I've spilled my drink on my shoes. Where can I get my shoes cleaned and polished in an airport...

5 October 2006

An Extra 10 - No 5% - off, Then 23% On!

Don't you just love sales in big fashionable department stores. Just like this one starting today in the Scottish Harrod's, Jenner's. Well it was until it was bought by the House of Fraser. Let me break down these figures for you. 50% off - well, the normal selling price is far from a bargain is it? An extra 10% for account card holders - good deal, no? No. You see, that is an extra 10% off the sale price, which is half of what it originally was (at best). So that is an extra 5% off the item for 'store card' holders. That phrase sends shivers down my spine. Surely the reputable House of Fraser wouldn't try to screw over their fashion friendly followers would they? Think again: 23.1% interest. How do the people behind this sleep at night? In large expensive beds *not* bought on credit cards no doubt.

2 October 2006

A Red Hot Sale, Like A Match - I Hope

You know when a match is struck and and the flames bursts into life around it? You could use that imagery as the L in 'sale' to symbolise that you have a red hot sale on. That's exactly what Ann Summers did in the window of their Princes Street store. At least I hope it was a match ... what else could it be?

20 September 2006

Sex Sells. As Does Humour.

I've just seen two billboard adverts this week that have really made me laugh. It seems some talented individuals have come into advertising and thought "hmm, we need to be creative to sell things". Before I get on to them I want to talk about an Edinburgh restaurant called Voujon. The very same Edinburgh restaurant stuck out in Newington that can afford to advertise across Edinburgh! They are a Bengali & Indian restaurant that has made a big splash by turning their non-city centre location into their advantage. The great advert they have running at the moment says "Our chef flies his spices in from Delhi. And you won't even travel to Newington". Clever. Back to sex and humour. The humour comes courtesy of Burger King's advert for their Whopper: "Eat like a king. Not a clown". Very funny and how the hell has no-one thought of this before in the past fifty years? After that I saw the first Pepsi Max advert. Before I go on I should explain that I much prefer Pepsi (and I have successfully done the blind taste test) and Pepsi Max is pretty good. Using secondary evidence I understand Coke Zero is nothing more that Diet Coke rebranded for men. It is apparently not Coke taste but with no sugar (as Pepsi Max is). That's that sorted then. First we have this one showing a rabbit on the left (at none) and the Playboy Bunny at Max. Not bad and I'm not sure if it really is sex selling. The next day I saw this one - a mouse at the bottom and a fox at max! Nothing short of outrageous!

UPDATED 6.9.24: I nearly crashed my car in laughter at this one! Sadly no picture yet but there was no picture on the scale, just a Pepsi Max can on the right side. One the left it just marked the bottom of the chart. In fact what it actually said was (paraphrasing): "Zero. adj. not any or none, e.g. zero taste". On the right it said "Max. adj. the most or all, e.g. max taste". Coke must be kicking themselves for picking such a easy target for a name.

16 September 2006

A Giant Mobile Makes Me Spend My Money

I like Almondvale and McArthur Glen, the two large shopping centres about to be joined together in Livingston. I think the thing that I like the most though is the huge glass dome, the water tumbler and the air-powered mobile above it. I could sit and watch it for hours. A huge self-cleaning plastic dome, similar to the Eden Project, will look pretty cool too to unify the two complexes.

10 September 2006

Glasgow Prefers Cava & Bubbles to Real Bubbly

I saw these two street performers entertaining children of all ages, myself included, with these huge bubbles. So much better than polluting the atmosphere with bad noise. A little while later I noticed this bar that specialises in "Tapas & Cava". No champagne here, not even going to pretend. We are quite happy with cava and fair play to them. You'd never see that in Edinburgh, so much so there was a bar called 'Champagne Charlies'. 'Cava Charlies' just wouldn't have worked though.

8 September 2006

Naked Women Are Banned For Tall People

I was in Luton Airport biding my time until my flight back to breathable air (Scotland). Wandering around WH Smiths I noticed that the soft core porn mags, Club and Men's World in this particular picture, are wrapped in white plastic so you can't see the back of women in underwear. That is quite responsible, especially as we don't want very tall boys looking at the back of women. Not getting any tittilation from that I dropped my gaze to a lower shelf, much more accessible for children of all heights. It's a good job that 'lad's mags' such as Loaded, FHM and Maxim don't go one further and show side-boobs or even fully-exposed breasts only covered by a little bit of hair or another girl's arm. Somebody please explain the thinking here, or lack of it. Don't make me agree with a Labour MP's private member's bill.

6 September 2006

Am I Drunk or is the Ground Slanted?

This can't be right. I'd have noticed this before. Does no one check a simple plumb line before erecting a lamppost? Maybe it's designed to reach the places other street lights can't reach, like under cars? [Incidentally there are no signs of an accident or anything to cause this to happen]

4 September 2006

London Calling And You'll Get A 1970s Room

I'm down in London at the moment and the first thing I noticed is that it took the same time to fly from Edinburgh to "London" Luton as it did to disembark the airplane and wait 45 minutes for the bag machine to start working. The (far too) Easy Jet staff casually wandered over after 40 minutes to tell us they didn't have enough staff to unload the plane. Lovely. On arriving at my hotel I notice that I'm not staying in the one across the road from me (the Savoy or something). Instead I'm in a relatively modern looking hotel. Up in the lift and now the hall ways look a little bit dated and worn but I'm still optimistic. Ah. The room. Why is it hotels look best from the lobby, drop a bit in the hallways with their dodgy wallpaper and carpet and then turn into a bland 1970s basic design in the room? Still, it's all I need and it gives me a chance to test out the panoramic function on my new camera (aka Sony Ericcson K800i phone). Pretty cool. [BTW that's not me watching The Simpsons. I've long since retired that dead horse for something that is entertaining and actually funny. It just started as I was play with my little toy]

2 September 2006

The North to The South: We Care About You!

Not really, we were being sarcastic. A month ago, in a week when the South of England suffered under the hosepipe bans and nasty summer drought I went shopping back in Merseyside. First I went around Liverpool and saw this lovely feature (I know it is a photo from last year, my picture got ruined). Later that day I went to Southport and saw this lovely sight. Maybe I'll phone my friends back in Edinburgh and ask them to draw a bath just for the hell of it. Learn your lesson people who live in the South: More sunshine equals less H2O.

28 August 2006

The Edinburgh Festival Does Not Like Irony

Imagine if you will a country that bans smoking in enclosed spaces where people work. Imagine the biggest European comedy festival being held in that country's capital city and building a smoking shelter and enclosing it (and then opening the sides up to be legal). Imagine putting out several tables and chairs and ash trays so the short of breath smokers could then rest a while. Imagine then putting art around this area. Imagine if the art is a collection called 'Extinguished' which shows empty ashtrays from all over Scotland showing just how the ban is working. And imagine if right in front of the opening pictures there was a used ashtray on the table. Ed Byrne will confirm that that is indeed ironic. Sadly though I've just watched the final show of the 2006 Festival, a massive 11 months until it starts again :-(

27 August 2006

The Riot is Cancelled; All Hail King Phil!

As predicted as far back as last August, Phil Nichol has finally and deservedly won the top prize in comedy and the inaugural IF.comedies award for 2006. The riot is cancelled, justice has been done. Go see him in every show he is ever in; he's that damn good!

25 August 2006

If Phil Nichol Doesn't Win Tomorrow We Riot!

Tonight a great crowd saw Phil Nichol blow people away. The show was the same as two weeks ago except for one small story ... that was cut! That's right, this show missed one piece of the story that we heard a few weeks ago but was off the chart; better than five stars! Despite using over half a dozen microphones he explained to us how an argument with his girlfriend turned into a racist, causes world wars and more importantly left him naked! That's right, Phil Nichol is literally The Naked Racist. And for this show he has lots of naked friends and several (male sadly) 'members' of the audience join his naked party, myself included! Here's me, clothed again, covered in Phil Nichol's sweat and telling him once again he is the best thing in the Festival and once again he deserves the Perrier / IF Comedies Award and he'll get it tomorrow night if there's any justice in the world. If not we all riot, agreed? I wonder if he'll get his little guitar out for the awards show?

24 August 2006

Naboer (Next Door)

In 1999 Pål Sletaune rejected the chance to direct American Beauty as he thought the script wasn’t good enough. He was nominated by the trade press Variety way back in 1998 as one of the most exciting directors in the world. This is his third film, all three of which he has written and directed. There is a lot of talk that this is probably the greatest Norwegian film ever made. In my opinion it is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The only flaw in this film is that the idea was stolen from my mind – I’ve been slowly adding to a very similar film in my head for the past three years! Unfortunately I can’t tell you what my idea was about without spoiling a large part of this masterpiece. What I can tell you is this film is all about John, a guy who has just split up with his girlfriend and starts noticing his two sexy neighbours (naboer in Norwegian). After the opening fifteen minutes the film starts to get very freaky – it’s the type of film you want to go and see if you thought LA Confidential was too straight forward. The final hour creates all sorts of emotions running around your head, building up to the intense dread and fear over the final ten minutes. Some people have said the ending is explained too much (nowhere near like a Holywood film though) but I disagree; I think the little clues scare you when you realise things however there are plot twists right until the end. Do I feel ripped off that the film is only 77 minutes long? Absolutely not, this film is perfectly paced and anymore would be wasted and patronising. Five stars our of five and it sits up there alongside Toy Story, The Exorcist and Irreversible on my all time greats list.

23 August 2006

And The Nominations Are In For 2006!

The re-branded comedy awards, now the IF.Commedies, have just announced their shortlist. After the controversial decision to not give the award to Phil Nichol last year (hell, to not even nominate him was a crime), this year the expected winner is ... Phil Nichol! Phil wins his first nomination since his 2002 show Things I Like To Lick with his currently four star rated show, The Naked Racist. The show should be up to five stars when we re-watch it on Friday. The other, soon to be disappointed, nominees are Russell Howard - Wandering; David O'Doherty - Is My Name; Paul Sinha with Saint or Sinha? and We Are Klang in Klangbang. Russell was pretty good in his preview show so it's not a surprise to see him nominated once he was firing on all four cylinders. Likewise, this time for the Best Newcomer Award, Andrew Lawrence put in a very polished preview and I'm sure stepped up his performance after the opening week. Also up for this award are trio Fat Tongue; spoof folk duo God's Pottery; Josie Long and very widely praised all-round entertainer Russell Kane for his Theory of Pretension. I think Russell has to be the favourite to follow in Tim Minchin's footsteps. We'll find out on Saturday.

22 August 2006

Andrex Moist Toilet Paper Doesn't Make Your Day

On the back of the packet it says "Put a smile on your cheeks with Andrex ® lightly moistened toilet tissue to leave you fresher, cleaner and up for anything". I'm sorry what was that last promise? Maybe innocent people who suddenly feel "up for anything" will think, 'well, it's so clean now you could eat your dinner off it!'. Naughty people may re-read the title of this post and complete it: "...it makes your whole week".

20 August 2006

Demetri Martin – Dr. Earnest Parrot Presents

Three years ago Demetri blew Edinburgh away with his introspective show “If I…” (also the world’s shortest palindrome) and won the Perrier Award. The next year he followed up with a freaky story packed full of jokes about being trapped inside his notebook, “Spiralbound”. Last year he simply delivered “These Are Jokes” without bothering with a theme (although he was a bit over worked last year). His Comedy Central show was in three acts covering the three major areas of comedy: the first stand-up, the second prop comedy and the final was musical. This year’s show, “Dr. Earnest Parrot Presents”, has all three of these segments, as well as a cartoon animation piece and a little bit of shadow puppetry, all wrapped together with an introspective story about him developing a serious mental condition P.H.E.A.L.S. This is when a patient develops a “brain nook” outside his body where he spends a lot of his time. Don’t worry, it all makes sense in Demetri’s world! What is really happening is the same on-going battle he has with trying to be cool and happy. So, there you go. You know very pointless things about his show. What really matters is that he’s great. Anyone who gets on stage and says, “If I ever see an amputee being hung I’m just going to shout out letters”, deserves the title ‘genius’ in my eyes! Some people I know wasn’t blown away by last year’s show as there was no story or link, but they have just beamed about this year’s. The only downside this year is that his two week run was cut down to just over a week. Despite that (as he was the first tickets I booked for the past three years) he gets a full five stars and the recommendation to see him every years he plays.

12 August 2006

Phil Nichol – The Naked Racist

Last year I raved about Phil’s show “Nearly Gay”. This year I, and it seems Stage’s Award Committee, have raved about his acting ability as he is nominated for their Best Actor Award (again) for his performance in Talk Radio. So how does his third daily show stand up? Very similar to last year it’s a one hour story taking us through a large variety of dark places and meeting a variety of equally strange people. Again, the same as last year, Phil is sweating within twenty minutes as he’s already exerted twice the energy of a “normal” comic in a full show. We see how a simple fight with his girlfriend and a bit of very comical name calling can leave him running away from a group of Nazis intent on killing him. Any further detail would ruin some of the many surprises and delightful adventures along the way. So why is this review imminently going to end with only four stars? There was one fault with the show and it wasn’t Phil’s. The front row of the audience consisted of two stag parties (very silly mistake – do *not* sit in the front row unless you want to be the inadvertent star of the show) and a lot of the audience where not the type that should have been watching his show. They were either too old, no where near broadminded enough or didn’t know what things like “tea-bagging” are. Sadly this caused Phil to ask the audience on a few occasions to see if they were really in to it. Despite a positive reaction from several people, the show was cut short by just over ten minutes. It was a little bit disappointing but Phil really needs a crowd that he can energise before his big finale. That is why I’m going back to see him on his final Friday night when hopefully the people there will be there to see him rather than just because he has had five stars in newspapers and online. Even this shortened show with a half dead (age wise) crowd gets four stars, a testament to his raw energy and ability.

9 August 2006

"Sell Out" Means We Are Sold Out, Not the Performers

I've seen an advert for Robin Ince this year and it says on it "Sell Out 2005". I'm sorry? I saw him last year and there were about 13 people in a venue that holds 50. That got me to thinking. I've also seen "Total Sell Out 2005" on posters too. Does that mean that the first line means that they've just sold out one show out of twenty? I hope not otherwise it's the innocent public who've been sold up the river by the deceitful advertising con-men, I mean consultants. I'd really like to find out the official line here, I'm going to try to do it before the end of the Festival to protect my loyal readers.

7 August 2006

Tim Minchin – So Rock

Last year’s Perrier Newcomer Award Winner returns with a show who’s first song has the chorus “I am, so f***in’ rock”. Do you know what? He is. And a lot more. If you go to see Tim deliver quirky bits of stories or weak jokes in between his songs then don't bother – they are quite bad segues. If you go to see Tim for his eight or nine infectious and amusing songs and musical performance art then you'll be glad you paid £12 a head to see him. Tim is a very strange but likable cross between appearance of Robert Smith from The Cure and the manic-ness of Bobcat Goldthwaite. Musically he is far better than Bill Bailey and he can perform with his songs too rather than just sit there (not all songs though). One very popular song from last year was reprised, the very moral “Take Your Canvas Bags To The Super-Market”, this time with a stunning performance during it (that's all I'm saying). Four stars out of five and a 'must see' award – just don't forget your lighter.

Sarah Kendall

Two years ago Sarah was nominated for the Perrier Award (the first female to be nominated since Jenny Eclair won it in 1995 – Lily Savage doesn't count as a woman!). Last year she travelled and avoided the immediate pressure of a return show with all the due expectation. As she returns this year, was the wait worth it? Quite simply, no. The show was just an average run-of-the-mill stand up performance with only two big laughs, one five minutes from the beginning and the other six minutes from the end. In between was fifty minutes of mild smiling and a rare smirk. It was a pleasant hour of story telling from a likable flame-haired Australian, although like all performers she looks many times better on her poster than she does dressed down on stage. Three and a half stars out of five, not worth your time and money, unless you are really at a loose end and there are free tickets being handed out.

My Name is Rachel Corrie

Jim Field Smith, the very same one who shone last night with the rest of Dutch Elm Conservatoire, said to me after this show "Why would you bring a show from London's West End to Edinburgh?". Anyone who wants to see it will have seen it so there can only be one reason - money. Sadly this looks to be true. The play is an hour and a half monologue for which, we are told in advance, there is a strict no re-admittance policy. Ten minutes in and *all* of the half full audience is wondering what the hell that continual banging is (it was weightlifters in the gym). There was an incredible amount of noise outside the Assembly Rooms when we saw True West but we were not disturbed as the great acting by Phil Nichol and Tom Stade, especially the fear he instills, dragged us into their private world which nothing could distract us from. As you've probably already guessed, this play does not have great acting from the leading lady. In fact, it's quite atrocious acting. Yes, it was that bad and if Josephine Taylor wants to pull me up on that comment then I'm quite happy to do what Leonard Rossiter did and show here how it's done! [I'm not really comparing myself the great Mr Rossiter but my front door has less wood than Ms Taylor] Incidentally this was not the same actress who originally played in London and who the reviews on the poster are about (with a one-woman show then how can they use those reviews?), that actress was Megan Dodds. I did mention earlier that this is a 90 minute monologue so when your leading lady can't act (well, deliver lines is really what she is trying to do), then there is not much hope for the show. The real Rachel Corrie's diaries may make an interesting book but the spoken word version just doesn't work. If it can't suck you in even remotely after a third of the performance then it doesn't have much chance later on. And so, 30 minutes in, as everyone is looking around and not at the actress, we collect our things and walk out knowing that we have avoided losing another hour of our lives. Two stars out of five and that's just because a girl died in real life.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Smith?

So Mel Smith is going to stand up to the might of the Nazis and flout the Smoking Ban during his play then? I think not. You see, when it came down to it, he was just talking big before hand, made a great deal of publicity, and then sensibly obeyed the law rather than trying ruin the lively-hood of so many people who work for and with the Assembly Rooms. Don't get me wrong, I like Mel Smith as a comic and I love what his directing of the original Mr Bean movie (sequel out in March 2007); but trying to force his own cigar guzzling preference on to us under the guise of art - I don't think so. 'Winston Churchill smoked heavily so I should too when portraying him' is a rough paraphrase of one main argument of this and similar events claiming it's harming their shows. It's not my retort, but I like it so here goes. Did they really inject heroin in their arms during Trainspotting? Do they have sex in reality when you see it 'acted' out. Oops, there's that key work. They act. Pretend. Make-believe. This is ignoring the whole 'Hitler would have been proud' comment he made (did I mention he's staring in a play about Churchill that costs £15 a ticket? I think there is some subtle reference to it somewhere in something he said). So just who do you think you are kidding Mr Smith If you Old Scotland's done? Just as you though the hysteria had died down and Mel can hang out of the window to proclaim "victory", he gets slapped with a £50 for smoking indoors - hanging out of a window doesn't get you around the ban! Surely that means that standing outside and hanging your arm in is okay, as so many people do as they creep millimetres outside the door of a bar and let great plumes of smoke be sucked inside the building while they are technical outside. But hey, that's an issue for another day.

Is 5+1 Greater Than 4 Or Does 2 Surpass Them Both?

I have had the pleasure of testing Gillette's new Fusion razor for a few days before it becomes available to the public (Monday 7th August). A few weeks ago I was wandering down the road and happened to muse to myself "I wonder when Gillette are going to try to match or beat Wilkinson Sword's four blades?". A few weeks later this special pre-release sample come through my door (after I asked for it of course). My razor of choice is the Panasonic ES8163 which is part of their Linear Drive line of electric razors that oscillate at 13,000 rpm and do not slow down as the battery wears down. The last two razors I tried was the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo (the silly battery powered one that did absolutely nothing extra) and Wilkinson Sword's Quattro (I thought that was a type of car?). Having used it for several days now I have to say I'm quite impressed. The five blades definitely makes a difference in the number of strokes needed however the blades don't get as close as my Panasonic without shaving in the opposite direction to my hair growth (*the* classic shaving faux pas). The single blade on the back, designed for your sideburns or under the nose, is excellent! It works so well and gives you a really nice line by virtue of it being essentially a lose razor blade edge you can just score a centimetre down your face. It is a lot better than the pop-up trimmers on any electric razor. My biggest complaint is that the hair grows back quite sore as they are being cut at a harsh angle by the blade as I slowly move it; my Panasonic cuts so quick the hairs are a lot softer growing back. In short it has pushed me closer than I have ever been to switching back to a manual blade, however I think I'm going to stick with my extra special Panasonic and its brand new set of ultra-sharp cutters (you are supposed to change them every year but hat's not why I did it though, I broke one of mine!). How sharp are they? I cut myself the first time I used it - that's right, I cut myself with and electric razor and I'm not the only one with this killer machine.

6 August 2006

Newsrevue 2006

I was there two years ago when they became the world's longest running live comedy show. Do you think they'd still be going if they weren't any good? They sell out each year, they provide a fast paced and fully packed hour of sketches, satire and musical comedy. John Prescott gets a great deal of attention this year, as does the other key failures in Blair's crumbling government. ITV news is lampooned in a couple of brilliant ways as too are Channel 4. A much better venue than last year, bigger too, but less use of props or costumes changes. This should be on TV as there really has been a dearth of decent satirical sketch comedy since ... Spitting Image? Four stars out of five and a continuation of my on-going "see them every year" award.

Andrew Maxwell - Round Twilight

The post for this year's show says 'the best comic on the circuit - The Daily Telegraph'. Now while the Daily Torygraph maybe many things, it, like the other broadsheets, knows its art. So with very high hopes I went to see Andrew Maxwell. The phrase "don't believe the hype" springs to mind. Nobody is allowed to live on their reputation, every night you go out there you have to perform. This year's show from Andrew Maxwell is weak, self-indulgent and down right poor. A current trend amongst lesser comics who have a mild bit of TV coverage is not so much to name drop, but to deliberately write or set their stories in the TV studios. If Andrew really did make some political comments on Big Brother's (aka Why Bother's) magazine show then leave it be. Coming on stage and saying "I said the funniest thing six months ago, listen to me bore you for five minutes while I basically recount something that has already broadcast on a very crappy timeslot and nobody has watched". A few 'jokes' about saying the wrong things whilst stoned is the repertoire of the student, not a professional comic. So gutted was I by this performance I will give a warning for next year's show - avoid it until a respectable reviewer says he has made up for this joke of a show. Two stars out of five and my very first "Avoid at all costs" warning.

Now on to The Scotsman again. They really are becoming the bain of my life at the moment. Somehow, some nobody called Jay Richardson has just given this show a full five stars. Funny that, because one of the countries most respected comedy critics (his name escapes me for the moment) has just give him two out of five and said he was quite poor this year. Let's leave it open to the people to decide, oh, the current average if 3/5 with several 2 or lower reviews at edfringe.com. If I was paying £12 to see him I'd demand my money back.

Dutch Elm Conservatoire In Prison

Last year I wrote, having seen Dutch Elm Conservatoire only briefly during the very poor Perrier Award show, that I didn't think that they should have been nominated for the award. Unlike other people, notably Laura Solon and Jason Manford, it wasn't due to lack of ability or talent, I just felt they didn't fit in to the vague definition of the then Perrier Award. A few months ago Jim Field Smith, a shining star from DEC, sent me an email having read my comments here. After I got over the shock of Jim actually taking the time to email me and get a real feel of what people on the street were saying, rather than kissing up to Fleet Street hacks, we had a brief chat and I concluded with the following thoughts: "Improvisation and breaking the fourth wall seem key to differentiating between a play and a character or sketch show". Jim promised me I'd reconsider my thoughts about his group when I saw them this year for the full hour and I gladly informed him I already had tickets. The date was set and an invitation was even extended to hang around after to meet up (although other shows and the need to eat prevented that, we did meet up the next night). With all that said, it is finally time to get in to my actual review of DEC...

Excellent. Thoroughly enjoyable, very funny and a cert to be back up for the Perrier (now If Comedies) Award this year. The five males who make up DEC play all the parts of this connected comic story about prison and an attempt to escape. It's kind of reminiscent of The Goodies where the stories weren't great but that didn't matter because they just kept you laughing all along. It is definitely not a comedy play. If it was it would get two stars as the dialogue is unbelievable and plot (intentionally) bad. As a character comedy story it is great, from the macho gay warden to the 6' 7" black gangster Furious P, played by smallest member of their all white cast. There are shockingly offensive accents, clever and funny songs and some great political humour. Within the first five minutes they'd ad-libbed, within the first ten minutes they'd broken the fourth wall and during a time passage segment they chatted about the other shows worth seeing in this year's Festival. In short, I was wrong. Jim, you and the journalist who praised you and nominated you last year are right. Four stars out of five and only my third "must see" of this year's Festival. Jim told me the next night that this show is better than last year's one so it's bound to be in the running for the top award this year. In DEC related news, I believe they are in discussion to make a television series and a radio version of last year's hit show too. The only downside is that they are unlikely to be back here next year as a group :-(

[As a final aside, it seems tonight is the night we find out that The Scotsman newspaper employs talentless hacks who wouldn't know good entertainment if it came up and bit them in their arse (a body part they are more used to kissing). Quoting Fiona Shepherd who only gave DEC 2 stars, "[they] explore these elements [of a prison break] through the medium of musical theatre". What utter rubbish! This is character / sketch comedy at its best and just because it uses a couple of songs (Furious P's raps mostly) does not make it musical theatre. The next review has a very interesting story about The Scotsman's inability to judge a show too.]

5 August 2006

Jump

Not a lot of people know that this South Korean group's native name translates as "House of Pain". Okay, maybe not. What I do know for certain is that Jump where won of the stars of last year's Festival. Didn't catch them? No, neither did I. The good news for us is that this is exactly the same show as they put on last year. As I sat there in my poor seat, I started devolving (yes, that's a valid word here) back in to my childhood self. Within the first five minutes they has quickly established each person's character through the perfectly pitched use of slapstick and the universal language of physical comedy. A cross between Gamarjobat (excellent show last year, playing again this year) and Caesar Twins with a underlying basis of a wide variety of martial arts training. The show is set around a day in the life of a family of three generations of martial arts experts. The comedy is interspersed occasionally with a dance/practise session with a weapon (assuming you count their bodies as a weapon) which is equally as impressive as the Caesar Twins, some people (such as me) would argue more so. As it builds to its crescendo we see then perform truly amazing feats including running up a 12-15 foot vertical wall! A guaranteed seventy five minutes of hilarity and amazement for a child of any age. My first full five stars of the Festival - you'd be mad to miss it.

The Civilians - (I Am) Nobody's Lunch

During the "Shock and Awe" era, the group behind this show did hundreds of vox-pop interviews on everything from "How do you know what you know?" to "Can you believe the News or Governments?" and incorporating "Is Tom Cruise gay?". From the special introduction at the start of the play to explain a few things you get a really good feeling. That was disrupted in my case as there was an unattended bag left in the room and it caused all sorts of mayhem. For the cast that is, it's all part of their elaborately clever weaving of story, interviews and musical numbers. The New York Times describes it as "A vaudevillian romp through the anxious chatter of contemporary America" and who I am to argue with them. I'm Phill Gillespie as it happens and I can argue with who I like, however they have got it spot on - they only forgot to mention how many stars it gets. The answer, if you can believe what you read of course, is a thoroughly enjoyable and top rated five stars together with an endorsement from me for any intelligent thinker to go and enjoy it, it's worth every penny!

True West

Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard's story is brought to Edinburgh, but where will we find an actor to play alongside the very powerful Tom Stade.  But I thought Tom Stade is a stand-up comic? Yes he is, as too is the small part assigned to Dave Johns. So who's the other lead then? That'll be the omni-present Phil Nichol, winner of the Stage Best Actor Award 2005. After this he has an hour and a half before Talk Radio, then another hour and a half before his stand up show The Naked Racist. Phil plays the very quite brother to Tom's aggressive criminal elder brother. Both of the leads put in really strong performances but the biggest problem is with the script. About two-thirds of the way through the play the tone changes and all of a sudden there are laughs a plenty (coinciding with when Phil gets to let loose). I don't really know if it was necessary to build up such tension for the first half to be able to generate the concluding laughs but the change of focus for a while was a little distracting. That said, the venue has its left most wall exposed on to the noisy Rose Street and nobody heard the buskers or general festival raucous from outside after the first five minutes as you get sucked into their world very quickly. Good acting, a good story but just missing something to give it that extra star so it only gets three out of five. If you're a massive fan of Phil Nichol then go see it, otherwise watch him in Talk Radio to get a better value performance.

Mark Watson: I'm Worried I'm Starting to Hate Everyone

Mark Watson's full title of his show is I'm Worried That I'm Starting to Hate Almost Everyone in the World but that's just too long for my website. Mark's performance last year was awarded with a Perrier Newcomer nomination and if you recall I said of him "I have never seen a comic like him". I said that because they over-sold the venue and I never actually saw him, so second time lucky. The show was delayed due to problems with the mic although Mark never used it during the show, except to hang his coat on. Despite the elaborate title and set up about being mugged, the show boils down to six short stories about the six deadly sins (yes six, he combines Greed and Gluttony, both symbolised by a pig). Out of the six stories (and intro and wrap up) I was only really amused on three occasions and they were more clever gags than side-splitters. That's not to say Mark isn't entertaining, he is, he's just not one of the top performers but he's not a dud. Despite being very amiable I can only give him three stars out of five. The show isn't a must see, but if you see someone flyering that will give you a discount (so they can then use Total Sell Out 2006 on next year's advertising) then go see him, but I don't think you'll thank me if you've paid £10 each a head.

4 August 2006

Caesar Twins

Two pale, blond, short but muscle-bound athletes stand half naked at the front of the stage. Pierre (the one with the tattoo around his right arm) introduces himself, mostly to the ladies. His brother Pablo then takes the mike and does likewise. What we don't find out until a lot later is that four years ago Pablo fell 16 feet from the top of the moving Wheel of Death whilst performing for a circus in Germany and is lucky to be alive. He awoke from his coma after several days and was paralysed down his right side. Four and a half months later the twins open their first 'solo' show. The show is basically various ways of expressing their physical and gymnastic abilities whilst amusing, stunning and confusing the audience. Alongside the twins we have a semi naked female singer who is partially a contortionist (her shoulders only, calm down gentlemen) oft accompanied by a very soulful male saxophonist.

The show ranges from jumping to flipping, balancing to fighting, flying on cables to back-flipping into a small pool of water and a lot more. If you want a semi serious and always sexual (male and female participants) show then I would pick this over Jump. Make sure you turn up early to get a good central seat and be prepared to do a lot of clapping (not just because they are good, but the standard response is to applaud each feat much as you would laugh at a comic). Even at full price they are worth seeing, although you may not appreciate it fully during the performance as you will often be sitting their memorised and stunned. Four stars out of five and another "go see" badge awarded tonight.

Talk Radio

One of the brightest stars of last year's Festival combines with the director of Jerry Springer the Opera and the comic actor who won 2004's Perrier Award - Does it really need to advertise? Probably not but they get a review all the same. Talk Radio is a play written in the early 80s about a now common place shock jock, Barry Champlaine, played by the very energetic Phil Nichol (one of the co-producers). Phil's energy is one of the key ingredients to this show, as too is the quality of his co-stars: the manipulative station director (Mike McShane), his producer who tonight he is at war with (Stephen K. Amos) and the crazy drug fanatic kid Brent (Wil Adamsdale) who a lot of places are reporting steals the show (maybe).

The show is all about the final broadcast before they go national and the pressure, expectation and realisation of what his show, and more importantly himself, is really about. The play is very quick paced and with more than enough energy and variety to keep any easily-distracted viewer happy. When we saw the performance, right at the climax of the show, the most intense moment, someone in the audience started talking to his girlfriend (not I). In character, Phil really laid into him and despite it being improvised, no-one in the audience was sure whether he was off-script and yelling at this guy or simply delivering part of his key monologue. So convincingly in character was Phil Nichol that the audience member turned to his girlfriend *again*, probably to say something like, “didn't it feel like he was really shouting at me”. Phil returned back towards him and let the “pinhead” have it. Apparently the other producers and the cast had quite a heated discussion afterwards, some lining up on the “yeah, go off script if it feels right” and the others screaming out “don't abuse the audience – they won't come back”! How do I know this? I was chatting with Phil the next day and he was relieved to hear that we believed it was all scripted. Jim Lewis Smith (Dutch Elm Conservatoire) is starring with Mike McShane in Marlon Brando's Corset and he confirmed Mike was casually standing alongside Phil (from an actor's point of view rather than a producer).

Anyway, on to a conclusion. The show is pretty good and never bores you at any point. The callers to the radio programme are quite varied and I'm sure with about a week more performing behind him Phil will be back accepting another best actor awards (not bad for a stand up). Four stars out of five and the first “go see” badge awarded so far this year!

3 August 2006

Standing up and Falling Down by Ed Byrne

I've seen three *big* comedians perform on massive stages and on two occasions I was sorely disappointed. Last year I saw Omid Djalili perform in the Pleasance Grand (the sports hall) and I was thoroughly unimpressed. I saw Dara O'Brian perform in the Assembly Rooms' Ballroom in front of 1,000 people and I was shocked – I couldn't believe such an inherently funny man could pull off a bad show. I also saw Danny Bhoy in the same venue and I had little expectation for him, I just wanted to see what he was like, and low and behold he was very good! It's now the turn of Ed Byrne to see if he can make it balance at 2 good and 2 bad or just confirm the rumour that comic who make in the mainstream are no longer funny. Just by walking into the arena I was laughing my proverbial red socks off as we had been allowed into the venue by flashing used Russell Howard tickets! As we sat down the music that Ed has chosen to entertain us with was Richard Cheese's latest album, Dark Side of the Moon! Very positive starts.

Ed's whole show is vaguely themed around the Michael Douglas film Falling Down where he gets so frustrated with everything he takes his anger and stress out on everyone who frustrates him. This is one of the better shows I have seen in Edinburgh as it was pacey, the stories didn't drag on too long and where varied and I left with seven or eight really good jokes bouncing around my memory. The downsides where that he was never painfully funny but did make me leak salt water on a few occasions. He inevitably did a ten minute piece on music and I cringed when he then used the word ironic as one of his most famous pieces is ripping into Alanis Morrisette for her awful song and then correcting her to show what would be ironic. The only reason I squirmed because I got the feeling he's used up his entire life's allowance of that word and if he carries on using it he may come across as harking back to his stand up prime. I think Ed is the best we've seen so far although my companions did stress they though Russell Howard was better overall, as they conceded that Ed have more big laughs. A big performance for a big crowd but not a comic at his peak or in the flow – think 3½ stars out of 5 despite the name dropping and he's edging on the border of being reccomended at full price. Drop the price to £8 from £12 and he gets a full endorsement but I don't see that happening somehow...

Wandering by Russell Howard

Russell starts the show by announcing that the show is basically him wandering from one story or gag to another. Fair enough, I've been longing for a hungry comic who has something genuinely interesting to say. Looking back I think it was more than just wandering from story to story, I think he wandered around his experiences of life and did manage to construct a few decent comical stories from them. As the odd clever observation here and the random piece of shock there, there was only one really side splitting gag but that is one more that a lot of shows. He seemed to be just teetering on the edge of exploding into comic enlightenment but never quite managing it. the show was good and kept us entertained all the way through despite some stories sounding almost like reading a diary at times. I'm pretty sure that he'll be red hot next year if he carries on his improvement and he is probably one of the best at this year's festival - but that doesn't mean you get four stars from me! Russell can be happy with a well deserved 3.5 stars out of 5 and a promise to see him again next year; just missing out on a recommendation for this year though (unless you've seen all my actual favourites).

The Same ... But Different

This play apparently had Old Vic patron Kevin Spacey in stitches and came runner up in their writing competition so I figured I'd give it a spin. Stitches isn't quite the right word for me, more of 'pleasantly smiling'. There was only one big gag in the play and that was mostly due to the building up of one character and then have him completely swerve and make you wet yourself (sort of). The play is about a family with three fully grown sons and how they, and their father, cope with a variety of differing tests of their love lives. The writer Justin Timble also plays two parts in this play, the first one as the Scottish solider is quite good but I think his performance and the son who does not now what he wants (in fact, he wants the same... but different) is a bit too limited and lacking in depth. To be fair to him though, the other actor who played the young cock-sure Craig froze like a bunny in headlights everytime he didn't have a line to deliver – he seemed unable to interact when he wasn't the focus (and even then his dialogue was intentionally poor). Lizzie, the girlfriend of the un-sure brother added a great deal of depth and emotion and the relatively short scenes kept everyone's interest up. Overall it was a decent and amusing little play but nothing to write home about (but something to write on your blog about). Three stars out of five but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it at anywhere near full price.

2 August 2006

How to Butcher Your Loved Ones by Andrew Lawrence

Now here is someone who has been around for a while and understands what needs to be completed before you arrive in Edinburgh. Andrew Lawrence's show was, from my perspective, totally finished and pretty well timed. The other difference between this show and Michael McIntyre's is that I only left with one genuinely funny joke in my head. Let's go back to the beginning. Andrew starts the show claiming he has a problem with his windpipe and when he goes on stage it tightens and so sounds like a cross between Bobcat Goldthwait and Orville the Duck. The humour in his show is heavily reliant on laughing at performance, shock and impressive feats rather than bona fide jokes. Allow me to explain a little bit. On many occasions Andrew would throw around six adjectives in a row or reel off 45 second long sentences with such ludicrous content you can't help but giggle and sit wide-eyed in amazement. Now that might be a good form of entertainment but it's not the traditional stand up show, nor are his jokes very amusing. Most are incredibly poorly disguised and you can see the punchline coming, however when he does deliver them in his high pitched voice and leaps up in the air then you did still smile. The pair of women sitting next to me where the type that laughed at every instance of a full stop, no matter whether there was a joke there or not. I hate that behaviour and while if adds to an atmosphere I think it ruins my enjoyment – we are not in Jongleurs now, where everyone is slaughtered and is laughing for no reason, we've come to see an artist perform. Overall I'd have to give Andrew 3.5 out of 5 mostly for the detail in the act and his actual performance, but personally I wouldn't recommend nor will I watch him next year.

An Evening with Michael McIntyre

We kick off this year's festival with one of last year's Perrier Newcomer Nominees. The first thing to note is that this is listed as a preview show. My understanding of the preview shows is that all the material should be finished and you are simply honing your timing and maybe re-arranging some jokes based on audience feedback. I really can't stand it when performers come to Edinburgh and haven't actually finished writing their act. Sadly Michael McIntrye falls into this category as he spent a good 15 minutes just chatting with the audience and not delivering material. Having said that, the material he did have was very good and well worth listening to. His act was a series of stories and observations about a variety of thing, ranging from some subtle jokes about various forms of transport to intelligent wordplay regarding the alphabet (g for gnome). I left with five or six really excellent jokes buzzing around my head and enjoyed my opening to this year's festival but did feel a bit disappointed with the lost 15 minutes. If he fills them in quickly then he's definitely worth seeing although at £10/£11 a ticket then you have to be certain he's the one for you. The 2 for 1 deal on the first Sunday & Monday of the Festival (6th & 7th August) means that it's well worth catching this year's show although you'll probably struggle to get any tickets at this late date. Final rating: 3 out of 5 and flagged him to see again next year.  UPDATED:  I've heard he's actually spending the 15 minutes interacting with the audience which is very difficult to do if your venue is close to empty.  Probably worth more stars but I'm going to wait until next year to see him again.

1 August 2006

Time to go Back to the T-Shirt Factory

And so it begins.  I think I can put away my "I do all my own stunts" t-shirt and instead bring out my "I’m a foreign mute amputee" t-shirt. This t-shirt was designed last year and under the main title it elaborates “I don’t understand English, I can’t speak and I have no hands”. The conclusion reads “So don’t bother me with your flyers!”. Interesting when I posted this last year I received a large number of people hitting my website having Googled for the term 'amputee'. I'm sure what they were expecting to find, nor do I understand the comment posted on the original story... A little bit freaky. On the subject of flyering however, during Andrew Lawrence's show this year he asked one guy what he did and the guy replied quite honestly: "I flyer for you". Great moment.

30 July 2006

Sunshine & Jazz on a Rainy & Summer's Day

The Jazz & Blues Festival has an annual free Jazz on a Summer's Day party in Princes Street Gardens today and for the first time ever we decided to go down. Four hours of a variety of jazz musicians performing, from people charging £15 a ticket to see their shows to the combined Edinburgh School's Band. We went down with a picnic rug and a variety of clothes as one moment it was sweatily hot, the next the fear of rain. This year they gave out free Starbucks coffees from around the world and Muller's new luxury yoghurt, Amore, which was very tasty and very creamy. My advice for next year is to take folding chairs which, as you can see from these pictures, lots of people did this year. A lovely day out provided you remember to put suncream on!

29 July 2006

One Week Left – Can They Fix It In Time?

We wandered out today to the Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket. This is the part of the Jazz Festival where they transform the Grassmarket into New Orleans for the afternoon; fortunately it didn't rain otherwise we'd have been awash with poor taste jokes. It wasn't that great to be fair, they really need to close off the entire Grassmarket, road included, in order to provide enough space for all the visitors. If you want to see what I mean take a look here. Anyway, we wandered around one of our old stomping grounds we took a sneak peak at the Royal Mile as in seven days time it will be absolutely mobbed by tourists and performers and everyman and his dog. I was quite surprised to see that the Royal Mile is currently a building site! Most of the old cobbles have been replaced by tarmac – I hope they will be restored after the Festival. It's strange the way roadworks happen around the Royal Mile. They dig down and alter the foundations and then fill it all in temporarily for the Festival, dig it back up in September and then have to finish for Hogmanay! See for yourself and guess whether they can tidy it all up in the next seven days.

24 July 2006

The Edinburgh Evening News is Written By Boy Racers

Shocking revelation isn't it? That's the only way I could possibly explain today's lead story: "Overtaking ban plan for bypass solo motorists. LONE motorists face being banned from the fast lane of the city bypass under council plans to introduce car-sharing lanes." Where exactly can I find this "fast lane"? My understanding of the Highway Code, specifically section 238, is that you are to drive in the left hand lane at all times unless you are over-taking other drivers. There is no such thing as a slow land or fast lane and in fact that shows such total disregard for safety and the rules of the road, I was told my my driving instructor (who actually trains other driving instructors), that is you mention the "fast lane" you will fail your test instantly on the grounds of being un-safe. All this within a week of the dramatic revelation that its sister paper, The Scotsman, is in fact a tabloid and no longer a broadsheet.

23 July 2006

Ruining Wine by Excess Heat is Not a Lofty Idea

Hmmm, I think I'm safe now. Last week I was up in the loft after my Death Slide giving a good friend a tour (yes, of my loft). It was a very warm day, in fact we all go a little too red as we didn't have any suncream on (stupid people!). I read my thermometre and to my shock at waist level it was 34°ree;C in my loft; at head height it was over 38! This had potential dire consequences - I have *many* bottles of wine in my loft and I don't really want them to cook! We grabbed all the wine racks and bottles and brought them down as quickly as we good and stored them in a shielded cupboard that will be sitting at a constant 20°ree;C. Having had a look at the Wine Doctor's advice on the ideal temperature to store wine I was shocked to find it was between 10°ree;C and 13°ree;C. That is of course for laying down good wines for some time, all the wines I have a modern style wines that need to be drunk within five years of sale (really!). I opened the oldest bottle I had, a Hardy's Crest from 2002. It's a very nice three grape red that comes out the year after, so this one is at least three years old meaning I've had it for about a year and it's been on supermarket shelves for another two. A quick sniff of the cork to pretend I know what I'm doing and oh, cough, splutter, that cork stinks of vinegar! A quick taste of the wine and it's not right. I'm not a huge fan of red wine but even I can tell this is wrong. I decanted it rapidly to improve the taste and it was far more drinkable however going down it has a strange chemically taste. I think it's officially knackered and I'm petrified as to how many other wines I will lose. Neil came around the next day on a matter of urgency to help me open as many bottles as necessary. We tried a white wine which is apparently more susceptible to the heat. Everything is fine there. Fortunately I have another Hardy's Crest, this time from 2004. The cork smells okay which is a big relief and a quick taste later and yes, that's what it should taste like! The 2002 bottle hasn't been cooked it's has simply reacted with the cork that has contained a nasty fungus and it has produced 1,2,4-trichloroanisole. When will they ever learn and just just screw caps or even artificial corks :-( On the plus side my wine is safe, all I have to do now is drink it before the five year deadline!

19 July 2006

RBS Cancels Hogmanay; Suggests It Should Get a Loan Instead

The Royal Bank of Scotland, yes the same one recently hammered by BBC One's Panorama when it ran the story of *two* debt-related suicides of discrete RBS customers, has scrapped yet more of the free donations it gives away. This time the unlucky victim is the once-mighty, now weak enough to be blown over by a big bad wolf, Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party. RBS paid £300k each year to sponsor the event for the past six years, and less than one month after the organisers took the bold and unbelievably late decision to sell alcohol during the event, RBS pulls out. It was once mighty and had half a million revellers partying the night away but the past few years it has been little more than a damp squib. Only 100,000 tickets go out now and each year the area gets smaller and smaller. Two years ago they introduced an "admin charge" of £1.50 per "free" ticket and you had to go and collect the tickets - they weren't even posted out! I wonder how they are now going to cover their costs of £300,000 so 100,000 people can get free tickets? If only there was some around charging for the tickets themselves as they must stay free. Mind you, the cost of admin staff has shot up recently, I wouldn't be surprised if they had to raise the admin fee they "reluctantly" levy to I don't know, a fiver a head. Hmmm, that would mean there would be 50p per person spare, that's £50k - I've just had a brilliant money making idea! I'm off before Edinburgh Council beat me to it!

18 July 2006

Official - The Scotsman is a Tabloid, No Longer a Broadsheet!

I can exclusively reveal that, several months after switching to its more compact format, i.e. tabloid, The Scotsman newspaper has completed the transition to tabloid. On the front cover of today's paper it has run the story about George Muppet Bush and his ridiculous conversation with a live mike on and duly censored the word "shit". No shock there as you want to protect little boys from that sort of language when they go in their local newsagents to complete their under-age cigarette purchases and legally buy their soft core porn mags, e.g. Loaded and Maxim. Inside on page four it repeated the headline but kept the three asterisks. This means it thinks that the normal reader will be offended by the word 'shit' and/or too stupid to work out what 's***' actually means. About 14 years ago a talented writer by the name of Phillip Gillespie once wrote a comparison between broadsheets and tabloids. Why? Because his English teacher told him to. One of the key conclusions he came to was that the broadsheets respected their audience and did not patronise them. The Mirror in fact used the word "s***" when quoting someone yet inside The Guardian the happily quoted "pissed" in full in a normal piece related to the entertainment industry. Nobody flinched, no children broke out in a rash of copy cat incidents and no old ladies died of shock. I therefore give you conclusive proof that The Scotsman is now the Scottish equivalent of the Daily Mail or Express - quite far removed from the broadsheet that it once was.

17 July 2006

I Never Will Understand Humans Especially In The Summer...

This weekend I got slight sunburn by being out in the sun (and also being raised 100 feet plus in the air!), yet two of my colleagues were out of the UK on holiday. I also know of two other lots of people who have gone abroad to get lovely summer weather. Sorry did I type that right? During the hottest two months of the year in the UK, people leave the UK in search of warmer weather? Why not holiday in May and September when it is decidedly cooler and enjoy what good British summer weather we have? In fact more fool anyone heading to the south of Spain as it is hotter here than there! It is projected to hit 34°C in Liverpool tomorrow and then the same in Edinburgh on Wednesday - the highest the south of Spain is predicted to hit is a measly 27°C. A very famous Vulcan (you know, someone from the planet between Mercury and the Sun) once said "I never will understand humans" and I concur.

15 July 2006

Faster Than a Flying Monkey ... It's Daredevil Phill!

I've oft thought that alongside genius comes insanity. That could be the only explanation why a young member of Mensa (lapsed admittedly) would want to jump off a crane raised *over* 100 feet in the air. Ah, I've though of a better one! To raise £250 for the British Heart Foundation. Now for the short version: The organisers screwed up and never filled in the appropriate forms to let this take place in Princes Street so the moved it to Johnston Terrace. To make up for the fact JT goes uphill they will raise the crane even higher - ??? nobody asked them to make it even higher and I fail to see how that's making it up to anyone! We got the harnesses strapped around us and the guy fitting me said, "Have we got an extra-extra large?". He couldn't find one and so said, "Ah I'm sure you'll be fine". WTF! I want you to put *your* life on the fact that I'm certain to be okay! The group before me came down from the wobbly basket and there was a girl still in there - she just couldn't jump from the basket. We went up and a very brave guy called James wanted to go first. I jump in after him and grabbed the next spot. As we were hiked up the basket toppled badly over on our side, not surprising as there were five of us on the right and only one instructor on the left. After that scare we were up in the air and give the in-depth training, "Walk near the ledge, crouch down and then jump". Gulp. I get as low as possible as I'm quite tall, everyone else had to stand on tip-toes to get hooked up to the wire. James went flying down first and all of the sudden it's my turn to step forward. Weeeeeeeeeeeee! This is cool and not as adrenaline inducing as I first feared. Grab back on to the rope as I'm about to hit two guys who are going to try to stop me. Now all I have to do is not get hit on the head as I get un-strapped and climb down the ladder to a hero's welcome.

14 July 2006

Ed Film Festival Melts on opening day non-shocker?

Is anyone else getting a strange sense of deja vu? Yes, the Film Festival booking line opening today and melted as did their website (although you couldn't get the bestest deals online). I went down to Lothian Road to queue up for a good 45 minutes but only moved a quarter of the queue – if that! One nice touch however was they sent staff out to hand out chocolates and free bottles of water. A really nice thought especially due to the hot weather, but couldn't those staff be used to sell more tickets and get the queue down? [Only joking, it's the old supermarket complaint about staff on the shop floor when the checkouts are getting hammered. I know because I was on the receiving end of the hassle for a few years]

13 July 2006

I Am No Longer A Number - I Am A Free Man!

My company has started pushing me harder with this time-sheet nonsense; they want more detailed information to charge my time back. The whole thing is a stupid idea but what's worse is they made me implement it and roll it out to everyone else so I get the blame :-( Everyone has been given numbers to protect their privacy and I've been assigned the number six. Until now I've just been passing them random figures in protest. The Finance Manager keeps phoning me up asking me for more information. I've told them they won't get it, but they've tried to threaten me. It all came to a head today when I stormed into my boss's office and told him definitively "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own. I resign".

As a side note, five years ago when I quit Sainsbury's I wrote "Having worked here for five years it shouldn't requi re  significant effort to understand this message". I have a further story to tell regarding my current position but it has to wait a few more days yet...

10 July 2006

I Bust All My Own Myths...

I was going to get a t-shirt printed for this weekend's Death Slide with "I do all my own stunts" printed on it, a la Adam Savage. Instead I think I will get one with "I bust all my own myths" instead...

So Phill, what meat based myth do we have this week? Well Phill, this week we are looking at the myth of food poisoning from under-cooked meat. Is that really a myth, I thought everyone knew it was true? Well you'd think so but the Food Standards Agency spend millions each year warning people about the dangers of barbecued meat that is charred on the outside but still rare on the inside. Okay then, how are we going to test this myth? First off I thought we'd have a barbecue with three of the most common meats used: beef mince, pork sausages and chicken (thighs and breast). We'll assemble six people and to keep that authentic barbecue feel we'll provide oodles of alcohol too. One person will be the pork and beef control in that she will only eat chicken, four will eat all of the meats available and one impatient bugger will be the chicken control by only eating one port sausage and several beef mince products. Hold on Phill, don't we need a control that eats none of that? That's correct Phill, although there are only six people at the barbecue so that would leave around six billion people as the control.

Okay, what did our experiments tell us? The beef and pork control was fine, as were the four that ate everything. It was our impatient chicken control that suffered. It seems that if you cook food long enough it's safe to eat on a barbecue, even chicken. If however you dive for the first pork sausage and first beef burger that isn't 100% cooked in the middle you'll end up regurgitating your dinner at several discrete times during the night and having really painful stomach cramps the following day. I would say that would be myth confirmed wouldn't you Phill? Definitely a very painful myth confirmed.

4 July 2006

AIDS - The New Way to Stay Strong!

Do you know what the abbreviated version of the pronoun Adrian is (as in Adrian Edmonson)? It's Ade. Are you aware of the heavy metal and US approach of adding a 'z' to a word to make it plural and cool? Think Bluez or even Gunz. Finally how do you pronounce Des? The same as Dez. Having deduced all that there is only one conclusion to make as how an English speaker would pronounce 'adez' - AIDS. Now imagine if you will that a new fruit juice was being launched , what do you think would be the last name in the world you would call it? Let me introduce Adez - A brand new way to stay strong! *Somebody* in the marketing department must surely have said to them "erm, you know it's a homonym of AIDS don't you?". Just think back to America Dad, episode 14 entitled "Finances with Wolves" (and if you haven't seen it shame on you, go rent it or buy it now!). A sign above a kiosk reading "AIDS HOTCAKES". The assistant says to the stereotypical Irishman "why's no one buying your cakes Mr. Aids?". "Because I'm Irish" he replies.

LLoyds TSB Should Be Of Interest To No One

You can see the adverts everywhere now, such as this one near Haymarket. "Don't get caught out by your bank" and "We pay interest from the day you put the cheque in your account". Hmm. Only a maximum of £1000 in cheques per month. Double hmmm. 0.1% interest - WTF? That's two whole percentage points *less* than that rate of inflation! I'm actually losing money by having my account with you (if I was stupid enough to do). Rule Number C (not in numerical order): If it is advertised on a thirty foot billboard then it's not going to be very good, it'll be a cheap marketing ploy. Avoid any bank that pays less than 2% interest on your current account or you are losing money. Try somewhere like the ethically guided Co-operative Bank (including Smile) or even HSBC's First Direct amongst others.

3 July 2006

Shall We Go to the The-a-tre Darling? Splendid.

I've decided to add a few "plays" to my schedule for this year's Festival, in addition to the usual line up of good comedy and shocking bad films blatantly lied about by the Film Festival website. Don't forget Stewart Lee's Talk Radio is highly rated and is quite comical, hence the reason it is listed in my original comedy posting. First off we have True West starring none other than last year's Stage Best Actor, Phil Nichol. This will be the third time I'll be seeing him in the Festival! The play is Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard's dark and savage story of sibling rivalry. It also stars Tom Stade and stand up Dave Johns. (I Am) Nobody's Lunch is a docu-musical about trusting the media, the government and even ourselves. This borderline cabaret show has been getting great reviews from the US (where the piece is set) as it asks funny and troubling questions about how much we really know in our information age. I'm going to conclude with the Alan Rickman's harrowing production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie. Based on the real life diaries of a 23 year old American woman who left her comfortable life to stand between a bulldozer and a Palestinian home. It was a total sell-out during its recent West End season and was cancelled by the New York Theatre for fear of inciting violence.

2 July 2006

A-hum ha, a-hum ha ... dum de dum! The Unit Hits UK Screens!

The Unit, an excellent show about the uber-secret Special Forces unit Delta Force, has been picked up by Bravo for screening in the UK this Autumn. The show is based on the book Inside Delta Force written by the special unit's former Command Sergeant Major Eric L. Haney and is created by Pulitser Prize winner David Mamet and creator of the outstanding cop drama The Shield, Shawn Ryan. The whole ensemble is very strong and while dealing with delicate issues it is no where near as gratuitous as brutally-realistic The Shield. You really don't want to miss this show, although it would have been nice if it had of been picked up by a terrestrial channel that could show it in HD...

Tomorrow's Daily Record Headline: Double Joy for Scotland!

"1. Murray Thrashes Roddick" and "2. England Crash Out".

Maybe the sub-headline could be "England's Dream Is Stamped Out". You heard it here first.

I am actually backing Germany now that England are out (this is not a joke), I have a very good German friend and so that's my closed allegiance.  I did have a brief chat with a girl in a call centre an hour after the penalties were over and she said "you don't happen to know the final score in the game today do you?".  "Yes", I replied, "Wigan won by two points".  Again this is not a joke.  She replied "Wonderful, we won!".