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Wednesday, 10 October 2012


The text arrives from Mannish ("Out of frisky & Mannish", as Smash Hits would have put it): "Are you free on Tuesday, please say yes". Something was occurring. I don't watch X-Factor myself, but apparently something called a Gary Barlow had been using the word cabaret in a derogatory way. Oh dear. Seems to me that someone who's supposed to have their chubby little finger on the pulse of entertainment should know that cabaret is where much of the cool, interesting, new, edgy, fun stuff happens these days. That's a shame for him, because Frisky & Mannish had decided to do something about it, and were rallying the cabaret troops. And boy, do we like a fight. We're scrappy.

So, how else to explain some of the brightest talents in the UK cabaret scene (and your friendly neighbourhood tablecloth-puller..) gathering together, in full finery, complete with film crew, to spend a day being witty, silly, and cool? There was lip-syncing, brainwashing, makeovers and awesomeness. And soon, you'll be able to see the result - our response to those permatanned talent-puddles daring to use our word to describe something mediocre. This was one of those days where you remember why you do this. It's the next day as I write this and I'm still grinning like an idiot, and humming a certain brand new protest song.

I brought along my camera, so you can get a sneak behind the scenes peek at what went on below...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Totes Fellini

When I was, oh I don't know, about 7 or 8, on the last day of term before the Summer break, my teacher sat me down and told me that because my handwriting was so bad, I'd have to keep a diary of what I did on my holidays for her to inspect when the next school year began. She gave me a blue exercise book and told me to fill it. So I did. I took it away on holiday to Norfolk with me, wrote about all the long walks we went on, wrote about the meals we ate, wrote about going to the arcades on the seafront and riding in the little electric bumper cars. On the first day of term, I went to her office and presented my holiday diary. I sat quietly as she read it, watching her chuckle. Then she told me off, telling me that although I had kept a very good diary, my handwriting was still awful, and the pages were dog-eared and the book was battered, so I clearly hadn't understood the point of the task.

Well, up yours, Mrs. WhateverYourNameWas. here's this years "What I did on my holidays" exercise book, and check out my handwriting these days - 12 point Times New Roman, and no dog-eared pages on this blog either, so ner.

Anyway. So. Yes. We went on holiday. When I'm not travelling for work, I like to travel as light as possible, so as a little experiment, on this trip I left my usual posh camera equipment at home and used only my iPhone. I'm pretty happy with the results - obviously it's not going to replace my DSLR anytime soon, but it seems to be just as good as a point-and-shoot, and like they say - the best camera is the one you have with you... So..thoughts?

Gatwick airport. Early morning. Myself and Mrs.Columbo are going through the security check. Security man checks my boarding pass and sees our destination. "Genoa?", he says. "Yep", I reply. Then he gestures to my wife, "Genoa?" and I grin at him and say "yeah", and he says "thought you did". I wonder how many destinations he has a gag for.

This dessert got me drunk. Gotta love Italy.

The weather was..dramatic. We had some blisteringly hot beach days, and then some days full of gorgeous dramatic thunderstorms, many of which we watched from our hotel room balcony. Thunder and lightning over the sea at night while we sit with a cocktail and a take-out pizza. Not bad.

Talking of Pizza, we paid a visit to my favourite pizza place in the World. they make a Gorgonzola pizza where the cheese is so sweet it almost tastes of vanilla, and so soft and gooey that you can grip the edge of the plate like a steering wheel and turn it, and when you do, the cheese in the centre of the pizza doesn't move. Good sign, right there.

Italian men plan + morning coffee

I like a view, which is how we found ourselves taking an - it has to be said - fairly rickety cable-car up a mountain to Montallegro. And please don't think I'm suggesting the cable-car was untrustworthy purely for comedic effect. It had four large canisters full of water carefully placed on the floor at each corner of the car to stop it, one assumes, from swinging about wildly. Doesn't inspire confidence. Anyway, once we were up, it was worth it.

Amazing panoramas of the coastline, all the way to Portofino on one side and into a valley of pine trees on the other. Most people come here to trace the footsteps of the pilgrims who travelled up here by mule to visit the monastery. We're not the religious type, but it would have been churlish not to take a look since we were there. We walked down the long tree-lined path, and as we approached the wide stone stairs that lead to the monastery we heard a loud pop, a cheer, we see some confetti flitter down, and then - brilliantly - a brass band strikes up a bouncy, silly, fun tune. We look at each other with a grin, and walk a little faster up the stairs to see that someone has just got married. We stroll off to one side and for a few minutes we're sitting on the edge of a Fellini film. All the characters are accounted for - the stylish and fearsome elderly matriarch all in black with sunglasses, the gorgeous bride posing like a model for the photographer, the tall groom, slowly starting to believe his luck, gangs of guys in grey suits standing around smoking, packs of giggling women taking camera phone pictures of each other in various combinations, impossibly cute tiny bridesmaids chasing each other around in circles, and a slightly chubby little boy in shorts, sneakers, a bowling shirt and a bright red bow tie - his one forced concession for dressing up for the occasion. We sit quietly and take it all in, and it's all rather life affirming and wonderful. Then we go and get big bowls of spaghetti, which is also life-affirming and wonderful.

Not a bad view from your wedding

Oh yeah, and I discovered coffee. I've never been a coffee drinker. I've tried, and I never hated it, but also I never really liked it. I felt kinda meh about the whole thing, which seemed to me the exact opposite of how one should feel about coffee. It should inspire passion, fanaticism and crazy nerd-like devotion, surely.

So we're in a restaurant, after a gorgeous meal, and my wife has an espresso. Try some, she says. And I do. And OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod. It's delicious.

I had always kinda figured that coffee was one of those grown-up drinks, like beer and scotch, that you start off not liking and then, through determination to conform and be cool, you learn to love. I wasn't prepared for it to be so...tasty. All the other kinds of coffee still leave me cold, but espresso.. I have a new friend there. I'm on board. I'm in. And as I type this all I can think about is that I don't have one right now and I really should do.

And yes, I know that I'll be lucky to get one in London as good as the ones I had in small cafes in Italy. That's fine. I'll just have to make sure I go back to Italy soon. Two birds, one stone, right there.