The biggest prize in sport

+++++++++++++++++++++++Moan alert!++++++++++++++++++++++

Yes, the 2012 London Olympics are almost upon us. If you’re unlucky enough to live in London, your giveaway evening newspaper has been providing a thrilling day-by-day countdown which I think may have begun on 7/7 in 2005, the glorious day after the capital won the Olympic bid. I’m no fan of the London Evening Standard – which is given away free to grumpy commuters each night and, as such, is by definition worthless, although it can claim to be less unloved than the morning Metro – as you have to machete your way through so much propaganda in order to get to the actual local news, but it’s been especially impenetrable this year, with the Mayoral elections, the Jubilee, Heathrow and now the Games. It’s difficult to know where the editorial ends and the advertorial begins.

But hey, such blurring of truth and profit is very much in the spirit of the Games. I didn’t vote for the Olympics. Ordinary Londoners were never asked if we wanted the biggest sideshow in sport held here, and part-funded by our council tax. We were promised regeneration of some of the East End and Docklands. We were promised a fabulous upswing in commerce and opportunity (“Every sector of the economy will benefit from the staging of the Olympic Games”, went the bid). We were promised a second Westfield shopping centre. We were promised millions of tourists descending up our already full and already filthy city. Some of these dreams may yet come true – there’s a brand new Westfield now in Stratford, whose car parks have already been closed for the duration of the games – but estimates about how many people are coming here on holiday were hugely optimistic, as many non-Olympic “vacationers” have been understandably put off, either by the threat of crowding, or just being blown up.

Let’s contextualise my disinterest in the Games. As a punter I’m really not that bothered about athletics. Sport in general is not something that gets me going. You know I dabble with football, and I ended up watching that tennis match at last year’s Wimbledon that went on and on and on out of peer pressure, but as a rule, as a spectator, I prefer artistic rather than physical endeavour. That’s just my personal choice. I have nothing against sport, or sportspeople. I care about my health and used to love going to the gym when I could afford it. Better to do sport, whether it’s a kickabout in the park or the fully-fledged sacrifice of training for the Olympics, than sit around doing nothing. What I have against these Olympics is that, as a Londoner, I get all of the aggravation and none of the benefit.

It’s not just that the Tube and buses are going to be overcrowded, although that’s pretty annoying when your job involves a lot of travelling about in London, and, I expect, even more annoying if you have a nine-to-five job that can’t realistically be “done from home”. London’s bus drivers are threatening to strike for a bonus payment, as their jobs are going to be extra stressful between July 27 and August 12, and August 29 and September 9. But passengers can’t strike. We’re stuck with it. (I think anyone whose job is going to be made harder by the Olympics should be entitled to a bonus.)

What I really object to is the relentless bombardment of corporate sponsorship. It seems tragic to me that sporting endeavour has to be privately funded. If we lived in the benign Communist utopia of my fevered dreams (and I haven’t worked out all the details yet), sport would be state-sponsored for the health of the nation and the pride of representing your country. So would the Arts. The minute you hand over the Games to advertising “partners”, and these “partners” are then able to literally dictate which credit card you use to apply for tickets, and which fizzy drinks you drink in the stadia, and which burgers you eat, then the sport comes a poor second to profit. And when even the top sports stars must flog their spandexed arses in TV ads in order to keep fit – Usain Bolt clowning for Richard Branson a typically undignified example; Victoria Pendleton getting her actual kit off for men’s magazines for more subtly commericial returns (FHM: “Victoria has the sort of legs that could, should you inadvertently find yourself in a sexual embrace with the woman, kill you”) – it’s a sad world indeed.

As a user of the already creaking London Transport network, I have for some time been assailed on all sides by adverts telling me not to travel in London during the Olympics and the Paralympics; to stay at home; to choose an alternative route; to avoid certain lines and stations; to fuck off. Even worse, there are ads everywhere put up by Procter & Gamble, the American multinational petrochemical giant, whose $82.6 billion turnover for 2011 is helping to fund a big chunk of the Olympics. P&G, as they’d prefer us to call them, want volunteers in London to help clean the place up, using P&G cleaning brands like Flash and Febreze. That’s right, the company that makes Flash wants us to give up our own time to clean the city before the tourists arrive. If they’re so keen on cleaning, why don’t they pay out-of-work Londoners the minimum wage to clean the streets? Just a thought.

On the subject of cost, the Guardian came up with some figures back in April. Originally slated to cost about £2.4bn, Olympic costs had already jumped to £9.3bn by 2007. The total kept rising. The House of Commons’ public accounts committee revealed costs were heading for around £11bn. Then Sky Sports worked out that, including public transport upgrade costs, the final score was closer to £24bn. By continually revising the budget upwards, the Olympic Delivery Authority have been able to say that the whole thing will finally come in under budget. But it’s all based on made up numbers. Big numbers that are constantly being moved about.

The Olympic village was supposed to be financed by Australian developer Lend Lease, but private investors scarpered when the economy imploded in 2008, leaving it to the government ie. us. In August 2011 they sold the village at a taxpayer loss of £275m to the Qatari ruling family’s property firm. (Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt called this “a fantastic deal that will give taxpayers a great return and shows how we are securing a legacy from London’s Games”. He’s not still Culture Secretary, is he? Really?)

As for security, after initially estimating the need for 10,000 police officers, they’ve since had to tap the military for 13,500 reserves at a time when a) the country is still fighting a war, and b) military personnel are being cut along with every other corner of the public sector. We’ve got ships situated in the Thames, Eurofighter jets and surface-to-air missiles on top of tower blocks. The cost of security has increased from £282m to £553m. There are less than 13,500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. (Londoners get the security bill, by the way. I’m not leaving a tip.)

I guess there’s never a good time to hold the Olympics, but London definitely drew the short straw holding them at such a time of economic woe. (April’s Guardian Comment Is Free article about “celebration capitalism”, from which I’ve drawn most of these figures, is here.)

Every huge international sporting event is an advert for something. And the London Olympics just seem worse because they’re on my doorstep and I’m having my face rubbed in them. Even if you’re excited about the sport – and I understand there will be some sport somewhere in the middle of all this branding and synergy – it’s hard to argue with the assessment that it’s a public-private partnership that needs some serious counselling.

For the record, these are the private companies who are funding the Games.

Worldwide partners:
Acer Inc.
Dow Chemical Company
General Electric
Omega SA
Panasonic Corporation
Procter & Gamble
Official partners:
British Airways (thanks for despoiling The Clash’s London Calling in your TV advert, as if Scouting For Girls didn’t do enough damage to it at the Olympics homecoming gig four years ago)
BT Group
EDF Energy
Lloyds TSB
Official supporters:
Cisco Systems
Thomas Cook Group
United Parcel Service
Official suppliers and providers:
Boston Consulting Group
CBS Outdoor
Crystal CG
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
London Heathrow Airport
Heineken International
Holiday Inn
John Lewis
McCann Erickson
Mondo Worldwide
General Mills
Nielsen Company
Rapiscan Systems
Rio Tinto Group
Thames Water
Westfield Group

Have I missed anybody?

Long to rain over us

Well, thank God that’s all over: the longest Bank Holiday of my life. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee turned out to be a good weekend for publicans, but much less so for republicans. At times during the dampened pageantry, feudal circumstance and flag-waving fever I genuinely felt quite alone. Out of step. Locked out of the love-in. It was an odd feeling. I had no interest in last year’s Royal Wedding, but it only lasted a day and was easily avoided. This loop of God Save The Queen and hip-hip-hoorays ran from Saturday to Tuesday, each day festooned with itinerary highlights and spectacles to ring round in the commemorative Radio Times. Street parties, flypasts, parades, concerts, bonfires, unpaid stewards, rosy-cheeked children, face-painted adults, those plastic Union Jack hats with elastic under the chin, Union Jack bunting unfurled, Union Jack cava uncorked … I saw a woman walking down our street with two flags attached to either side of her head, as if she was a car during the World Cup. I wished the neighbours good weather for their street jamboree – kitchen tables in the road, official roadblock, cars cleared – although I’m afraid they didn’t get it.

I don’t seek outsider status. I never felt that much like a rebel, or an outcast, growing up. Even when I had uncompromising hair in the mid-80s. Voting for Neil Kinnock in 1987 and 1992 felt nominally out of sync with the consensus – an act of rebellion in its own, NME-sponsored way. My views on certain issues have become rather entrenched and extreme in the past ten years, I admit, but we won’t go there. Politically, I was disenfranchised by New Labour and the Iraq war and it felt at the time like a pretty permanent situation. I had no idea just how repulsive a subsequent Tory government might be. But I’m hardly alone in this assessment. If the Spectator is going after Cameron and Osborne, it’s hardly storming the barricades to decry them as remote, self-serving, silver-spoon-fed buffoons.

But the Jubilee? I have been seriously overwhelmed by the apparently universal waves of approbation for the Queen. It’s as if the nation has been drugged and somehow I find myself mysteriously immune. A million people, “subjects”, subjecting themselves to the humiliation and inconvenience of attending a public event in London at a time of heightened security and threatened rain, with no guarantee that they’ll actually see the Queen? I did my level best to avoid the TV coverage, but saw the worst of it on Channel 4 News, which maintained a certain distance, but nonetheless covered all aspects of the festivities. It would be idiotic to deny that hundreds of thousands of people – and not all of them with the commonsense waiver of tourism – had a fantastic time at the boat thing and the pop concert and the Waitrose garden party and what looked a protest march up the Mall but was actually an act of self-kettlement and had no complaint. All those people walking up a pedestrianised road to watch the Royal Family on a balcony on large video screens, erected by the Greater London Assembly and thus paid for by the cash-strapped citizens of the most expensive city in Britain. I did as London Transport advised me to and avoided Central London for four days.

What got into people? I don’t mean to mock or to undermine, I merely ask the question. It’s clear that any shade of republicanism at a time of public holiday and extra drinking is unwelcome. I typed a few incendiary Tweets, but I did not take to the streets to wave a placard. I sincerely believe, as previously stated, that the Royal Family should be privatised for tourism, and that the 86-year-old Queen and the 91-year-old Duke should be allowed a peaceful retirement. Their eldest son, too. By all means call William a “King” but strip him of all constitutional powers (I heard someone on the news last night reminding us that the monarch has important political duties, to open Parliament and to choose Prime Ministers, but this is bollocks, she doesn’t, and shouldn’t anyway, have any democratic leverage) and let him generate tourist money for a PLC. If we replaced the Queen with an elected head of state, one who was re-elected every four or five years, I could live with that. This person might not be able to command a nation to wave OK!-sponsored flags and shout “Long live the Queen” from behind crash barriers to the news cameras, but it would stop this country looking like a museum exhibit. Even in the edited highlights, I grew weary of seeing grown men and women, but mostly men of course, dressed in garters and braid and wearing impractical headgear. Dressing up is fun, but these costumes smack of the Tudors, and The Tudors is a period drama on telly. How embarrassing that people still look like this on state occasions. I am a great fan of the state, but not on days like this.

Which brings me to my final moan. I am not a spoilsport. Ordinary people deserve a day off now and again. This is not about how much money it cost – although you can expect the pre-Jubilee estimates to spiral upwards as the true charges come in – but the simple equation at the heart of it: we, the people, saying “Thanks!” to a woman who had no choice but to take the job in 1952, for not jacking it in, or dying, in the meantime. At least other celebrities who have us gathered in large numbers, cheering and spending our money, give us a bit of themselves. We do not, and cannot, know this woman, or her family. She is, by definition and design, remote. Perhaps she should have our sympathy as well as our respect and admiration. Though her daily life is not enviable, she is considerably richer than even some of David Cameron’s old schoolmates. She likes horses and dogs, we know this much, but spends most of her life waving, travelling and dressing up, and not with her horses and dogs. It’s a waste of a life. And now her husband has caught an infection, which must have royally ruined her weekend, and all because he was made to stand in the rain and cold for four hours on a Saturday while some boats went past.

Meanwhile, the killing joke, unpaid “subjects” from Plymouth, Bath and Bristol who had slept under a bridge and had to change into their steward’s uniforms in the street, worse high-viz jackets so as to stop other “subjects” moving freely about public streets. Good on John Prescott for demanding an investigation in the company that hired them.

When I was an NME-reading idealist, I would have assumed that the musicians I admired would no more play for the Queen than to play Sun City. But on Sunday night, nearly all of them did, or so it seemed. Statues, in my utopian vision, were to be kicked over. Serfdom was a thing of the past. I was knocked back on Twitter for expressing my dismay that Madness would lend their talent and reputation to such an event as the Diamond Jubilee Concert, but I can’t help it. I’ve just always had them down as occupiers of the left field rather than the establishment. What I have discovered is that the battle lines have been moved. It’s now fine to support the monarchy (and by extension our attachment to the long-gone Empire and all its ceremonial trappings and honours), but still be a bit left wing. I mean, we expect those who’ve accepted a knighthood – Cliff, Elton, Macca, Tom – to bow and scrape before the monarch who tapped them on the shoulder with a sword (does she actually do that?), and even excuse the likes of Robbie and Gary, who must be angling for similar royal appointment in the future, but where do Madness fit in? Sir Suggs? Sir Woody? Sir Chas? What about Ed Sheeran? Is he, too, a royalist? (He’s 21, so perhaps he has yet to formulate any political opinions?) As for the comedians, of whom I definitely ask too much, I guess they’re in the noble tradition of Billy Connolly, Spike Milligan and Ben Elton in cosying up to the Royals, and that doing the Jubilee Concert is no worse than doing the Royal Variety Show. But I expect my satirists to stay outside the tent so that they can urinate in, and find the acceptance of orders of the British Empire antagonistic to this important position. Should I stop worrying about all this?

At one end of the scale there’s Melanie Philips in the Mail – a paper whose post-flotilla coverage even outstripped the Telegraph‘s 17 unbroken pages – claiming a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat at the flag-waving multitude on the banks of the Thames; at the other end there’s Owen Jones, a young man prepared to nail his colours to the mast and declare himself a republican on telly. I’m at the Jones end of the spectrum, but it’s lonely out here.

Game of throne

Hey, I celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee along with everybody else in 1977. I was 12 and not yet a republican. The country had three TV channels and most cinemas had one screen. We didn’t have a street party in Winsford Way, because it was a through road, but there was a modest crisps-and-jelly affair for the kids in Jean and Geoff’s back garden, which I seem to remember appreciating, despite being the oldest there and approaching the quagmire of teenage. Mum bought us Jubilee-themed t-shirts – white with a Union Jack “J” on them, I think – and we wore them without protest and certainly without irony. My brother and I rode our bikes round the estate to see which houses had decorations outside. It was quite a few.

I must have been dimly aware of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen but if so, it is not mentioned in my diary, only the fireworks on telly and the day off school and the lighting of the beacons, also on telly. Perhaps news really did travel more slowly to the provinces in those days. Punk certainly didn’t enter my life until 1979.

As a fully grown adult in 2002, I had to sit through the Queen’s Golden Jubilee as a card-carrying armchair anti-monarchist; by this time I had long come to regard the Monarchy as an outmoded, offensive and defunct proposition. The very idea of a bloodline denoting an income based upon tax and a caste system that actually categorises the majority as “subjects” is surely a relic from another century, and not even the 20th.

We may not be able to stop landowners handing down their wealth to their heirs (well, we could tax them harder like the postwar government did, but unless we’re going to stage an actual revolution – in this heat? – the rich won’t be stripped of their assets any time soon), but we can surely take the Royals off the civil list. No? Even at cut price and by selling off their yacht and putting a gift shop in Buckingham Palace, they still cost the state £32.1 million a year in grants and direct subsidy, and the fawning celebrations for this latest Jubilee are not going to come cheap. Not with all those boats! (Although it’s delightful to know that tourists will have to pay to enter certain public thoroughfares at the weekend. Glad you came?) Actually, in the fine tradition of public events, it’s being mostly funded by private money, but the taxpayer is stumping up for the not-inconsiderable security bill.

The Queen herself has a personal fortune of £310 million, mainly from property, so she doesn’t need to work again. She’s old; let her retire. So is her heir; let him retire too – he’s got plenty of retirementy things to be getting on with. If we’re going to keep this eccentric family as living waxworks for tourism, which is an option, then cut them loose, turn them into a private corporation and let them manage their own finances without state handouts. If they want jobs where they don’t have to pay tax, then they should become the head of the IMF. (Surely the Tories would stand up and cheer the notion of privatising them?)

I think what I’m really against this weekend is not the Queen asking us to celebrate her not-insignificant 60 years on the throne, but the four-day weekend itself. Two bank holidays? Really? (And this was originally a New Labour initiative, I believe.) And there was I thinking the economy was in peril. I’ve just received my weekly email from Transport For London and it basically tells me not to bother going into Central London between Friday and Tuesday. Similar advice will be sent out for the Olympics and the Paralympics, a grotesque carnival of corporate self-interest and cross-promotion whose admirable sporting achievements will struggle to be seen and heard above the din of product placement. (Cheery cartoon posters on the trains warn those of us who live here and whose council tax paid for the Olympics to avoid certain key stations, change our journeys, work from home and generally get ready to have our working lives disrupted for the best part of a month. Other posters ask us to volunteer to clean the streets of London for nothing, and entice us to do so by jokily telling us that it’s like when your Mum comes round your flat except your flat in London and your Mum is the “rest of the world”. This initiative is sponsored by Fabreze and other cleaning brands linked with huge multinational petrochemical corporations, which begs the question: why don’t they put their sponsorship money into paying people without jobs to clean up? I thought that’s what this recovery was all about?)

This is no summer to live in the capital. (And God help you if you are disabled; I saw a report on Channel 4 News which showed a wheelchair user getting on the Piccadilly line at Heathrow and being literally unable to get off the train for the whole line, having to travel all the way back to Heathrow to escape the London Underground. Still, they did rather spring the Olympics on us, didn’t they?)

I admit it: I dislike forced jollity. I’m all for fun, don’t get me wrong, but I like to decide when I’m going to have it. (I’m not much use on New Year’s Eve, either, but I am great at spontaneously getting the beers and rosé in and turning an afternoon into a long night without warning. And not always on my own!) I find it difficult to get worked up about things the Royals have achieved, as they have the biggest head start in Britain. When one of them found a girlfriend willing to sacrifice all vestiges of normality and privacy in return for marrying into his eccentric family a year ago, I was expected to be excited about that. I wasn’t.

If you’re interested, the Guardian did a very informative pictorial spread on the weekend’s festivities, with all the sailing ships and everything. It’s here. (It being a republican paper, it also shows you how much the Queen costs.) I’m planning on avoiding the whole thing by going to the cinema for four whole days (cool, dark, serves chilled beverages etc.). It will be good practice for the Olympics. If I may risk an athletics allusion, don’t get me started on the Olympics.

(Oh, I’m really looking forward to Euro 2012. I hope those far-right Ukrainians are excited that their Mum ie. the rest of the world, is coming round their flat.)

We like it when our friends become successful

On Monday night, 6 Music won UK National Station Of The Year at the Sony Radio Awards. None of your rubbish, and about time, too. We’d sort of half-expected a nomination in the immediate wake of our pardon from execution in 2011, but we were overlooked in the heat of that particular moment and understandably half-wondered if we’d ever win. (If not then, when?) I say “we”, even though I have not been a permanent presenter on the network since 2007, as I am still made to feel part of the family by the nice people pictured above, and anyway, I have my own pigeonhole! I was there at the Sonys nine years ago, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, when the first Digital Terrestrial Station Of The Year award was handed out and we lost to Saga. (Not knocking Saga, but we felt robbed.) I was also there in 2010, too, when Jarvis won the Rising Star award for the station, and Adam and Joe won the Comedy award. It was fantastic to be able to bask in reflected glory around  the 6 Music table, as I am now a friend of the station, a presenter and a fan. I wished I could have been there on Monday to drink in the crowning glory of ten years on the air.

Thanks to Christine Shanks for this photo of Jim Bob, playing some tunes on his acoustic guitar, having read from his new novel Driving Jarvis Ham at its launch in the rather less glitzy surroundings of Bookseller Crow, a gloriously independent bookshop in Crystal Palace in South East London last Thursday. This was not a case of reflected glory, as it was Jim’s night, and the book – if anything even better than his first novel, Storage Stories, but wrought in a similarly dark-whimsical style with Kurt Vonnegut-channelling illustrations – is his achievement. I was there to pay homage.

Jim and I go way back to the old Carter days, and I consider myself a delicate hybrid of fan and friend; I have certainly made it my business to promote his good works ever since in whatever modest way that I can (when his School album came out in 2006, I was able to get him and his guitar onto Radio 2 when, preposterously, I was asked to fill in for Mark Radcliffe and was allowed to choose my guest; I also think I might have made the introductions that put him inside Robin Ince’s pluralist circle of trust, which led to his glorious, 23-piece-orchestra rendition of Angelstrike! at Nine Lessons and Carols in 2009, and his subsequent casting in White and Ward’s Gutted musical at Edinburgh).

So it is that Jim flatters me by caring what I think and asking me to read his books before they are published, and I flatter him back by supplying a quote (luckily, I have liked them all so far!), and then he flatters me back by printing my quotes in his press releases. For Jarvis Ham, he and his publisher have made me especially proud by putting one of my quotes on the front cover. And it’s a hardback! I wouldn’t have missed the launch for the world. It’s slightly odd when you are a friend and a fan, I concede. But I’ve been standing and watching him play, or speak, for years, and you get used to tapping a toe and joining in the warm applause – and, in the case of that gig at the Bull & Gate in September 2010, shouting out stupid drunken things like some prick of a heckler – and that’s what happened on Thursday. It was a happy occasion. I don’t get out much in the evenings, but you make exceptions when it’s important.

Last night, Michael Legge and I had our second date in less than a week when we attended What Is Love Anyway? at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. (He’d be at Jim’s launch, too. He is also a friend-fan.) This is the latest one-man show of another of my friends who is successful. I have seen every show Richard Herring has done since 2001, when, in Edinburgh, I saw Christ On A Bike: The First Coming. As I used to like to point out when he and I spoke more often than we do now, I paid to go and see that show twice, as I also saw it when it transferred to London. In the ensuing years, I stopped paying as he and I developed a friendship via 6 Music and Banter, and I guess it’s ironic that by the time of The Second Coming at Edinburgh in 2010, I was his comedy partner. As such I was a combination of friend and fan and partner, which is a heavy load to bear, I can tell you. The “partner” part sometimes enhanced the “friend” part and at other times seemed to destroy it, but even in our darkest days, I remained a fan.

This was the penultimate performance of What Is Love Anyway?, and this means I was seeing it at its most honed and perfected. I’m glad I waited, as I’m pretty certain this is his crowning achievement thus far. Of all ten of his shows that I have seen (many of them twice), this is the most mature, and the most ambitious, and most moving. It flows beautifully from one passage to the next, and the climax involving his grandmother, Alzheimer’s and glitter is one of the most expertly constructed of his long career.

I was proud to know him. It actually seems preposterous that he and I once stood and sat on the same stage at the Bloomsbury and entertained a similar audience. But we did. Of course, of the two of us, Richard is the one who’s still doing it, and improving, and honing, and perfecting. It’s his gig. Not mine. I had blagged some comp tickets last night, but aside from that luxury – a luxury based on a friendship that may have become a little more formal but survives as such – I was there as a fan.

It would seem churlish to hate it when your friends become successful. After all, you would hope they would share in your success. 6 Music is now so successful, its own presenters get into fights when they are nominated for the same awards, where once they weren’t nominated at all. Jim Bob is carving out a second career as a novelist – I met his literary agent and everything! – which he is able to blend with his career as a musician. Like Jim, Richard has to work hard for his money, and perform constantly, but he is building upon his existing career and he still spends way too much of his time in cheap hotels or driving on motorways at night, but he is also settling down, too, which is nice to see, as a friend.

(Funnily enough, I’ve just realised that I am a friend and fan of Michael’s too, which seems to be working out. But I would like to stress that most of my friends are just friends, very few of them work in the media or showbusiness, and thus none of us are fans of each other’s, we are just friends.)

Holding pattern

Hello, all. Another rolling apology for not tending to the blog garden as regularly as I should be. Not only am I up against the aforementioned Mr Blue Sky script delivery deadline, which looms ever closer each day (the first full cast read-through happens on March 5, on which day all six scripts will need to be in shape), but I’m doing 6 Music Breakfast all this week and next. It goes without saying that I enjoy both jobs, and could have said no to 6 Music, but I am determined to fit both in, and emerge triumphant and not as throaty and tired as I feel today. (I’m mainlining Vitamin C, and going to bed as early as 9pm, and not drinking, so I’m looking after myself.)

Breakfast is a blast. I like the photograph above of me hugging Alex Horne, and he hugging me back. I thought I’d publish it to raise a smile. Also, lest we forget, it means I am podcasting on a daily basis. The bite-sized best-of Breakfast Podcast is available all week right here. Yesterday’s includes the Alex Horne interview, too. (He does too many things, as I do, many of them in the evening when I am nodding off in front of Friday Night Lights, and he has a young family. I don’t know how he does it.)

I am also beholden to Radio Times to supply at least a weekly blog for their website, so, if you don’t already, why not bookmark this page, and maybe have a glance at my most recent blogs about The Muppets, and J. Edgar. I’ve been managing to fit in numerous film screenings, so there’s a massive backlog of reviews I’ve not had time to write: Martha Marcy May Marlene, A Dangerous Method, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Girl Model, Carnage, the DVD of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt 2, the list goes on.

Thank you for bearing with me. It’s amazing that the blog still gets over 500 visitors a day, even when I don’t post anything new. Normal service will be resumed. And there’ll be another Telly Addict on Saturday. I don’t remember when I was last this busy, but the self-employed do not complain about such things.

2012: TV highlights

Apologies. No time for long blog entry as I’m really up against a scriptwriting deadline (something I’ve started, so I’ll finish). But the nice people at Celebrity Mastermind sent me these pics and they give me the chance to tell you that the series begins on BBC1 on Tuesday December 27 and I make my appearance on Thursday January 5. That’s it really. Make a note in your 2012 diary, Mum and Dad!