A personal explanation

It’s a bit confusing. I posted this earlier, but felt it was too personal, on reflection, and removed it, so as not to add to what had turned into a bit of a deluge of goo. But, having taken down my bit, I also had to take down the comments, which seemed a bit harsh, on further reflection. So I’m putting it back up. But please don’t post abusive comments, as many were doing. They won’t be published, so you won’t look clever in front of anybody. If you find this whole issue self-indulgent, then back away. Go and read something else.

It’s important that you know: I have posted Richard’s response to this blog entry at the end of the blog entry. This was never intended to be “my” side of the story, simply my response to the confusion and speculation that built up in cyberspace around vagueness. My point of view is only half of the picture. Richard’s point of view is the other half. His response is now added to this entry at the bottom.

Look at the two happy friends in the above picture. This was taken almost a year ago, and shows me (right) giving a birthday present to Richard Herring (left) on the Saturday closest to his birthday, in the 6 Music offices. We were at the 6 Music offices because, in July last year, we were almost six months into our stint in the Adam & Joe slot on Saturday mornings, having been booked for a month in February initially. What fun we had. The only downsides to the run that eventually lasted 13 months were a) not knowing how long it would last, which prevented us from ever feeling secure – and we were still billed as “in for Adam and Joe” months into our stint on the scrolling text on DAB radios and other electronic guides – and b) having to work around Richard’s touring, and around Edinburgh, which took us both out of action for a month in August.

This week, as fans of the Collings & Herrin Podcast will know, we put out some “pretend podcasts” from November and December 2006, when Richard used to be a guest on my then-regular 6 Music weekend shows, and we would review the newspapers in a humorous and irreverent way. Listening to these recordings now – which were never podcasts, it’s just a half-hour of radio with the music cut out for copyright reasons – it’s amazing how young and silly and in love we sound! Little wonder that, a year after I stopped having a regular 6 Music show, we sought to recreate this exciting and natural chemistry by starting a podcast in Richard’s house.

That was in February 2008, after a year of not doing anything together. At that time, I wasn’t even being asked to deputise (or “dep”) at 6 Music, as I had seemingly fallen out of favour with the station’s bosses. Who needs them, I thought. So it was that Richard and I embarked upon our podcasting adventure, pretty soon falling into a rhythm of producing an hour of unedited, unscripted, unrehearsed nonsense every week, in his attic, using GarageBand and the in-built mic on my laptop. Collings & Herrin were born.

Over the next three years, we would not only keep this ridiculous podcast up, and pre-record podcasts to fill in the gaps when Richard was on tour or on holiday (I was seemingly never away), we also branched out into live performance, where our podcast relationship was made flesh for paying punters. The format stayed the same. But we changed. The podcast Richard became more and more dominant, and the 6 Music Andrew, the one who used to be in charge on the radio, became the butt of many of the podcast Richard’s jokes and tirades. The irony was: in real life, we became closer.

When, in February last year, our podcasting reputation had finally earned us a shot at doing a radio show and we landed the prestigious Adam & Joe slot when Joe had to go off and make a hit movie, we were chuffed. Even though we were now equals, I knew how to “drive” the desk, so took charge of the buttons and faders. Also, Richard made no secret of the fact that he didn’t much care about the music we were playing. This became part of our 6 Music schtick – we even built in a silly feature where I would “teach” Richard how to use the desk and he would press the wrong button (a rare example of something that was almost planned and rehearsed!) – and nobody seemed to object.

However, come the end of 2010, as if perhaps to compensate for the fact that I had my hands on the faders and Richard had never been given an email address, he grew more and more dominant on 6 Music, just as he had done on the podcast. The line between Herring and Herrin grew more blurred. I could see the comedy value in being the “victim”, as, for most of the time, I knew I wasn’t really the victim, and that most people who listened knew that. (Part of the real Richard, the one who is my friend, really does think I am an “idiot” but it’s not the whole story, clearly.) I personally think we allowed the podcast relationship to infect the radio show, and by Christmas, it had changed.

Meanwhile, over the preceding year, I had become 6 Music’s “super sub”, filling in for pretty much any presenter who was ill, pregnant or on holiday. This was a development that I relished, as I love being on 6 Music on my own, and I love having the freedom to do other stuff while still being a “regular” on the network. I enjoyed doing the show with Richard on a Saturday, and with Michael Legge when Richard was gigging, but the solo shows were, and are, much less stressful. Richard delights in pushing the envelope, and always has done. This is even evident back in 2006, if you listen to the archive. It’s what makes him brilliant and “edgy” (sorry to use a commissioning editor’s buzzword) and vital. He is a unique professional comedian who occupies an increasingly enviable position in the comedy firmament: he plays by his own rules, plays to larger and larger audiences, and is now regularly invited on telly (despite his protests to the contrary). He works incredibly hard, and deserves every ounce of this success. I know he has moments of insecurity and doubt, but then, so do all comedians. It’s a competitive business, and one that favours the young and the new, so to maintain a viable career by gigging and writing new material, and branching out, for 20 years or more is no mean feat.

Me? I had a stab at stand-up – ironically, because of the confidence that working with Richard had given me – but I am not deluded about it. I am not a comedian. I am a writer, and I am a broadcaster. These are the areas that might just continue to provide a career for me. Not comedy, or at least, not performance comedy. I envy Richard in many ways. His hard work is paying off. He is known as a pioneer in new media, and although I have had a hand in that, it’s through AIOTM that he’s made the biggest mark. I was never going to be a part of AIOTM – it was Richard’s brainchild, and it was his project, and it would be separate to Collings & Herrin. I understood that.

I was, of course, the fictionalised butt of a lot of the jokes on AIOTM, and I think my discomfort at some of that is pretty well know, but Richard was respectful enough to pull back on that, and even invited me onto the stage, twice, to reclaim some dignity. I appreciated that. But AIOTM was Richard’s thing, Richard’s success, Richard’s cult, Richard’s Sony nomination. Just as Richard Herring’s Objective is Richard’s thing. And his Edinburgh shows are Richard’s things. I have my things, which are, currently, a Guardian TV review, a slot on Zoe Ball’s programme, and … yes, my regular solo work on 6 Music.

So, when 6 Music asked me to pilot a show with Josie Long, with a view to trying it out on air in July when Adam & Joe’s latest bloc of shows ended, I was up for it. The writing had been on the wall for Collins & Herring on 6 Music from Christmas. We’d had a couple of run-ins, which we don’t need to rake over, and all I can say is, I’m glad our last shows together on the network were less grumpy and shouty, and I think we ended on a good note. Which is why, understandably, many of our listeners, and podcast fans, are disappointed that Richard and I will not be filling in for Adam & Joe in July. Instead, it will be me, with another comedian. Josie and I have been given five Saturday shows, after which she, like everybody else in comedy, will be in Edinburgh.

Richard knows Josie better than me, although I have come to know her through the gigs that I have done for Robin Ince and Martin White. We are not forming a double act. We are co-hosting some shows, to see how they go. I think Josie will be great. I’m still kind of there to push the buttons and the faders. I appreciate that not all of our old listeners will like this change. But I hope they give Josie a chance. I don’t need to be given a chance. I’m an old 6 Music war veteran in comparison to Josie. It’s her moment, not mine.

So, Richard is cross that I have agreed to do a show on 6 Music without him, and with someone else. I respect him and his reasons for being cross. But I was not secretive about what was going on. And he knows that I rely on 6 Music now for a good chunk of my work. I have been a 6 Music presenter since 2002. I had a show on the first day ever of 6 Music. It was through my regular show that I was able to get Richard on, first on Roundtable, then as a regular guest. Our chemistry began to bubble up on 6 Music. But we both have separate careers, and always have had.

Richard is doing a run of solo podcasts in Edinburgh. Brilliant. I will download and listen to them all, and wish I was up there with him. But I can’t afford the time or the money or the stress to go to Edinburgh. If I was going up, I feel sure we would be doing the podcasts together. But I am not a comedian, and I have no right to be up there. Also, the summer months offer up many “deps” at 6 Music, which, as I believe I have made clear, take priority. We’re all self-employed; we all have to take our work where we can get it.

I love Richard Herring, in a funny sort of way. The penultimate time we saw each other was when we went to see Seinfeld – a great evening with my friend! I am sad that my decision to take a job without him has made him cross, and uncomfortable. But this is why the C&H podcast is on a break. We are on a break. I think, like a married couple, we will weather the break, and in fact, the break will do us good. We have both been working too hard.

I felt I should express my feelings about this before my first show with Josie, this Saturday, to clear the air. (Richard wrote about it on his blog yesterday, albeit more briefly than this.) I suspect Richard will not be listening on Saturday. But then, he claims not to listen to anything I do without him, or indeed listen to our podcast. He won’t have listened to the “pretend podcasts” from 2006. If he did, I think he would be amazed how sunny and equal and silly we sound.

I hope we will be sunny and equal and silly again.

Richard’s response (which was posted below) is now added to this entry, for full disclosure and fairness. I am grateful that he added it.

The issue for me is not that Andrew is doing a show with someone else – of course he should be allowed to do work on his own and with other people. But I think to do the same slot that we were doing with someone else is disloyal to the friendship that Andrew (sincerely) professes here. It’s personal choice and Andrew is entitled to make that, but if the roles had been reversed I would not have considered doing the same slot with someone else for a second. Because I know it would have been upsetting and humiliating for him. I too feel quite humiliating and I think it would have been easy for Andrew to decline doing these five weeks work because it put him in a difficult position and that would not have affected his other work with 6Music. If 6Music had given the slot to someone else entirely then that would have been sad, but at least we’d have stayed united as a double act. I don’t think Andrew considered the impact of his decision at the time, but that in itself to me speaks volumes.
I have worked hard on trying to help him out by buying equipment for the show and paying for entry to the Sonys (cos he couldn’t afford to), selling his DVDs at gigs and keeping the 6Music show going during tours when I should really have been resting. I also very much wanted to do the Collings and Herrin podcast in Edinburgh but Andrew couldn’t make the commitment. I wouldn’t have minded any of that, but then the decision to do a slot that we’d made (temporarily) our own with someone else seems to show a lack of commitment to the double act that makes it harder for me to justify spending my already stretched time on it.
I suspect we will ride this out. I have always made time for C&H both on podcast and radio before however busy I’ve been- and it was a massive strain to keep the radio show going on last year’s tour. I am very busy at the moment and after Andrew’s decision I don’t feel that I should be pushing myself so hard if it’s something that he can treat so casually. He told me he as doing the show in advance, but as a fait accompli. I wouldn’t have minded so much if he has discussed it and offered to take into account my feelings on this.
The thing is that even if it isn’t an intentional slap in the face, it really reads like one. Whether it’s from 6Music or Andrew or both. I will probably get over it. Or maybe from the comments above about the imbalance in the relationship it might be time to take a longer break from it or stop. We were only doing it for fun and if it stops being fun then maybe we shouldn’t do it.
I don’t think that will impact on our personal friendship (and I suggested the break partly to make sure we didn’t) and I have enjoyed the stuff we’ve done and am grateful to Andrew for supporting me at a time when a lot of people didn’t give a fuck. But I am a person for whom loyalty is the most important thing and so in a sense that makes this decision a bit harder to make
Don’t give Andrew a hard time about it. I am sure the show with Josie will be great. And this is is in no way her fault. I think it’s an odd decision by Andrew to be honest, but he’s made it now. I guess it’s the fact that ironically enough I saw him as a friend rather than a colleague (we always joked it was the other way round) that has made this a harder thing to take. But I have taken knocks in this business many times before and I am not being precious or looking for sympathy, and I hope I am not being over sensitive, just trying to explain my feelings about it.
The irony is not lost on me that we’ve reached this situation because Andrew has offended me. But in the podcast the offensive things I have said were almost always just jokes. And this is real.
And I worry that it’s something that will affect our dynamic if we do try and do more stuff.
It’s great that you all care so much and even greater that you’re (mainly) not taking sides.Mummy and daddy will sort this out in time. We still both love you very much. It’s nothing that you’ve done.

PS: I have disabled comments on this blog post because it’s taking up way too much of my time moderating them (and believe me, they need moderating). Also, this way, Richard gets the last word on the matter.


Hen’s teeth

A rare chance this year to see me and Richard Herring live. I have, as you know, retired from stand-up, but I am happy to podcast live with Richard should the opportunity arise, and it has. Here’s how it has come about: Go Faster Stripe will be filming Richard’s current, one-Christian-boycott-per-every-two-towns show Christ On A Bike at the trusty Leicester Square Theatre on Wednesday May 18. Directly after the show, at 10pm, we will be doing a live podcast as an exclusive, filmed extra for the eventual COAB DVD. This will not be released as a regular, audio podcast, so you’ll have to come along, or buy the DVD, to see it.

You can buy a double ticket to both shows for £25, or for either of the individual shows for £15 (buy COAB tickets here; and podcast tickets here). I think this is a good deal. Your money will help pay for the filming costs. It’s a bit like being a Marillion fan. The image above shows how many nerds – in grey – have already bought tickets for the podcast show, over two months in advance. So get in now. Because it will be a non-topical podcast, we’ll be canvasing the audience for subjects and questions to talk rubbish about. In other words, you’ll be a part of the show. It should be a memorable and very long night. (Less long if you only buy a single ticket.)

See you there. Hens do not have teeth.

Oh, and Secret Dancing DVD coming soon. Advertisement ends.

Some product

Go Faster Stripe, the cottage DVD powerhouse, based in Cardiff, VAT-registered and run by Chris Evans (Not That One), is aptly named. Having recorded the second, exclusive Collings & Herrin CD, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, just a few short weeks ago in the studio of Ty Cerdd within the magnificent Wales Millennium Centre with Chris, soundman Felix and work experience “boy” Isaac, it is already available to pre-order at the GFS website. Some people are already pre-ordering it.

I haven’t seen it yet, but among the extras is a professional, multi-camera recording of our live podcast at Cardiff’s Masonic Hall. So, you get four brand new, stereo podcasts on the Russian literary themes of the title, plus six of our teenage poems, and the podcast DVD. There are free clips, including one of the podcast, on the website.

I would say it’s the perfect Christmas gift, but clearly, for most people, it would be an imperfect Christmas gift. However, having almost reached 200 podcasts (even though we’re officially on Podcast 140, a man called Graham has added all the extracurricular ones to the running total, and provided us with his working, and it nearly makes 200), which is the equivalent of about eight days’ worth of free bollocks, it would be nice if regular listeners supported this venture, as it effectively means we can carry on sitting in Richard’s attic once a week and making something spontaneous and free, as if we were Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden without the money, or the restaurants, or the sumptuous northern English countryside, or the editing, or the freedom to only have to record six a year.

And here we are sharing a joke in the studio. Happy Christmas.

Torch wood

Back in Cardiff for another insanely packed, physically and emotionally draining day of comedy. Richard and I did this for the first time in January; we spent the day recording four, new, exclusive podcasts in a studio at Ty Cerdd, the Welsh Music Centre, within the magnificent bowels of the Millennium Centre for commercial CD release through Go Faster Stripe, and in the evening, bandit-moustachioed impressario Chris Evans Not That One, booked us a gig by which to pay the overheads. In January, we played the bar of the mighty St. David’s Hall. It was a ridiculous task to set ourselves: improvise, from scratch, four and a half hours of conversation around loose themes (in that case, The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire (and Water) – see: Go Faster Stripe for details), then come up with a further one hour, six minutes and 35 seconds of topical improvisation before a baying, and paying, Cardiff audience. We managed it, and the results were OK – the gig was particularly enjoyable – but who but fools would attempt to recreate that magic?

We travelled down to Cardiff on Tuesday afternoon so that we would be fresh and well rested for our long day yesterday. Unfortunately, despite friendly staff, an Ikea makeover, an evil Nespresso machine in every room and good breakfast buffet items, the Cardiff Novotel decided to wake Richard up at 5.30am with a surreal alarm call that made CBeebies come on his telly*. Not a great start to the day, even with an evil cup of capsule-generated, baby-killing Nespresso to follow. (I slept well, thank you for asking, despite two Cobras at Chris’s favourite Indian restaurant, and the familiar 3am internal alarm call of the unfamiliar bed and alcohol combination.) Still, somehow, we managed to create four new podcasts, in studio conditions, on the themes hinted at by the new CD’s title, War & Peace, Crime & Punishment, which Chris hopes to have on sale within a couple of weeks.

This was my third time in this studio, with its grand piano and futuristic, Unknown Pleasures-style foam walls, as I recorded my audiobook of Where Did It All Go Right? here in 2009 (also available etc. etc.), and once again it was an occasion marked by bottles of water, occasional cups of coffee, that little table, not a whiff of wi-fi signal and men staring at us through the glass from the control room – this time, Chris, Felix and Isaac, who actually introduced himself to us as “Work Experience Boy”, as if his job had subsumed his very name – who did us the great honour of providing the occasional burst of laughter that was, unprofessionally, audible in the studio, through the glass. You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before you can hear the results: by turns strained, serious, ridiculous, philosophical, hysterical, grumpy, quiet, loud, peaceful and warlike. This can surely be no way to make a living.

Packing up at 5.30 there was no time for a jacuzzi at the Novotel, and barely time for one evil, developing-world-destroying Nespresso capsule, as I had to run through Secret Dancing in my room, a show I have not performed since August 21 and will never perform again, or at least that’s the mercurial plan. The talented Nathan Jay had created some music tracks for us to play out where there would normally be tracks by BAD, the Wiseguys, Mark Ronson and the Sugababes, as we can’t afford to licence existing music. I practised to these in front of the hotel mirror. By 7.30 Richard and I were skulking in the kitchen at the Masonic Hall, our dressing room for the night, having wandered, wide-eyed, through the lobby, past portraits of important looking middle-aged men in embroidered aprons, some actual middle-aged men in their civvies, and a stairlift to help elderly or infirm Masons up to their secret chambers. This was a weird place to do a comedy gig, and the room booked had a huge, impressive domed roof, but we made it our own, by constantly referring to it, and to The Da Vinci Code.

And here’s the portrait of the Queen, whom the Masons really like, who watched us from the back wall throughout:

Secret Dancing went well, and I remembered what order it all went in, although it was a weird experience after mostly doing it in a dark bunker in Edinburgh; despite being a seasoned stand-up, I have never done a gig that was being filmed for future DVD release and thus all the house lights were up and I could see the whites of even the back row’s eyes as they either laughed or didn’t laugh, or, in the case of Richard, who sat at the back, seemed to doze off, dreaming of CBeebies, unless he was playing a game on his iPhone, which would be business as usual. Have a look at the Torchwood-loving, Strictly-denying Cardiff nerds we spent two hours looking at:

Here’s me, Secretly Dancing, or at least talking about Secretly Dancing, or indeed Secretly Milking (my carefully timed one-hour Edinburgh show lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, as I must admit I savoured this last performance of it):

And here’s us, in our Masonic thrones (which did have strange symbols carved into their high backs):

Anyway, the audio podcast itself, Number 138, is available to download here. Thanks to the Masonic Hall, Chris Evans Not That One, Gerald, Felix, Sue and all the crew, all of my Secret Dancers, anyone we picked on, especially Jeff and Bec, Rasputin and London Irish II, and to Phil Jones, Mike Griffiths, and PennyWisePeter for the bootleg photos. It was a long night, and a long day, but all the better for being in a city that has been so kind to us while raining on us at the same time.

*Mr Richard Herring now accepts that he may actually have left his telly on, and that CBeebies may have just started broadcasting at 5.30am, but we may never know. Either way, just in case, he’s not suing the Novotel chain, or George Clooney.

Bristol Hippo Drome

We had a lot of fun at the Bristol Old Vic Studio last night, our first ever gig in the round, which is both a theatrical and geometric term, and made us feel like we were in the monkey court on Planet Of The Apes. The photos are now in. Thanks to TheEyeCollector for the lead pic. Any additions gratefully received. The venue staff were very strict about no photographs, and our new friend LondonIrish, easily identifiable in the first audience pic below, was among those ticked off for whipping his phone out during the show. This actually made it feel more like a theatre show, rather than just two blokes talking bollocks to each other.) Thanks, Bristol. Just have one railway station next time, right? You don’t need two.

These pics just in, from Aramando:

Jam in

Bristol Old Vic is throwing a festival of improv, with theatre and music and comedy and … me and Richard Herring. It is called Bristol Jam, and we encourage you to have a look at what else is on. In the meantime, we were in the Studio, not the main theatre. Although we think we could have sold enough for the theatre, the Studio was at least totally sold out, and a really cool space. We did our first ever live podcast in the round. I saw Neil Diamond in the round at Birmingham NEC, as it was, in about 1989, and it was a blast. But it’s weird to perform this way, conscious, as you are, about the people behind you. We made the most of it, especially during the now-traditional second half, when we record the actual podcast, during which we opted to move around, a quarter at a time, every 15 minute, so as to spread ourselves out over the full circle of the audience.

It was a lovely audience, by the way. Even though, during my solo stand-up 20 mins in the first half, a gentleman literally stole the punchline to my Edinburgh-honed Britain’s Worst Serial Killers routine! It’s not the most difficult punchline in the world, but he was certainly precise in his preempting of it. I wished him no ill-will; instead, I simply gave him my mic. It wasn’t meant as an aggressive gesture, and the gentleman in question very magnanimously came up to get merchandise signed at the table after the show in the bar. This is why stand-up is so appealing to me, this highwire act between pontificating and dealing with the vagaries of what might happen in the the relationship between you and the audience, and ultimately, why I am relinquishing the responsibility by giving up stand-up.

We had a terrific gig. The audience – all around us! – were patient and charming. And the staff at the Old Vic were professionalism personified. Particular props to Jay, and to Barny, and to Chris, who organised the whole thing. We had a lovely time. And I must namecheck John, who, after the podcast recording was over and we launched into an unrecorded Q&A, actually explained the cryptic crossword clue I had thrown out earlier, and explained the answer: TUNGSTEN is also known as WOLFSRAM, which will make sense when you’ve listened to the podcast.

So, I say hats off to Bristol Old Vic, for looking after us so well and treating our ridiculous load of old nonsense as if it were improvised theatre, which it wasn’t. And to keeping the bar open after we’d finished, which is something the otherwise exemplary Bloomsbury in London doesn’t do. It was nice, as ever, to commune with the excellent nerds afterwards, many of whom had become part of the show, and some of whom will feature on the podcast, which will be available here when Orange Mark decides it will be so.

Hellooo-ooo, Bloomsbury!

This is the terrifying if grandly appointed prospect that faces us if jaded, blasé, London-based fans of the podcast don’t hurry up and buy a ticket for Collings & Herrin Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London’s Bloomsbury, situated near where Ricky Gervais used to live.

It’s such a nice space – I’ve played it many times under the militant-atheist wing of Robin Ince, and also as a support act, with Stuart Maconie and David Quantick, for Lloyd Cole (true!), while Richard and his Oxbridge chums have performed As It Occurs To Me there, along with countless other spots – but it is even nicer if it’s full of merry people. A couple of hundred have already booked, but the more the merrier.

So, it’s all happening a week today, and these are the details, one last time:

  • Monday, September 27, Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AH; tickets £15 – to reiterate: this is a full show, with solo stand-up from both of us, plus the extended podcast itself, which will be available to download the next morning as if that’s any kind of consolation prize, and we expect an exclusive, non-broadcast Q&A if you behave yourselves – tickets available here
  • Your face here

    Join these satisfied customers by buying a ticket to one of the Collings & Herrin live podcasts, coming to three towns which may or may not be near you, this autumn. The first is almost upon us, and it’s the biggest one we’ve ever done!

  • Monday, September 27, Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AH; tickets £15 (this is a full show, with solo stand-up plus podcast, which will be available to download the next morning, and exclusive Q&A if you behave), tickets available here
  • Wednesday, October 27, Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol, BS1 4ED; tickets £12/£8 conc (as far as we know this is a full show with solo stand-up, and that means Secret Dancing, I should imagine – it’s all part of Bristol Jam), tickets available here
  • Wednesday, November 3, Cardiff Masonic Hall, Guildford St, Cardiff CF10 2HL; tickets £12.50 (another full night, booked in as we will be recording another exclusive C&H podcast CD, War & Peace, Crime & Punishment, for release before Christmas, hopefully), tickets are only available from Go Faster Stripe, here
  • We’d love to see you. And you know you want to see Richard’s new “90s Richard” hairstyle, live.

    Let’s avoid this sight:

    You couldn’t make it up


    And I didn’t. For anyone who doesn’t listen to podcast: I have become fascinated by a not-for-sale rhino that sits atop a shelf at a key-cutting/watch repair concession at Vauxhall overground station in South London. It made me laugh that the rhino was seemingly put there for decoration but had to have the handwritten RHINO NOT FOR SALE sign put in front of it, thus ruining the decorative look of the statue. I cling to the idea that so many people must have gone in there to have a key cut or a watch battery fitted and asked how much the rhino was, the poor harassed owner had to make and erect the sign. The RHINO NOT FOR SALE sign disappeared for a while, which made me wonder if the owner felt the signage had done its job and risked taking it down, or else the rhino had actually suddenly gone on sale. However, the recent return of the RHINO NOT FOR SALE sign – a slightly smaller, less obtrusive one, actually – suggests customers have started asking about it again. Ah, the gentle, large-mammal-based soap opera of real life. Thanks so much to Andy McH for hearing my plea on the podcast and going out on South London safari to bag a snapshot. If AA Gill had done it, he would no doubt have shot the rhino, to see what if felt like.

    Of course, Richard thinks people should go in the shop and ask how much the RHINO NOT FOR SALE sign costs, so that the owner will have to make a RHINO NOT FOR SALE SIGN NOT FOR SALE. He is a professional comedian.

    PS: Update. Our nerds are dangerous people. What would happen if they used their powers for evil?