Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stairway to heaven

When I was little, one of my grandmothers lived in a bungalow, and the other lived in a house, with a staircase. And one day, I remember one of my parents - I don't remember which - casually saying that this was sensible on the part of bungalow-Gran, as it meant she would be able to carry on living there even when she was very old. (It must, by the way, be one of the strange hazards of being a parent that, while the vast majority of everything you say to your kids, especially concerning teeth-brushing and room-tidying, is instantly forgotten; every so often you'll say something utterly unremarkable which your kid will NEVER FORGET.)

In this case, I think the reason it made such a big hit with me was it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that old people could get even older. I knew about death, of course, and I knew, without really believing it, that I would be a grown up one day, and my parents would get old. But this idea that either of my grans were not yet as old as they were ever going to be - as old, indeed, as it was possible to get - was completely new.

And I remember having two distinct reactions to the stairs thing: on the one hand, following my parent's lead, I too solemnly commended bungalow-Gran's foresight and good sense. But, at the same time, I secretly rather admired stairs-Gran's daredevil recklessness - her apparent refusal, not that I would have put it this way at the time, to go gentle into that good night...

Stairs-Gran would at the time, I think, have been about 65.

Monday, 17 August 2015

John Finnemore's Souvenir Cabin

Hello! I am very excited to announce that this autumn I will be doing a live stage show for two weeks only at the Shaw Theatre in London. Here's the poster, and tickets are on sale here.

The show will be a mixture of favourite sketches from John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme; brand new sketches; a 'Since You Ask Me' adventure; quite possibly a song or two… and a specially written new monologue by Mr. Arthur Shappey, making his first live stage appearance. He's very excited. Well, obviously he always is, but I mean specifically about this.

Each show will feature one of five guest stars, as shown in the poster: the four cast members of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, plus Kevin Baker, the 'Kevin' out of John and Kevin's Sunday Papers. The selection of sketches will be slightly different for each performer… and on the two Sundays, Kevin and I will do a live 'Sunday Papers'.

Here's who's on when:

30th September, 1st and 2nd October: Simon Kane.
3rd October: Margaret Cabourn-Smith
4th October: Kevin Baker
6th October: Margaret Cabourn-Smith
7th and 8th October: Lawry Lewin
9th and 10th October: Carrie Quinlan
11th October: Kevin Baker.


Tickets, as I say, can be bought here. 

The show has a Facebook page (which is more than I do.) It's a good place to ask any questions not answered here.

It also has a Twitter account. Why not.

The show begins at 7.30, and will be about two hours long, including an interval.

It is suitable for children. We've put over twelve as a guide, but this will not be rigidly enforced. If you have a well-behaved ten year old, bring them along. Come to that, I suppose, if you have a badly behaved fourteen year old, keep them away.

The Shaw Theatre is on Euston Road, next to the British Library, midway between Euston and King's Cross St Pancras stations.

…And I think that's it. Any questions, ask in the comment section, or on the Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 10 August 2015

With Great Pleasure

Since I'm back on this blog, I really ought to mention 'With Great Pleasure', a Radio 4 show I presented last week, and will therefore be available to listen to online here for the next three weeks.

In it, some idiot gets to pick eight pieces of writing they enjoy, and, crucially, two actors to read them out - which meant that I got to stage a partial Cabin Pressure reunion with the wonderful Stephanie Cole and Geoffrey Whitehead. For anyone needing further evidence of their genius: firstly, what's the matter with you? and secondly, I direct you particularly to the way Stephanie says 'accompany me on the harp', and Geoffrey says 'beautiful, beautiful flamingo.'

I hope it's half as much fun to listen to as it was to record.

Click to make readable

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Super De Luxe even includes a bed.

- 'Now, we offer a range of caravans, Sir, what sort of thing did you have in mind?'
- 'I don't know… what have you got?'
- 'Well… for the economy minded customer, we offer the Compact. Value for money, but perhaps a little cramped. Then of course there's our Standard model, which offers rather more space and comfort, whilst still being very competitively priced. And then, of course, for the caravan connoisseur... there is the De Luxe.'
- 'The De Luxe? That sounds good.'
- 'Oh, it is, sir. The last word in luxury. Assuming of course that money is no object.'
- 'Well, I wouldn't say that, but… we're only likely to buy a caravan once… What the hell! We'll take the De Luxe!'
-  'An excellent decision, sir! One never regrets buying the best! Mr Stephenson? Pray prepare for the gentleman… our caravan De Luxe!'

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

One kitchen, two fools, six legs.

…Hello. Remember me? Sorry about the tumbleweed, I've been busy writing things. I still am, but I'm going to try to get back into the habit of putting things up here as well.

Recently, I was for a few days looking after my friends' dog, captured here in a typical moment of meditative thoughtfulness:

One of the solemn duties of whoever is lucky enough to be custodian of this large brown idiot is to give him a pill in the morning. He won't eat the pill on its own, so I found the easiest way to get him to take it was to use a dab of butter to stick it to a dog biscuit, and toss him that. I was constructing this cunning pill / biscuit Trojan Horse the other morning, with the dog watching me attentively, when I accidentally dropped the pill. As it rolled off the kitchen counter to the waiting dog below, I called out, instinctively… 'Leave it!'

Yeah, quick thinking, genius. Because it would be terrible if the dog ate the pill before you put it on the biscuit that makes him eat the pill...

Friday, 1 May 2015

Look, Dobbin - it's got an astrolabe!

I saw this poster recently, from which I have trimmed off the product name out of sheer spite. 

Elegance is an attitude. That's what Simon Baker thinks, and you can tell he means it, because he's signed his name under it. And then typed his name under that, in case you can't read his signature. Simon Baker, you will discover if you Google him, is an incredibly famous actor; and in his important opinion elegance is an attitude. Elegance is not something you can learn, or buy, or get from owning a particular product, presumably... it's an attitude. It's hard to describe what that attitude is, but you know it when you see it.  It's wearing a suit and tie when you show your watch to a horse. It's signing your name under all the philosophical quotes you come up with, like Aristotle would have done if he'd thought of it. It's being in black and white. It's an attitude. Simon Baker has it, obviously. Simon Baker's horse has it. Maybe three or four other people in the world have it. Everyone else will just have to try and make up for their innate lack of it by buying a ridiculously over-priced watch. 

Not me, though. Because as it happens, I too am one of those lucky possessors of that rarest of attitudes... elegance.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Hello! There is no way of doing this that doesn't sound incredibly self-important, so let's all just grin and bear it. The thing is, in the next few weeks I'm hoping to be able to announce a couple of new things I'm doing this year, at least one of which will involve live performances. Now (here comes the self-important bit) in the past, tickets for things like this have gone quite quickly, and I would like to make sure that people who are interested enough to, for example, keep tabs on this blog have the chance to get them. So, if you put your email address into the box below, I will send you an email about these things a week or so before I announce them generally.

(Your email won't be passed on to anyone else, and I won't send you emails very often. And of course you can always unsubscribe again. Your umbrella may go down as well as up.)


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Friday, 27 March 2015


This is G. K. Chesterton and his wife Frances, nee Blogg. They were a devoted and happy couple, and Frances was largely responsible for managing the chronically disorganised Chesterton's life. (He famously once sent her a telegram reading 'Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?')

When they were engaged, Gilbert sent Frances a letter beginning '...I am looking over the sea and endeavouring to reckon up the estate I have to offer you.' You can read all twelve items he came up with here, but here are the first six. The sixth is my favourite.

1st. A Straw Hat. The oldest part of this admirable relic shows traces of pure Norman work. The vandalism of Cromwell's soldiers has left us little of the original hat-band.

2nd. A Walking Stick, very knobby and heavy: admirably fitted to break the head of any denizen of Suffolk who denies that you are the noblest of ladies, but of no other manifest use.

3rd. A copy of Walt Whitman's poems, once nearly given to Salter, but quite forgotten. It has his name in it still with an affectionate inscription from his sincere friend Gilbert Chesterton. I wonder if he will ever have it.

4th. A number of letters from a young lady, containing everything good and generous and loyal and holy and wise that isn't in Walt Whitman's poems.

5th. An unwieldy sort of a pocket knife, the blades mostly having an edge of a more varied and picturesque outline than is provided by the prosaic cutler. The chief element however is a thing 'to take stones out of a horse's hoof.' What a beautiful sensation of security it gives one to reflect that if one should ever have money enough to buy a horse and should happen to buy one and the horse should happen to have stone in his hoof--that one is ready; one stands prepared, with a defiant smile!

6th. Passing from the last miracle of practical foresight, we come to a box of matches. Every now and then I strike one of these, because fire is beautiful and burns your fingers. Some people think this waste of matches: the same people who object to the building of Cathedrals.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Two of a kind

Winston Churchill. Not that one.

This is nice. In 1899, Winston Churchill was 25, an aspiring politician, and the author of a couple of books. He was not, however, the most famous Winston Churchill around. That was the now largely forgotten, but at the time best-selling, American novelist... Winston Churchill. Aware of this, the British Winston Churchill wrote to his namesake as follows:

Mr. Winston Churchill presents his compliments to Mr. Winston Churchill, and begs to draw his attention to a matter which concerns them both. [...] He has no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will recognise from this letter — if indeed by no other means — that there is grave danger of his works being mistaken for those of Mr. Winston Churchill. He feels sure that Mr. Winston Churchill desires this as little as he does himself. In future to avoid mistakes as far as possible, Mr. Winston Churchill has decided to sign all published articles, stories, or other works, ‘Winston Spencer Churchill,’ and not ‘Winston Churchill’ as formerly. He trusts that this arrangement will commend itself to Mr. Winston Churchill, and he ventures to suggest, with a view to preventing further confusion which may arise out of this extraordinary coincidence, that both Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill should insert a short note in their respective publications explaining to the public which are the works of Mr. Winston Churchill and which those of Mr. Winston Churchill. 

To which the American Winston Churchill replied:

Mr. Winston Churchill is extremely grateful to Mr. Winston Churchill for bringing forward a subject which has given Mr. Winston Churchill much anxiety. Mr. Winston Churchill appreciates the courtesy of Mr. Winston Churchill in adopting the name of ‘Winston Spencer Churchill’ in his books, articles, etc. Mr. Winston Churchill makes haste to add that, had he possessed any other names, he would certainly have adopted one of them.

Good work, Winstons.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

John and Kevin's Sunday Papers - Review of the Year

I know it's hard to imagine, but beneath the impossibly slick looking surface of John and Kevin's Sunday Papers, with its sky-high production values, glamorous locations, and billion dollar cast, lie ordinary fallible human beings who occasionally make mistakes.

Here are a few of them...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Well, it's here... yes, it's here...

Happy Fifth of February! Here's a little song Susannah Pearse and I wrote in honour of this deeply unspecial day...

(Yes, I know it's some peoples' birthdays. Doesn't make it any more special, I'm afraid. Every day is some peoples' birthdays.)

However, this particular Fifth of February is at least a fraction merrier than most, because today is the launch of the complete and utter definitive A to Z Cabin Pressure CD box set! Here they are, all fourteen of them:

The discs include:

- All 26 episodes (well, technically 27, but I like to think of Zurich as one two-part episode. It's just neater) in correct, alphabetical order.

- A bonus half hour in which producer David interviews me, mainly about odd little references in the show; and we introduce such things as:

- Some deleted clips and scenes, including Martin and Douglas talking about their fathers in St Petersburg, and Martin X-raying the geese at the end of Uskerty.

- The little monologues I wrote just for the audience at the very first recording, in which each character introduces themselves.

- Two specially written trailers for series 2 of the show, one featuring Stephanie, the other Benedict.

- One 'blooper'. I know you wanted more, but for some reason they generally don't really come across in audio only.  But this one does, and it's a good one...

Then there's the 32 page booklet, which includes:

- Casting and transmission details of all the episodes, obviously.

- Strange little doodles, by me, of things like oboes and green bottles and stuffed sheep and cricketers carrying a fire-truck, all around the above.

- A hand-drawn world map of all the destinations, also by me.

- An annotated diagram of the layout of Gerti; including secret location of the asbestos gloves; untampered with armrests; and the captain's seat for the captain to sit in, because he's the captain. Yep, me again.

- The official MJN Air Games Compendium - a list of all the games played by the crew through the show.

- The Rules of The Travelling Lemon.

- The Rules of Yellow Car. Well, the rule.

- The five double page spreads, one for each main character, showing their notebooks, wall charts, manuals or diaries; as published in the individual CD releases, but now in glorious technicolour, which means Arthur's jelly-babies are finally recognisable, and don't just look like weird stones.

- Eleven hidden lemons.

- A page of plot ideas which never made it into episodes, with explanations as to why not.

- A page of my notebook from the writing of Zurich.

- A double page spread of photos of the cast rehearsing and recording Zurich.

- Two high quality staples (used)

So, yes. We tried to pull out all the stops for this. Hope you like it. If you want to discover whether you like it or not, you can do so by buying it from Pozzitive, the BBC, high street book and music shops, or even big bad Amazon:


I already have the CDs! Can I get Zurich separately, or are you trying to make me buy the whole show all over again, you gang of twisters?

Not at all. Both series 4 and Zurich are available to buy separately, like so:

What about the booklet and the bonus material? Can I get that separately?

I don't think so, no. But that's fair enough, isn't it? That's what 'bonus material' means.

Will it be released in America? Or the rest of the world?

It's definitely going to be released in America, we think in April. I don't know about the rest of the world. But you can always order it from Britain and get it shipped to you.

I am young, and have never even heard of CDs. Are they those things Victorians played on gramophones, in their zeppelins?

That's right, yes. You can of course also still get all of Cabin Pressure by download, from iTunes or wherever else you get your music.

Why are you using Amazon links? Don't you know they're the baddies?

Because they tend to have the cheapest price, and it seems unfair not to point at the cheapest price. Also, because they're the single source most likely to have it in stock. The BBC shop, for instance, is currently sold out, even though it's the day of release. But you are of course welcome to buy it from whatever shop your taste and conscience dictate.

Is this the longest blog post you've ever written?

I don't know. It's right up there, isn't it?

Don't you feel bad that it's essentially just a huge long advert?

...Well, I didn't. But now I do. There's the song, though! Don't forget it started with a song!

We'd already heard the song.

Oh, leave me alone.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Zurich

The Nachzehrer, by Simon Kane. 

(Spoilers follow, obviously.)

Well, I'm glad you liked it! Glad, and very, very relieved.

I've said before that I often give episodes working titles alongside the geographical ones, to help keep my mind on the theme. Zurich's was 'Graduation Day'. My starting point was, why is this the final episode? I knew that everyone would still be doing their respective jobs at the end, so why won't we be following them any more? Because, I decided, as well as the straight-forward happy endings involving gold and marriage; there needed to be another, intangible level of happy ending, in which all five of the crew graduated, in one way or another, from being sitcom characters. We're not going to be following the adventures of OJS Air, or of Martin in Switzerland, because while they’ll still be having fun and playing games, they won't be doing the sorts of things that kept them getting into sitcom-episode-sized scrapes, and that ultimately stemmed from something out-of-joint in their lives. They’ve grown up. Except Arthur. But even Arthur, a little bit.

Martin Crieff was a sitcom character because i) he desperately wanted to do something he fundamentally wasn’t very good at, and ii) he was over-promoted, under-confident and over-compensating. In the last two series we've seen him grow in confidence - and competence - to the point that in Yverdon, it is (I hope) plausible that a major airline could offer him a proper job. There was never any question for me that for Martin, a happy ending had to involve him taking that job. To reject a real career, with a future and prospects (not to mention being handy for Vaduz) in favour of the security blanket of MJN - even with a salary - would be a failure. Certainly MJN is like a family to him, but if it is, he’s the elder child… and what children have to do eventually is grow up, and move out. Not that the security blanket isn’t tempting, of course; so for Martin, graduation was about overcoming his melt-down at the auction, and realising both that he can leave home, and that he should do.

The thing that has kept Douglas a sitcom character - and I've had to bite my tongue so many times not to say this in any of the previous Bear Fact posts, because to me it's so fundamental to his character, but I didn't want to mention it until Zurich aired - is that he's not the captain. So much of his persona, his put-downs, his scheming, stems from the fact that he used to be a captain, he ought to be a captain… and he's not. He pretends not to care about it, but we see as early as Fitton that he cares deeply. The natural order of things, certainly as he sees it, is that he should be in charge, the father figure in the family… and technically, he's not. I’ve always thought that the running joke of strangers assuming Douglas is Captain and Martin F.O. must have been at least as painful for Douglas as it was for Martin. He’s just better at hiding it… and better in general at constructing a super-human persona to hide behind.

So, the thing Douglas needed to graduate from being in a sitcom was to become a captain again… and the test he needed to pass in order to earn that was to act like one. Not just take charge and make decisions in a crisis, but do so openly and honestly. Douglas prefers to hang back, let other people make mistakes, work out the 'something clever' he's going to do in secret, and then present it with a flourish. He's a goal-hanger. This time, he has to act on his sense that it's imperative to get Gerti back before he's worked out all the details. He has to risk his own money, and more importantly, he has to admit to Carolyn and the others that he’s making it up as he goes along. He's not trying to impress anyone with how clever he is, he's trying to do the best thing for the crew - like a captain. And finally, if the crew is a family, he has to be a good parent. He has to look after the younger sibling; and he has to help the older one leave home, by sharing the secret of his persona.

Carolyn had the shortest distance to go to graduate. She's always been eminently capable of running her business, and she remains so; just as she has always been an excellent parent, both literally and metaphorically. So, although I was keen that she, like the other three, should do 'something clever' to save Gerti - in her case, it's manipulating the auctioneer to sell her to Bruce not Gordon - her real graduation is in her personal life. She needs to say 'I love you' to Herc, because the Beatrice and Benedick schtick is all very well - and I'm sure will continue throughout their marriage – but it’s time for her to accept that she can show vulnerability to Herc without suffering for it.

And in order for her to believe that, Herc needs to stop showing off, and actually work hard to persuade her that he is genuine, and she is safe with him. Which he does with the ‘white hair’ speech; but more importantly by putting his money where his mouth is, and accepting both a pay cut and a demotion if that’s what it takes for them to be together. To put it another way, both Herc and Carolyn needed to stop sparring, and work out which one of them actually was the alpha dog. And the answer, of course, is Carolyn.

And Arthur… well, Arthur is never going to grow up, as the ice cream van shows us. But luckily, he’s entirely happy as he is, so he doesn’t need to. So, graduation for him (apart from successfully over-riding a Code Red) is all about dealing with the only thing that’s wrong in his life – his father. Arthur’s test was to stand up to the false (if biological) father in his life, firstly at the auction and secondly and most importantly by remembering his grandmother’s name, realising that he will never, ever have a genuine father / son conversation with Gordon Shappey; and renouncing him once and for all in favour of the two genuine father figures in his life – and in particular, the one who has always looked out for and defended him, even as he mocks him; the one with whom he can discuss the dames and the horses over a few pineapple juices; and the one on whom he can utterly rely to do something clever, and make everything alright.

And because they all did those things, lo, the God of sitcom was pleased with them, and rewarded them with golden buns for tea, and an annoying sunset to fly into… but only as far as a destination beginning AA.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Zurich - Part Two

Well, here it is… please take your seats, and prepare for landing. Very much hope you enjoy it, and that you approve of the ending. But, whether you do or not, thank you very, very much for all your comments, poems, jokes, support, drawings, praise and occasional fury over the past six years, and most of all…

Thank you for flying MJN Air. 


The Airport.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Zurich - Part One

Strap in, chaps. We're ready for take-off.

I won't be doing Farewell Bear Facts for Zurich for a few days, partly to give people a chance to listen to it on iPlayer, and partly because it's Christmas. But feel free to leave your comments here, and in the similar post I'll put up for part two tomorrow.

Hope you like it...

Monday, 22 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Yverdon-Les-Bains

More on Yverdon here. 

I decided when I wanted to end Cabin Pressure in between the Christmas special (M) and the start of series 3 (N). At that point I had written two series and a special - 13 episodes - and I noticed that if I could get the BBC to give me the same again, that would take me to the end of the alphabet. So, all of series 3 and 4 were written with some of the events of Yverdon and Zurich in mind. Not that that informed every line, or even every episode, but overall, I knew my job was to get Martin to the point where he could - with great difficulty, and by an extraordinary effort, pass a job interview at a 'proper' airline'… and poor old Douglas to the point where he knows exactly how Martin felt in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Carolyn was heading to the point where she was resigned, if not cheerful, about giving up MJN; and indeed prepared to encourage Martin to leave it - but with another, Herc-shaped dilemma to solve instead. 

I like Oskar's line about having tuned out for Martin's big speech. I knew the interview had to climax with one, because both we and Martin needed it, but I was never quite comfortable with it clinching the job for him, because a) it felt a bit of a Hollywood ending, and b) that isn't how airline recruiting works. So, I retuned the character of Oskar, who previously had just been another interviewer, there throughout, and pretty much interchangeable with Elise, into an unpredictable but shrewd CEO who had the power to shortcut the whole process and hire Martin on the spot. But, as he says, he doesn't do that because of the 'hero speech' - he's already made up his mind by then. And the things that get Martin the job offer (apart from his ability and willingness to learn the manuals, which he's always had) are all things he's learned to do at MJN. Plus, his getting Oskar to stay in the room. Which again, I don't think he could have done before he met Douglas, or Carolyn. 

In other words, the journey to Yverdon was to get the main characters to the point where Martin could plausibly say 'I would like you to give me ten minutes to change your mind'; Douglas could plausibly say 'I am the supreme commander of this vessel', and Carolyn could plausibly say 'It's only money.'

Meanwhile, Arthur... eats a dragon-fruit. Well, some characters are more prone to complex emotional development than others. But Arthur does have perhaps the key line in the whole episode, near the beginning:

 'Good luck, Skip! I hope you get the job! But I also hope you stay with us! So overall, I hope, er ... I don’t know what I hope!'

My aim was to bring the audience to the same point, especially once Martin gets the offer. If he turns it down, he's taking a backward step, away from financial security, the job he's always wanted, and the most promising romance of his life. But if he takes it, he's not only leaving a life he now enjoys with his closest friends, but forcing the closure of MJN, and thus surely changing all three of their lives for the worse. So, what's he to do? What do you hope he does? Do you know what you hope? Well, almost two years later, get ready to find out...


3.   MARTIN:          I'm afraid I'm too much of a perfectionist. I try too hard to do every aspect of my job really well.

4.   DEROCHE:         That's your greatest weakness?

5.   MARTIN:          Yes.

6.   DEROCHE:         So, if you joined us here, how would you work on improving it?

7.   MARTIN:          Well ... I suppose ... I would try to do everything more ... badly.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Xinzhou

More on Xinzhou here.

You remember how, way back in the Cremona bear facts, I said that we would come to the most difficult to write episode of all eventually? Well... welcome to Xinzhou. Xinzhou was an absolute nightmare to write, or rather to rewrite, culminating in a marathon 36 hour rewriting session through the night up to the very morning of the recording, during which heroic producer David got a sleeping bag sent to him from home so he could sleep in the Pozzitive office while I wrote, and also … the thing for which he has never quite forgiven me… was forced to eat a sandwich from Subway.

There were three main things that made it so hard. Firstly, it was another bottle episode, like Fitton and Limerick, which as I've said elsewhere I find the hardest to write. Secondly, separately it also had quite a lot of hard work to do getting all the characters set up for Yverdon, and restating the stakes: Martin cannot go on as he is at MJN. But MJN cannot continue without Martin. Eventually, the way I found to do this without having everyone just sit around telling each other things they already know, was to put the focus on Douglas. And indeed, in a quiet way, this is an episode all about Douglas - the others all have fairly basic Wants about getting to sleep or fixing the plane; but it's Douglas who goes on an important journey from discouraging Martin from leaving, so as to save his own job; to realising it's his duty to encourage him. And, of course, to fix everyone's problems by doing something clever… by finally making Martin give him his hat.

The third problem, though, was entirely my own fault. Once I got the 'stuck on Gerti overnight' idea, I initially thought this would be more like Limerick - constantly flicking between various games and conversations as they tried to keep themselves amused. And I had a lot of ideas in my various notebooks and early drafts of other episodes for games and stupid 'how many otter…' style conversations that I'd never used. So why not, I thought to myself, gather them all together, and make an episode out of them? Because, I ought to have immediately answered myself, whilst kicking myself hard for even asking such a stupid question, that NEVER WORKS. On two other non-CP-related occasions I've tried to write something by assembling various bits cut from other shows or drafts and trying to stitch them together into a sort of Frankenstein's monster, and on both occasions it's gone about as well as it went for Dr. Frankenstein. And the same thing happened this time. The bits had been written at different times, they had subtly different moods, they involved different stages of the characters (Series 2 non-Arthur characters, as I've been saying a lot in these posts, do not act the same way as series 4 characters) , and no matter how I tried to rewrite and finesse them, it didn't work. It wasn't like an episode of Cabin Pressure  - it was like one of those clip show episodes US sitcoms sometimes do.  So, after a crisis meeting with producer David… I threw out almost everything, and started again. Hence the mad scramble to the very brink of the deadline, and beyond, as I ran quite chronically out of time. So… you can imagine how delighted I am that when a fan site did a poll, Xinzhou was voted their favourite episode of series 4 - and I know a lot of people have it as their favourite overall. Believe me, that did not seem a likely scenario at 5am on January 6th 2013...


DOUGLAS                  I’m sorry you’ll miss your date, Martin.

MARTIN                       It wasn’t a date.

CAROLYN                   Did you have a date?

MARTIN                       No.

DOUGLAS                  Yes.

CAROLYN                   Well, who with? Tell all!

MARTIN                       There’s nothing to tell. She’s very nice, but… our jobs are too different, and we live too far away, and it’ll never work, so…

CAROLYN                   Oh dear. Where does she live?

MARTIN                       Vaduz.

CAROLYN                   Oh, in Lichtenstein? Did you meet her when you picked up that awful Princess?

MARTIN                       …Yes I did.

CAROLYN                   And what does she do?

MARTIN                       She’s… er…

DOUGLAS                  She’s in management, didn’t you tell me, Martin?

MARTIN                       …Yes. She’s a manager. She’s quite high up.

CAROLYN                   What company?

MARTIN                       …I can’t really tell you.

DOUGLAS                  But put it this way, it has the turnover of a small country.

Me on your radio and (very slightly) TV over Christmas

We interrupt this stream of Bear Facts to let you know that, by coincidence, I am doing something you can listen to, or even watch, over each of the next four days.

22nd December. Two today. In the morning, m'Souvenir Programme colleague Carrie Quinlan and I will be doing a short and Christmassy sketch during the Today programme. This, and all the things listed here, will be available on iPlayer once they've been aired. I'm not going to do links, because you're all terribly clever people, and can find them for yourself.

In the evening, I make my second appearance in this series of one of my favourite shows, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. (I stepped in at short notice for an indisposed Barry Cryer, by the way, which is why I'm not credited - but don't worry, he's absolutely fine.)

23rd December. There's this sitcom I write called 'Cabin Pressure', about pilots. Anyway, the first part of the two part show finale will go out at 6.30 on Radio 4. Incidentally, there are spoilers absolutely everywhere. The audience who saw the recording in February have diligently and heroically kept quiet for ten months. The papers previewing the show… not so much. If you haven't been spoilt yet, and don't want to be, I advise you not to read or listen to anything you see promoting the show. Except this. This is fine.

Christmas Eve. The second part airs. For what it's worth, I don't think I've seen any spoilers relating to events in this half. For instance, the scene the BBC has put out is from part one, and if you've seen the cast list, all of those characters have made their appearance by the end of part one. So, even if you've seen spoilers, you still have some surprises in store.

Christmas Day. m'Souvenir Programme Colleague Margaret Cabourn-Smith and I make a (brief) final appearance as Miranda's annoying friends Chris and Alison in 'Miranda' on BBC1.

Boxing Day. Blessed relief for the nation - the plague of relentless festive Finnemore appearances is over.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Wokingham

More on Wokingham here.

- Arthur's irresistible helpfulness meeting Wendy's immoveable resistance to being helped is one of my favourite Arthur scenes. Partly because Arthur affects and furthers the plot for reasons other than clottishness. Partly because I love the friendliness that develops between them once Wendy realises she's met her match. And partly… because I got to perform a two-handed scene with Prunella Scales!

- There is a good reason why the pronunciation of Caitlin's name changes between Limerick and Wokingham. It's not the after-the-fact one I came up with in the blog post above, although that one will do in the characters' world.  Unfortunately for you… I cannot tell you what the real reason is. I know, maddening of me. But true.

- Nice, amongst all the character development and series arc-i-ness going on these days, to have a nice old-fashioned C.P. subplot about trying to win a silly game. And nice that it's Douglas and Carolyn doing it for a change, rather than Douglas and Martin.

Deleted scene. This is an interesting one, because rather than being cut for reasons as time, as usual, I requested Producer David to cut it, because I felt it was a mistake on my part. Here it is:

CAROLYN                   Oh, not at all. I know what it’s like… well, you’ve met Ruth. She still makes me feel like a five year old.
ARTHUR                     I’m glad I don’t have an older brother. Although, also, now I think about it, an older brother would have been great.
MARTIN                       Mm. Although… actually, as it happens… Simon’s my younger brother.
DOUGLAS                  What?
CAROLYN                   He’s not, is he?
MARTIN                       Only by a year! And he’s always acted like he’s older! And he’s so much bigger than me! And he’s got that moustache!

So, that works perfectly well as a sitcommy joke; and it's certainly true that there are siblings where the younger acts as if they were the older and/or vice-versa. But, ultimately, in this case, I didn't and don't think it was truthful. Simon's behaviour - which, as I've said before, I was keen to make irritating but not horrible - is so much influenced, in my mind, by the fact that he's an older brother who can't recognise that he and his siblings are all equal adults now; and so treats Martin as if he was still a kid, that to remove the root of that just for the sake of a capper at the end of the episode felt cheap. So, to be clear, the order of the Crieff siblings is: Simon, Martin, Caitlin. (Martin is such a middle child…)