Personal Stories

Milk and Cookies 7 – Bush Hall

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David Ford - Milk and Cookie, Bush Hall, 2007“He is becoming unmissable,” says The Guardian. And for a growing crowd of fans – including me – David Ford gigs are becoming a downright religious experience. None are more unmissable than his charity-focused Milk and Cookies nights every year, where lucky punters get treated to 2 hours of David singing his songs, other people’s songs, songs the audience pick and any god damn song he pleases. Oh, and all the money goes to charity, which warms our charity-based cockles…

On Friday night, Michelle and I picked up Shaun and Elli and managed to rock up at Jac’s house in Putney for 7pm, despite the London traffic. From there, we braved the freezing weather to the 220 bus, boarded it and sat down, eagerly anticipating the night ahead.

Now, I’d been looking forward to this gig for a good few months, and I didn’t want to miss a moment. However, the Dalmatian of Time was drooling impatiently at our heels – it was 7.35, the performance started at 8.15 – and we still had a 15 minute bus ride and 15 minutes of walking to do. I was a little on edge, and everyone could sense it. “Oooh, must be a good twenty minutes yet,” Jac smiled as I regularly asked how long it would be to the next stop. He wasn’t helping.

However, that was nothing compared to the next few minutes. We drew up to one stop, and all of a sudden the bus driver turned off the engine. “That can’t be good,” I mentioned, perhaps a little too loudly. And indeed it wasn’t – it turned out that a woman had got on the bus through “the wrong doors”, and the bus driver – a shining example of productivity and Christmas cheer – decided to go on his own little mini-strike. Which of course, threw me into all sorts of trouble. As the woman and the driver trading verbal blows, I buried myself in the newspaper while things quietly exploded in my head. We’re bound to be late now, I said quietly to myself.

As it turned out, we weren’t, thanks to a low amount of traffic and a very fast walk to the venue. And then… and then. We were in Bush Hall, a little corner of festive cheer in amongst London’s busy rush and toil, and David Ford was going to be playing for 2 hours. What more could we want? The place was decked out in Christmas lights, and by the time we’d bought our beer and wine it was full of Ford fans. I was eager for Shaun and Elli to enjoy their first Ford experience, and as he got on the stage and started belting out the wonder song State Of The Union, I knew my mission was complete.

For the next two hours, we were treated to an incredible spectacle – David Ford’s own songs intertwined with other classics – and other *not-so-classics* like Toxic, In The Air Tonight and many others (there are loads of videos here). It was sensational, and Shaun and Elli are now firm fans.

This year’s event was a more simple affair than last years – there was just David and one other band member, and this time no celebrities turned up – but it was just as enthralling. Christmas will always have to have a little bit of David Ford attached from now on – roll on Milk and Cookies 2008!

Information Junkie

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Michelle has a information junkie for a fiancée. I’m never without something to read or watch – a daily newspaper, a magazine, BBC News 24 – I can’t stop learning. I even have a load of fiction, self-development and productivity books that, ironically, I never get around to reading.
Until, about a month ago, a brainwave hit me. I have a lot of books, and I have a lot of time spent in my car, travelling the length and breadth of Europe. A solution – audiobooks! After all, my godfather has run an audio bookstore for years. After I managed to shake off the image that audiobooks are for elderly people in armchairs, I searched for some MP3s of the books I’ve currently got on my “waiting to be read” shelf. And so it is that, in addition to the newspapers magazine and TV news programmes that festoon our house, I’m now “reading” a book a week on the road. My brain will explode shortly, I’m sure…

Alex’s Acoustic Strum Session

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Alex, Jo and Marcos - Acoustic set, Jacks, HaslemereThe whirling dervish that is Alex Cameron performed an acoustic set, accompanied by his sweet-singing sister Jo and friend Marcos in Jack’s Bar, Haslemere last Sunday night. The bar is a cosy little number – looking more like it should be in London than Haslemere, and very festive is warm red hues, fighting off the freezing weather outside. Alex has the full low-down over on his blog, including pictures, MP3s and even some videos (including this little number), where my head makes a guest appearance several times….

Goodbye, Alison

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Alison RichardsAnother week, another loss. This time, a little closer to home – Alison Richards, founder of The Pier, raiser of millions for Unicef and part of my extended family, passed away on Sunday (click the link on that page for the full story). I’ll never forget her friendly manner and self-effacing style whenever I met her, which was always a surprise as she must have been as “hard as nails” – as one ex-colleague put it – underneath it all to get where she was in the retail industry – as the article says, she was “one of the best-known and most successful female leaders in retail.” I’ll also never forget her 50th birthday party in Vinopolis – an extravagant affair if ever there was one where people like her friend Dave Richards, owner of former Formula 1 outfit B.A.R., rocked up for a few drinks.
Even if I didn’t see you much after I left The Pier – you’re a bright light extinguished, Alison.
Update: Alison’s London Memorial details here.

To Hull and Back

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SombreroHull, sadly, doesn’t get better. Last week, I completed a 3-day stint up there, working and presenting for an awesomely large company and sampling the delights of the city in mid-winter. It didn’t take me long, as you can imagine – especially when I’d managed to forgot to book a hotel and ended up in a Quality Hotel – a misnomer if ever there was one. It’s almost as if the owners had discovered there wasn’t any quality at all in their chain of hotels, and a bright spark piped up, “I know, put the word in the title – that’ll level the playing field!”. Happily, I can report that I moved to The Village hotel, which couldn’t have been more of a contrast. You could even watch the TV from the bathroom – now that’s attention to detail… So I was there washing my teeth with my new electric toothbrush that I choose with these top picks and also watching a soap opera, how amazing is that?
Friday afternoon represented a long trudge back to Guildford – 5 hours for a three hour journey, mainly thanks to the traffic hell that it the M1/M25 junction. “Traffic Improvements” mean that for the next 6 months there’ll be at least an hour of delays with no way round them, according to my Tomtom.
So, all in all, this week wasn’t my favourite one of all time. A cracking fajita-based meal at the Son of Sombrero, a new little Mexican restaurant in Guildford, brought me out of my blue funk, and happily Michelle’s a bit of a celebrity there since she works with two of the part-time waitresses there. Free sangrias are always a winner…!

Rodrigo, Gabriela and David

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David Ford at ApolloOver the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to go to a biggish load of music gigs. Jac’s job at Sony have been very useful in getting hard-to-find tickets, and to keep my side of the bargain, I’ve been finding and buying tickets for a load of non-Sony based acts. In the past few months, I’ve seen Newton Faulkner, Ruarri Joseph, Ghosts and David Ford. And last night, mainly because David Ford was supporting, Michelle, Jac, Katie and I polled up at the Hammersmith Apollo to see Rodrigo y Gabriela.
We arrived outside at around 6.45pm, surrounded by the rush of pre-Christmas London. I’d never thought Rodrigo y Gabriela were that big – but the queue that snaked back on itself several times told a different story. We first saw them at Guilfest in the summer, strumming away on their guitars for half an hour like their lives depended on it. They were incredible. And the fact that David Ford was supporting sealed the deal…
As I say, the queue was enormous. But in a remarkable twist of timing and a superb freak of timing, we arrived just when the queue was being split in two by the security staff, and were directed midway through the queue, instantly making us people that I would normally hate. Nevertheless, we were in within 10 minutes, and dealt immediately with our weakening bladders. The long queue for the Mens would have more at home in the Ladies, truth be told, and as Jac and I stood waiting for our chance to offload I set about imagining a better design for the facility. My inner architect was shining through admirably.
Eventually, we made it to the stage and found a good central place to stand. The Hammersmith Apollo has been monopolised by beermakers Carling, meaning the large bar in the corner was stocked entirely by… Carling. “2 pints please,” I asked the friendly barman. He looked apologetically at me. “They’re £3.40.”
“Each?!” I laughed, getting £4 out for the two cans.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” the barman said, embarrassed but firm.
Successfully fleeced, I made my way back to our place, and waited for David Ford and the two Spanish wonders.
Over the next two hours, we were treated to a musical spectacle. It’s amazing to be confronted by two acts that manage to be immense talents without all the fakery that abounds in the music industry nowadays. There was a decent crowd for the ever self-effacing David Ford, and the crowd went utterly loopy for Rodrigo y Gabriela. I was wondering how they would fill a 90 minute slot with what was essentially two people playing guitars – but fill it they did, using the singing and clapping crowd as the rhythm and driving them all loopy with excitement. They’re guitar-playing needs to be seen to be believed – their playing is so fast, so furious and so complicated that it’s a wonder they have any fingers left to play with. They’ll be fine candidates for arthritis and RSI, I thought as they reached the crescendo of a finale.
So, it was another thoroughly good night. Roll on the 21st – a David Ford-fest at Bush Hall, full of Christmas spirit!

In defence of priorities

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DecisionsPeekaboo! Yep, here at Wibbler Towers, I’ve awoken from my slumber and plonked another post up here.

Well, “awoken” would probably be the wrong word. And “slumber”, in fairness, is a complete misnomer. To tell the truth, things have never been busier, and I’ve been caught in an endless cycle of tasks and fun. has obviously suffered a great deal – but the problem is this. When I’m out and about, I think of things to put up here. I get home, start to write, and then think: “actually, there are other things much more important than this – what about those bills I have to pay? What about that shelf that needs to go up? What about that other site that could be a potential cash cow? Shouldn’t I be doing those other things first?!” And so, agreeing with myself, off I trot and do something else. True, it has spawned a whole load of new and shiny things. There are new shelves! The lawn has been mowed! And in the online world, beautiful things have appeared from the coalface of my desk –,, and to name but four.

But, for better or worse, here I am. I’ve managed to find Todoist – a great tool for writing everything down and doing them without forgetting – as well as other handy tips from ZenHabits and Lifehacker that have helped me clear the workload. And that, dear reader, is how this post has arrived.

I’m back. Ish.

Photography Phame

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Dorian House, BathI’ve never been one for taking photographs. At least not ones that are any good. My dad was always at it, taking great pictures of most things that moved with his enormous and probably very expensive camera. But I didn’t inherit the snap-happy gene, with any pictures I do take looking as though a drunken, blind 3 year old was fiddling with the buttons. Just take a look at my gallery.
However, it seems as though other people have a different view. Last year, a local newspaper reporter wrote to me requesting use of some of my Guildford Fireworks photos. As ever, I’d just clicked and hoped on most of those babies, but it seems I’d managed to pull a few moments of glory off.
And then out of the blue comes another piece of photo-related fame. A few weeks ago, an email dropped into my busy inbox from Schmap, a web and paper-based tourist map of the UK. A photo I’d taken of Dorian House, a cracking hotle in Bath that Michelle and I visit around once a year, had made it to the final secletion for the 3rd edition of their Bath Guide. I dismissed it – but two weeks later, I am now the proud owner of a photo that will grace many a computer monitor and coffee table for the next year! Here’s the photo, and here’s their page showing the photo – it’s a shame that they’ve overlooked one critical thing though. If you look carefully in the mirror, there is a guest appearance (obviously unnoticed by Schmap) by my remarkably toned stomach! I now have a famous torso – I’m so proud…

Goodbye, Grandma

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Grandma - croppedOld age is remarkably undignified. As you trace across the land of time, your body gradually degrades, reminding you that time is not such a great healer after all. When you reach your later years, despite the plethora of drugs and potions available today, there is no elixir of youth that brings you back to your glory days.

Still, at least there *were* glory days, full of fun, smiles and immense occasions. The sad thing is that they usually happen when you’re too young and poor to recognise them. Life is a funny old thing – it would be much better reversed.

At 3am on Sunday 15th July, after 93 years on this planet, my grandmother decided that she’d had enough of life. She died after managing to gather an enormous amount of illnesses all at once, as if ensuring that she’d definitely not be coming back. Goodbye, Grandma.