Saturday, July 20, 2019

Lamping it up: Panto season arrives in Milton Keynes

Aladdin (and his lamp) comes to Milton Keynes Theatre this coming December. I had the delight of attending the press launch for the pantomime on Friday 19 July. It felt like Christmas!

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting and interviewing David Robbins who will be playing Widow Twankey. He originally trained as a stage manager specialising in wardrobe and prop making and then something magical happened one year...
David - so this will be your 19th Panto, I understand. How have you changed your approach to Pantos over that time - what do you do more of and less of now?
It could be possibly more than 19! But oh... that is a good question - I don't know. When I started, I was quite green. I was doing the Rocky Horror show and they stopped at Christmas. And that year my friend Mark (I made his costumes) said the production company hadn't got a Dame role for him, but they've got an Ugly Sister and he said "I need another sister..." and I knew where he was going! That was 1994!

Right from day one, I would always design and make all my costumes. Now I do the design and stay in control.
But do less of the work! It's a good aim to have! 
Yes! I suppose so! But I am getting stronger and stronger every year. Partly more confidence. There are and there were so many greats. Barry Howard was a great Dame and he taught me so much (he was the narrator for the Rocky Horror). We would sit and chat... so many stories
Why are there fewer great dames now?
There is almost no one to look up to anymore. It's celebrity. When you look at the old dames like the ones I was in awe of - Barry Howard, John Inman, Les Dawson... they already had a presence before you went to see them.
So you we need more celeb dames? Perhaps we need to get you on Love Island - maybe a Dame Love Island?
Maybe! But who would you pair up with? Daisy the cow...?!!
In a BBC survey some years ago, when asked "Who's your favourite pantomime dame?" Cinderella’s ugly sisters topped the poll with 43% with Widow Twankie coming second with 37%. How can you, this year, boost things to put Widow Twankie at number one? 
Come and see the show! Who knows what I am going to do! I start as a little bit of a of dowdy mum but become more glamorous. I am not a drag queen, I am a bloke in a dress but I am not trying to make you think I am a woman. My final costume is really glam but with odd feathers sticking out of it!
Pantos, like all good family comedy, hinge on finding humour that appeals to different ages simultaneously. I have always been in awe of comedians who can do that. What is your secret?
The secret is not being secret. Main thing is to present it plain as day: as it is written. That's the thing with innuendo - which always lands on the dame's lap (!). If you hold back, the children then wonder what's happening. Then if you over emphasise it, you still have the kids asking difficult questions.
You were in Dartford for last year's Panto. How is MK better than Dartford?
There's more roundabouts! You can't really compare, of course. But the theatre is great here, lots of space. I will be staying in MK.
David it has been lovely meeting you - I can't wait to see the show now!
Thank you! I now have 80 wigs to make between now and December.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

£5 offer from Tesco that you may not have thought you could use...

If you are a Tesco shopper and you have a voucher which says something like "Save £5 if you spend £50 or more" on a range of products but excluding many others, this information will help you get £5 off the cost of your diesel if you are about to purchase some.... Allow me to explain:

The voucher says it is an offer for purchases including 'car care' but excluding 'petrol'. So when I went into pay for a tank of diesel, I asked for the money off voucher to be applied. The Tesco forecourt cashier refused to do so. I then wrote to Tesco customer services ( and this is more or less what I said:

Recently I made a purchase in your Buckingham store and was given a "save £5 when you spend £50 or more.." voucher as part of my receipt. I read this carefully and it said it could be reimbursed for a single transaction across a variety of areas including 'car care'. I noted that groceries and petrol were excluded. The most caring thing I can do for my diesel car is to refuel it - but when I presented the voucher for my purchase of some diesel (note: not petrol) a few days later - the cashier refused to accept it as part payment. I wish to claim my £5. I do not see, anywhere on the voucher anything which excludes diesel. Neither is there a small print 'terms and conditions apply' type of statement either. (I have a copy I can send you if you like. I also have my recent transaction receipt which states that diesel was bought.) Under the Trades Descriptions Act (or similar) I believe I have a contract with you that requires you to pay me £5. Thank you.

I received an email today saying the following:

Dear Jon, I'm very sorry that you felt misled by the money off special offer. I can understand how frustrating this must have been for you. We try hard to make sure that our special offer signs are clear and easy to understand. It's certainly not in our interest to mislead anyone as this can upset our customers. Our Marketing Department is responsible for the wording on our offers, so I've passed your complaint to them. I know that they'll bear your comments in mind when we launch similar promotions in the future. I have requested a £5 Tesco MoneyCard to be sent to your address. I hope that it arrives with you quickly and safely. Once again, I do apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope that you will continue to shop with us in future. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us at quoting TESetc.

So result - a result that you could get too!

I have since replied:

Many thanks for honouring the contract I have with you for £5 - I am most grateful. I look forward to receiving the moneycard you mention in lieu of the voucher not being accepted at your forecourt here in Buckingham. I would say that I have not, nor do not, feel misled at all. For me the voucher was crystal clear and easy to understand - the offer was for £5 off my next purchase over £50 on a range of items including car-care (which I understand to include refuelling) and not excluding diesel. Thank you for sending my complaint onto your Marketing Department. They may wish to reword the vouchers to say 'fuel' rather than 'petrol' in the future, perhaps.

So you probably have just a small window of time before the wording on the vouchers are changed - watch this space! And if you manage to get your £5 which is rightfully yours, please have a drink or two on me!

UPDATE: £5 card received today! (21/7/10)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Some contestants' answers from TV quiz shows...

Jeremy Paxman: What is another name for 'cherrypickers' and cheesemongers'?          
Contestant: Homosexuals..               
Jeremy Paxman: No. They're regiments in the British Army who will be very upset with you
Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?               
Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.           
Jamie Theakston: There's a clue in the title.           
Contestant: Leicester
BBC NORFOLK             
Stewart White: Who had a worldwide hit with What A Wonderful World?           
Contestant: I don't know.      
Stewart White: I'll give you some clues: what do you call the part between your hand and your elbow?            
Contestant: Arm        
Stewart White: Correct. And if you're not weak, you're...?         
Contestant: Strong.               
Stewart White: Correct - and what was Lord Mountbatten's first name?            
Contestant: Louis      
Stewart White: Well, there we are then. So who had a worldwide hit with the song What A Wonderful World?               
Contestant: Frank Sinatra 
Alex Trelinski: What is the capital of Italy ?
Contestant: France .
Trelinski: France is another country. Try again.
Contestant: Oh, um, Benidorm.
Trelinski: Wrong, sorry, let's try another question. In which country is the Parthenon?
Contestant: Sorry, I don't know.
Trelinski: Just guess a country then.
Contestant: Paris                                                                        

Anne Robinson:  Oscar Wilde, Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Archer have all written books about their experiences in what: - Prison, or the Conservative Party?
Contestant: The Conservative Party..

DJ Mark: For 10, what is the nationality of the Pope?
Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?

Bamber Gascoyne: What was Gandhi's first name?
Contestant: Goosey?

GWR FM ( Bristol )
Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant: I don't know, I wasn't watching it then..

Phil: What's 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two ones with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?

Richard: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
Contestant: Forrest Gump.

Richard: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er.......
Richard: He makes bread .....
Contestant: Er .........
Richard: He makes cakes......
Contestant: Kipling Street ?

Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona .
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any countries in Spain ...

NATIONAL LOTTERY (BBC1)               
Question: What is the world's largest continent?   
Contestant: The Pacific..       

ROCK FM (PRESTON)            
Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci.      
Contestant: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 
Steve Le Fevre: What was signed, to bring World War I to an end in 1918?
Contestant: Magna Carta?                                                             

James O'Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth ... ER. ER ... Three?

Chris Searle: In which European country is Mount Etna ?
Caller: Japan .
Chris Searle: I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that, I can let you try again.
Caller: Er ............ Mexico ?

Paul Wappat: How long did the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel last?
Contestant (long pause): Fourteen days.

Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Contestant:      Holland ?
Daryl Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet..
Contestant: Iceland ? Ireland ?
Daryl Denham: (helpfully) It's a bad line.. Did you say Israel ?
Contestant: No.

Phil Wood: What 'K' could be described as the Islamic Bible?
Contestant: Er... ..... ...
Phil Wood: It's got two syllables . . . Kor ..
Contestant: Blimey?
Phil Wood: Ha ha ha ha, no. The past participle of run . ...
Contestant: (Silence)
Phil Wood: OK, try it another way. Today I run, yesterday I . . ...
Contestant: Walked?

Melanie Sykes: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferer can fall asleep at any time?
Contestant: Nostalgia..

Presenter: What religion was Guy Fawkes?
Contestant: Jewish.
Presenter: That's close enough.

Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day.. Which jungle-swinging character clad only in a loin cloth did he play?
Contestant: Jesus.


I reckon geography, history and RE teachers have a lot to answer for!

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to really love a child

I found this years ago in a Findhorn catalogue - apologies if I have infringed copyright - please just let me know. (You can click on the picture to make it bigger.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Revenge on marketing!

Three actions that work!

(1) The three little (golden) words:

If you get phoned up just say 'Hold On, Please...' and walk away. Saying this instead of hanging-up immediately would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt. Then when you eventually hear BT's 'beep-beep-beep' tone, you know it's time to go back and hang up your handset ..... you have efficiently completed your task. These three little words could help eliminate telephone soliciting.

(2) Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end?

This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone. This technique is then used to determine the best time of day for a 'real' salesperson to call back and get someone at home. What you can do after answering: If you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialled the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer!

(3) Pre-approved letters

When you get those 'pre-approved' letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope. Most of these come with postage-prepaid return envelopes, right? It costs them more than the regular postage 'IF' and when they are returned. It costs them nothing if you throw them away! In that case, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little, postage-prepaid return envelopes. Send an advert for your local chimney sweeper to American Express .. they might need one! Send a pizza coupon to HSBC ... in case their canteen packs up. You get the idea. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them back their blank application form... after all, it is their form! If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything you return. You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! It still costs them, and it is their envelope after all .. you are just returning it! The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the post, but folks ..... we need to overwhelm them, in order to stop them. Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all they're paying for it ... twice! Let's help keep Royal Mail busy. Since the Royal Mail are saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, let's help them so they will not need to increase postage costs again. You get the idea! If enough people follow these tips, it will work - maybe we'll all get less junk mail in the future.

This might be the one link you want to forward on?

Monday, September 28, 2009

A story of soap...

Below is some correspondence which actually occurred between a London hotel's staff and one of its guests. The London hotel involved submitted this to the Sunday Times. No name was mentioned.

Dear Maid, Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way. Thank you, S. Berman

Dear Room 635, I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory. Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid -- I hope you are my regular maid. Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won't need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them. S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman, My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn't remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance. Your regular maid, Dotty

Dear Mr. Berman, The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this A.M. that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you. Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Miss Carmen, It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 745 AM and don't get back before 530 or 6PM. That's the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me? S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman, Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you, Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mr. Kensedder, My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets. S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman, I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience. Martin L. Kensedder, Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs. Carmen, Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial. S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman, You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily (sic). I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room. Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mrs. Carmen, Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:

  • On shelf under medicine cabinet - 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • On Kleenex dispenser - 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
  • On bedroom dresser - 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
  • Inside medicine cabinet - 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • In shower soap dish - 6 Camay, very moist.
  • On northeast corner of tub - 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
  • On northwest corner of tub - 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings. S. Berman