Wednesday’s Countdown Poem

25 02 2015

The Line Gets Thinner

He sat there and gazed at the scoreboard
Things hadn’t been going so great
The moment he’d taken the champion’s chair
He’d got himself into a state.

Yesterday’d been a whole different story
In the challengers seat next to Nick
He had felt like his answers jumped right off the board
His words long, his sums right and quick.

The conundrum? It hadn’t been crucial
Yet the moment the thing was revealed
He’d buzzed and in under a second
For ten extra points got ‘congealed’.

After the credits stopped rolling
in the green room he’d been to decamp
where he heard a few folk from production
mutter – under their breath – “octochamp”.

But today all that promise was broken,
Some kid – barely out of short trousers
Was fifteen points up by the end of part two
Having played ‘axolotl’ and ‘browsers’.

So he knew that he needed to man up
To focus, zone in, get a grip!
To forget what had happened thus far in the game
To hunker down, centre, let rip!

He could feel his lungs rising and falling
The blood to his temples was jumping
As the corival picked his nine letters
His dander was up, his heart thumping.

He wrote down the letter selection
Saw some fours, then a five – then an eight!
And then – no! He couldn’t believe it!
It can’t be… yes, is it? No, wait…

And just as he started to check it
the half minute music went “boo”!
Should he play the safe eight or just chance it?
Oh, what was a poor boy to do?

In the stress of it all he was drowning
His opponent, when asked, declared “Eight.”
And our champion thought “Now or never!
Be Brave! Go for Gold! Vanquish fate!”

Then everything went in slow motion
So he took a deep breath – and again
And when Nick asked him what he was playing
He said “Well, Nick, I think it’s a ten.”

(And a massive thanks to Rachel Riley’s Dad who said some very lovely things about me to his girl genius)

(Oh, and a massive thanks to the very many of you who have been so kind about my tenure in DC. Loved it.)

Countdown – poems from Monday and Tuesday

24 02 2015

Hello. You may be new to this (very occasional) blog, but have come here as a result of seeing me do poems on Countdown. The lovely folk who make that show have said that the lovely folk who watch it have been asking for copies of them. This, as you can imagine, is very flattering.

I’m not known for poetry, but having been raised on Countdown by my Nan (see poem #2 ‘Let’s Play’) I’ve always felt that the great Dictionary Corner guest’s all do a bit of a party piece. So, I wrote some poems. I’ll do four this week and a short story. You’re very welcome to all of them. If you’ve enjoyed them, thank you. If you haven’t, well, you’ve really come to the wrong place.

Ruf x

[sidenote: I just couldn’t have enjoyed filming Countdown any more than I did. They are a truly lovely bunch, all of them; the production, the crew and the faces on screen. They say ‘Never meet your heroes’, but Countdown exceeded all expectations. Truly, a life’s ambition well met.]

countdownSalvation is a nine letter word

In ancient texts, since time began
In carvings, wax and scrolls,
In the dreams of Homo Habilis
And the yearning of our souls

Forever has there ever been
In mankind’s expectation
Promises of beings who
Will bring with them salvation.

But who are these leviathans,
These long awaited saviours?
What are their races, faces, places
statuses and flavours.

I’ve trawled the universities
I’ve asked and binged and googled
I’ve poured through dingy libraries
With sniffer dogs and poodles.

It’s been like the Da Vinci code
‘cept with me – and not Tom Hanks
I’ve searched for answers ceaselessly
Stopping not for food or w…hatever else one might stop for.

Then, finally, I found it!
The answer to my prayers
Descriptions of our rescuers,
Of three deific heirs.

The first is tall and fair of face,
But judge her not on beauty
The mistress of Mathmatics
Undivided and square-rooty
She solves the kind of sums that leave
Mere mortal brain cells broke
When Grandad first clapped eyes on her
Nan said he had a stroke.

The second of this trio
Is a mighty lexicographer
You could try to steal her special books
but you’d never get them off of her.
The picture of serenity
Etymologically sublime.
And when you’re sitting there with five,
She’s sitting there with nine.

The last of them’s distinguished
And the leader of this clan
Not O’Connor, Lynham, Stelling
Whiteley, Carr or Vorderman.
A wit dry as the Gobi,
A classy sort of geezer
A puller of great faces
And a total teatime teaser.
Once apprentice, now the master
Argent locks upon his head
He’s the man that Nanna thinks of
On the stairlift up to bed.

But where can these three Gods be found
These thwarters of the humdrum
I’ve no idea! I’m at a loss!
It’s a real ruddy conundrum!

Let’s Play

I don’t want to sound terse
But I’ve written this verse
As a way of my trying to tell
you the reason yours truly
is sat here all cooly’s
because of my Nan – Isabelle.
“I’m back off to work!”
My mum said with a smirk
In – I think – about – um – ‘85?
“And while I’m away
After school, every day
It’s your Nan’s job to keep you alive.”

So, off went my mother
And me and my brother
Got picked up by Nan from then on
She was kind, she was fun
the Mum of our Mum
and a chain smoker second to none.
She made tea with two bags
And smoked blue Rothmans fags
(Which thirty years back was less rare)
Her guitar was acoustic,
She was champion at Pooh sticks
And her ashtrays smelt just like her hair.
When we got home each day,
Before we could play
We’d do home work whilst she cleaned her dentures
But once we were done
It was time then for fun
And Nan made up brill’yant adventures.

There were dinosaur hunts
And BMX stunts
And football and cricket and tag
We got taught how to knit
And never to hit
though if we got hit, to hit back.
But no matter how dirty
we got, at 4:30
On went the telly – fourth channel
And while Nan put a brew on
We’d get pencils to chew on
And wait for that vision in flannel.
Mid-forties, but sprightly
The host – Richard Whiteley
With ties that were bad as his jokes
He’d welcome the presence
Of gathered contestants
Then Nan’d be back with her smokes.

And we’d silently sit
As the letters were picked
“An I, N, a G… oooh, that’s good!”
And once there were nine,
Whiteley started the time
And we each made the best word we could.
The numbers, with sums
solved on fingers and thumbs
If we got one we’d sing Hallelujah!
Then letters once more
“I think I’ve got a four.”
“Well, I’ve got an eight!” “No way! Do yer?!”
Our vocabularies grew
And the new words we knew
Meant that each time we played we did better
And I remember with love
My Nan and my bruv
Daily playing ‘Des Chiffres et des lettres”

Five years later, she died
And I cried and I cried
And I miss her, still do to this day
But each afternoon
When I hear the theme tune
I can still hear my Nan say “Let’s play.”
So, wherever you are Nan – let’s play.

My Nan - God, she was brilliant.

Alons y! Geronimo! Alba gu bràth!

2 09 2014

So, tonight I sat down with my son and we watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who. We got back from our holidays today, so tonight was our first chance.

Well, I say our first chance, but implies that we had a mutual desperation to see it, but just couldn’t make our diaries line up, which isn’t true. He’s six and a half. When he was three and a half, I took him to the press opening of ‘The Doctor Who Experience‘. We made it as far as the lobby before he totally freaked out. There was a looping video of the David Tennant ->Matt Smith regeneration and he just kept screaming “Why is that man on fire?!” We went home.

...but not before getting this picture :)

…but not before getting this picture 🙂

I decided that day not to rush it. It was a classic ‘dad move’ I think, especially with a son – maybe even double-especially with a first born son. When you hold your little bundle of mewling pink possibility for the first time, the sudden understanding that you are now Yoda to their Luke is visceral. It rests upon you (You!) to guide this little soul toward greatness, to fill their lives with great stuff. A mental list immediately begins. If the chief task of parenthood is to raise your kid not to be an utter arsehole (the world’s got enough of those) then what is the stuff that you have to expose them to? What can you let them see that helps them figure out the world and their place in it?

My boy’s been to Glastonbury, graveyards, Atheist churches and pubs. He’s hung out with Tim Minchin, Marcus Chown and my best mate Steve.

Is he ready for any of those things? No, not really.

Maybe there’s some deep, amygdala-rooted, fear of death bullshit going on. Maybe the apes that came before me were hardwired to teach their kids where the food and clean water was as soon as possible, just in case they themselves didn’t make it through the night. Maybe it’s some Freudian Oedipal aversion tactic – “If I show them all the good stuff, maybe they won’t grow up and kill me”.  Maybe it’s simply impatience in using them as an excuse to relive our childhoods/escape adulthood. Maybe it’s all of these things, maybe it’s none of them. Google ‘maybe’.

Dads whose kids have grown up are forever telling new dads not to wish that time away, to enjoy their children’s childhood. “You’ll never get that time back!”, they warn warmly. But babies are fucking rubbish. Feel free to disagree, but they are. There’s no reasoning with them and they’re just so fucking needy. It’s like living with a Kardashian, but with the added evolutionary imperative not to chainsaw them into tiny pieces. If I could have fast forwarded my son to his third birthday an hour after having him, I would have done. Even now, there’s times when I look at him and just think “Until you can put in a competitive time on Rainbow Road, just what use are you?”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying not to rush the boy through his childhood, but I’m also desperate for him to catch me up. A completely, idiotically unrealistic goal, but one I seem incapable of shaking.

The magic happens when you time it right.

A couple of weeks ago I took him to Secret Cinema’s ‘Back to the Future’ screening. I know he’s still too young for that flick, but he totally dug it. We got home, I downloaded the sequels and he’s watched the entire trilogy half a dozen times since. It probably shouldn’t, but it makes me love him more. Seeing him get it. Seeing him rooting for Marty. Seeing him cry when Doc still gets shot by the Libyans; his pure joy at the sellotaped letter.

I love the kid plenty enough already, but watching him enjoy that stuff for the first time, his reminding me of my first time, that punch of understanding that we’re emotionally close in feeling what we feel when told excellent stories – I love him all the more.

So, tonight I sat down with my son and we watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who. We got back from our holidays today, so tonight was our first chance to share another thing I love.

He loved it. He was scared and hid behind a cushion, but was then totally turned on by the way the Doctor figured out how to win – and by the way he figured out how the Doctor was going to win. We’ve saved episode two to watch together and if I’m being completely honest with you, I’m crying as I write that. Being a dad is about so much more than just what you watch, but sometimes it is about that. As someone who has grown up loving stories, loving movies and TV sharing that part of my life with my boy matters to me. That it matters to him too is just… well, y’know.

Oh, the wonderful things I can share with my little companion on our adventure through space and time.



Secret Cinema folk – some good news

25 07 2014


I’m writing this in a real hurry, so sorry if it’s a bit… y’know… rubbish, but, I just found out Secret Cinema had to cancel tonight.

That sucks. I know everyone is cross with them, but let’s assume they tried their best and something just went wrong. It totally sucks. I have tickets for Sunday night and am so stoked about it, so I can imagine how annoying and frustrating it’ll be if it gets cancelled.

Anyway, I just got off the phone from the people who are running ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’, the show I’m in. We’ve had an idea.


If you have a ticket for tonight’s Secret Cinema, turn up at The Savoy Theatre instead and you’ll get a complimentary ticket ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Musical’

Yep. You read that right. You don’t have to do anything other than turn up with your Secret Cinema ticket, and you’ll be welcomed into the world of another cult 80s movie. Go to ‘Back To The Future’ when they re-schedule you, but tonight, if you’ve got a big gang of pals all in London, all excited about going out and now you have nowt to do, well, now you do 🙂 And for anyone who doesn’t want to, I hope your night doesn’t end up too ruined.

Your Pal,

Calvin Klein

Darth Vader

Clint Eastwood

Marty McFly

Rufus Hound

David and Jeremy love your children so much they could just die, squealing in ecstasy

27 01 2014

Well, what a funny 48 hours.

Since announcing on The Jonathan Ross Show that I’d be standing as a potential MEP, everything’s gone a bit  well, I don’t know how to describe it really…foamy? Fractal? Hmmm. It’s definitely gone a bit weird, but in a way I’m completely unused to. And bearing in mind i’ve been bodyslammed at The Brits, broken eggs with my reproductive organs and had Donny Osmond sing me ‘Happy Birthday’, I thought I had a pretty good handle on weird. Turns out I was wrong.

On the off chance that you read no further than this, let me urge you to look at The truth of what’s happening to our remarkable NHS is all there.

If you want to know what the National Health Action Party proposes to do to rescue it, take a gander at The NHA’s Action Plan.

Okay – done that? Good. On with the show.

The reason my day’s been weird is that Toby Young (like what would happen Phil Mitchell impregnated a Pug and the product was haunted by William Hague’s childhood diaries), decided to try and create a shitstorm over the title of my last blog-post. He failed – or at least he succeeded, but only with the sort of people who would agree with him on everything anyway. However, Julia Hartley-Brewer decided to give him some air time on LBC… yada yada yada. In essence, there’s been a lot of people who like using words like “pinko” and “sleb” calling me a c**t all day.

This tidal wave of foam-mouthed blue spluttering was accompanied by no shortage of people being incredibly kind and tremendously supportive. As the principal aim of my MEP run is to highlight the dangers facing our Public Health System, the fact that there’s been such an increase in people spreading the word about these reprehensible changes, is already a win of sorts. Basically, I’m shouting and hoping more and more people hear me. If you RT, facebook or tell a mate about what these scumbags are up to, you’re shouting too. Eventually, we’ll get heard. I truly believe that once people really understand what’s at stake and how utterly they’ve been lied to, we will become irresistible. That it’s up to us to stand together and absolutely insist that the NHS is ours and not for sale.

However, I suppose today I realised the cost of doing this. I thought I did before, but it’s only really dawning now. I mean, my wife’s spent some of today crying, and she’s the toughest person I know (I saw her get a baby out of herself. Twice. She’s nails.).

It’s partly my fault, of course. I used deliberately provocative language in that original blog post, so the inevitable backlash to it was always going to be fairly stiff. I could have made it easier on myself, on Beth and possibly on my fellow NHA-ers. It’s hard to defend someone who’s being deliberately offensive, but that’s what good men like Dr Clive Peedell & Dr Richard Taylor have had to spend some of their time doing today.

The other downside is – obviously – that being brash, loud, offensive means that you actually put more people off your cause than you draw toward it.

The downside of being polite is that you look passionless, bland and exactly the same as the current pack of Westminster bastards whose complacency, self interest or corporate-whoredom has got us into this mess.

So, I’m going to be a *bit* more polite. It’s a compromise. Compromises are – apparently – what grown-ups do. Who knew?!

Also, I’ve been asked to do heaps of interviews and things today. I will do them, but not yet. I’m deep in rehearsals for the show, and as that’s my actual job, I have to give it my all. The campaign starts in earnest at the end of April, by which time I will have plenty more man hours to give to the NHA, and will be.

Oh, and ‘to be clear’ David and Jeremy love your kids. They don’t want them to die. Ever. They just want to squish and hug them and buy them lollipops, and read them bed time stories and kiss them til they pop. And if you think otherwise, Toby Young’s going to fucking have you.

This. This is how I really feel:

David and Jeremy want your kids to die (unless you’re rich)

25 01 2014

So, last night I was on The Jonathan Ross Show with Robert Lyndsay. We’re promoting the show we’re in together so you’ll hopefully see us on lots of things together over the coming months. Well, in truth, hopefully you’ll just come and see the show 🙂

I also came out. Yes. That’s right. I know we live in enlightened times, but it was still very hard to do. In case you missed it, I’ll repeat it.

I’m… I’m… I’m going to become [bork]… a politician.

In May, I will be standing as a prospective Member of the European Parliament, and doing so for The National Health Action Party.

For anyone who follows me on Twitter, I doubt that my party of choice will come as too much of a surprise. I’ve been tweeting endlessly over the past few months about the dangers the NHS currently faces, but over Christmas, something changed. My wife – similarly passionate – suggested that we were becoming “those people”. Those people who whinge on and on, wringing hands and asking “But why isn’t somebody doing something?!” – instead of actually doing something.

So, we decided that we’d do something. We just didn’t know what. Neither of us imagined it would involve one of us becoming a… [double bork]… politician.

The NHS is the one of the single greatest achievements of any civilisation, ever, anywhere in the history of the world. Great Britain decided that being broken wasn’t your fault. If bits of you got smashed off, started going wrong or gave up entirely, it would do it’s best to stick them back on, put them right or find you a new one. It essentially made being healthy a human right.

Up until 1948, only wealthy people had access to doctors. Your likelihood of surviving disease was based on your income. In other words, if you were poor, you were fucked. Then came World War Two and with it a generation of young Britons who died in foreign fields, fought for queen and country, opposed fascism and sacrificed nearly everything. The only way through it was for everyone to pull together – prince and pauper, dustman and duke. The sense of nationhood that sprang from this tragedy, the sense that “we’re all in this together”, meant that within three years of the war finishing it was decided that the state would cover the healthcare costs of its citizens. That, regardless of your own personal wealth, you could expect medical attention as and when you needed it.

In short, compassion won.

Well, it won for a short while. The millionaires that currently run things have decided that you (assuming you’re not a member of the Bullingdon Club, or a trustafarian) can go fuck yourself. This place is for them, not you. Why should you get free healthcare? Why can’t they take that big pot of money ear-marked for medicine and just start sharing it out amongst themselves? People are desperate when they’re sick and nothing’s as easier to monetise than desperation. Big, rich, private heathcare companies have donated millions to the Conservative party and now they’re calling in the debt. Jeremy Hunt is killing the NHS so that his owners can bleed you dry.

I don’t believe the NHS is perfect or that it doesn’t need to change. I have known people have terrible times and feel completely betrayed by it. Sad, but true. However, the vast majority of those who use it are delighted. The NHS is composed of incredible human beings whose capacity to care is a combination of vocation, education and genuine kindness. Of course some of them screw up from time to time – sometimes with tragic results – but that’s because they’re human beings. Fallible human beings. And if you employ over a million of them, (as the NHS does), mistakes will be made. The NHS is imperfect, yes, but it’s still totally kick-ass.

It’s also the most cost effective health care system in the world. For every pound spent on the NHS, it returns a value of five times that to the economy. And we need to stop taking it for granted and tell the shower of outright bastards that are stealing it from us to back off. It’s ours, not theirs.

So that’s what I’m doing. There’s no way I should be an MEP. I’m not smart enough, or machiavellian enough, to survive in modern politics. My closet barely closes for the number of skeletons. I’m an ex-touring stand-up and professional show off, not a statesman. But then the NHA is wholly made up of people who don’t want to be politicians. Literally, none of them. It’s just that it turns out that the people who do want to be politicians – i.e. politicians – are a pack of duplicitous c**ts who have absolutely no interest in ensuring that free healthcare – provided according to need, not wealth – remains the cornerstone of our brilliant country. Somebody has to do something. So it looks like it’s going to have to be us. It’s a nightmare.

So, please, read the stuff on the NHA website. If you want to know how these politico douchebags are taking away your kids access to medicine, it’s all right there. The NHA folks are way smarter than I am. And nicer. I mean, most of them are doctors, ffs. You don’t get smarter or nicer than that.

Once you’ve got wise to these vampiric fuckers, get angry. Start making noise. Tweet. Facebook. Tell people what’s going on. Write to your MP. Tell them to stop what they’re doing. Tell them to act in the best interest of the people who elected them (y’know, almost as if that were their fucking job).

We can’t afford not to take a stand. The lives of our children, of our grand-children, of our great grand-children may very well depend on it.

(Thanks for reading this much text. I tried to be succinct, but there’s so much to say. Should probably have got an editor instead.

Oh, and sorry for all the swearing. I’m just a bit like that.

Anyway, cheers for reading.)

I want to shoot myself in the head

5 08 2013

So, I was on That Doctor Who Live tonight and I totally dicked it up.

So, due to the #twittersilence thing, I didn’t want to come to you all and apologise, but it’s past midnight now, so here it is.

I’m sorry.

When they asked me to do it this week, I was delighted. I love Doctor Who (Dalek tattoo, picture of the TARDIS hanging up in my house, sonic screwdrivers etc. ) and the chance to be there at this turning point in its history was a real treat. I’m currently working on ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’  six nights a week, so the fact this fell on a rare day off was a miracle. I even went out and bought a new T-Shirt for the occasion.

And then, today, I sat in a room with Peter Davison and Bernard Cribbins (who recounted amazing DW & other theatrical tales) and Lisa Tarbuck (who is one of the best people to ever know) and I got all over excited.

So there, on live, international TV, I just went into melt down. I said “Knock three times”, when it was obviously a quad-sonic moment that heralded Tennant’s (and RTD’s) swansong (and made me cry).

I said Peter Eccleston. Who is Christopher Eccleston’s cousin – a smashing bloke and a friend of mine – but not a man who has ever portrayed the internal beating of two hearts.

So, I’m a bit gutted because I really wanted to try and represent the fans. And I know that for a huge portion of the fans, knowing the names and faces and places is a demonstration of the amount you care about the show, therefore someone who seems to know very little can’t really give a shit.

My problem is that I care about the show, and because I care, I went a bit weird.  Any way, if you think I dicked it up, know that I do too and I’m sorry. Genuinely.

Two other things

1 – I didn’t know it was going to be Capaldi. I swear on my life. Anyone saying I said “Peter Ecclestone” because I knew it was Peter Capaldi is bang wrong. If I’d have wanted to know, I could maybe have winkled it out of someone (once I was there), but I promise you, I had absolutely no idea. I wanted to find out the same time as everyone else.

2 – Oh my fucking God. I met The Moff tonight. I met Sue Vertue tonight. I met #12 tonight. And they were all so totally lovely.  Fate dictated that Clan Capaldi and I ended up trapped together in an Elstree dressing room, so I got to speak to him literally minutes after he’d been named. He’s properly up for it. Really, really. That letter from the Radio Times was written by a boy who had autographs and annuals. His inner child is so excited it looks like it’s regenerating.

And that thing he said on the telly about looking in the mirror and trying to find the doctor , well he said it to me again, sort of acting it out and I think I caught a glimpse. Just a fraction of a second. #12 is sharp, I reckon. If Matt Smith was all angles with rounded edges, Peter Capaldi’ll have your eye out. An inspired choice and one that elicits huge excitement for anyone who has seen the multitude of sublime performances Mr Capaldi has delivered in recent years (Torchwood: Children of Earth, The LadyKillers, The Cricklewood Greats, The Thick of It and more). I can’t wait to see what he’s got for us.

So, Alons-y! Geronimo! What’s the story Bala-fucking-mory?