It’s always the quiet (noisy) ones (26/29)

So I know this guy.

Charlie the Coffee Man, making my cheese & tomato toasties









And for some years Charlie and I have been encountering each other at various Horse Trials around the south east of England.

I would ask him for a coffee and a cheese and tomato toastie, and one of his excellent chocolate brownies.

He would oblige, and then we’d talk about sport, the weather or just exchange gentle insults.

In recent weeks Charlie and I have begun to follow each other on Twitter.

Having that channel of communication has given me a new level of understanding of Charlie.

Yes, he’s still the same sports-obsessive sports-knowledgeable guy; capable of holding a conversation about, it seems, any sport at any level.

And yes, I’m sure he’s still the same purveyor of coffee and toasties and top class chocolate brownies.

But what I’ve learned about Charlie is that he is doing an amazing thing, to raise money for Spinal Research.

And when I say that Charlie is doing an amazing thing, I mean he’s doing two three four amazing things this year.

Amazing thing the 1st:
Charlie is a volunteer steward at the 2012 Paralympics. That’s a pretty cool thing to do.

Amazing thing the 2nd:
Charlie is running in the London Marathon in March 2012, to raise funds for Spinal Research. That’s pretty cool and amazing.

Amazing thing the 3rd:
Charlie is running in the New York Marathon in November 2012, to raise funds for Spinal Research. Again. That’s pretty cool and amazing again.

Amazing thing the 4th:
Charlie has set himself the goal to run 2,012 miles in 2012.

Let’s be honest.

Any of these things?

Pretty amazing.

All of them?

Pretty awesome.

Anyway, I am supporting, in contributing to and helping raise awareness for, two charitable causes this year.

Charlie, and his efforts, are one of them.

If you think what Charlie is doing, you can support him too, by clicking on this link and making a donation.



I should get up

*sets the scene*

It is 9am Saturday.

I am propped up in my lovely, lovely bed with lovely, lovely clean bed-linen and my lovely, lovely new 12.5 Tog duvet.

I have tea.

I have cereal.

The iPod docking station is playing lovely, lovely music. Anemo’s ‘Music Box’, at the moment.

And I am thinking, pensively.

There’s much to do today.

I need to get up, shower, shave, teeth, get dressed and pack for a night away.

I am meeting a friend in Newbury for lunch. When we’re done with that she’ll be off to have things done to her. You know, hair, and all that.

I have to check in to a hotel in Newbury (no, not with the friend, you dirty-minded thing).

At about 6pm I need to do more bathroom-related things, then change in to my dinner suit, dress shirt, bow-tie (I hope I can remember how to tie it!) and shiny shoes.

I’m meeting my friend and a bunch of other people for some pre-event drinks, in the hotel reception.

And then we’re all going out to a Ball.

It’s the ‘Event Riders Association’ Ball.

We have a couple of taxis booked to get us there. And to get us back again afterwards.

Before we all turn in to pumpkins.


But before I can do any of those exciting things, there’s the most mundane – yet difficult – obstacle to overcome.

The ‘getting out of bed’.

Bugger me, it’s difficult.

Especially when ones bed is so comfortable. And warm. And cosy. And the music in here is so good. And…


You know.


I don’t actually have to get up


*snuggles back down*

The surprising thing about Hamlet

Regular Twitter friends will know that, on Friday, I went in to London to watch the Young Vic’s ‘Hamlet’, featuring Michael Sheen in the title role.

A full and detailed review is in the works, and will be published soon.


Imagine my surprise as, settling down, five minutes before the performance, the stranger seated next to me leaned over, offered me his hand and said ‘It’s Brennig, isn’t it?’

And the world visibly shrank around me, as that list of ‘Random People You Know But Are Never Going To Meet At A Performance Of Hamlet At The Young Vic’ had a line drawn through a name.

Friends met and unmet

People not on Twitter won’t get this.

Because Twitter is a real-time/near-real-time communications medium, it is remarkably easy to establish relationships with Twitter ‘friends’.

I have been on Twitter since 31st March 2008. Since then 345 people have found and followed me and, because it is a social network, I have (usually) followed them all back.

Social, it definitely is. A network it is too.

I have gone on to physically meet *counts quickly* 40-ish Twitter friends and, without exception, they have all been lovely people.

Yesterday evening I drove in to London, because one of my Twitter friends had been taken ill, whilst at work, and had been admitted to UCL Hospital for tests.

I pitched up outside UCL at 6.15pm and waited in my car, listening to music and, erm, Tweeting, Texting and receiving updates on his progress, as he moved through the medical system.

I’ve had enough hospital admissions to know that medical staff are reluctant to discharge someone from their care, and have that person set out on a significant public transport journey home.

I thought that if he was allowed home, he’d need a lift. It was that simple.

About 9.30pm he was moved to a hospital ward and I was invited up for a chat. I accepted and yes, we physically met for the first time and we chatted about many things.

And he is, indeed, a very nice guy.

As the clock ticked on, the nurses started saying things like ‘And in the morning we’ll do more tests’, so it became clear he wasn’t going to be allowed home.

But we chatted on.

At 11pm a real-life/Twitter friend of his (who was also an unmet Twitter friend of mine) pitched up with overnight supplies for him.

The three of us chatted some more, briefly, before being thrown out by the nursing staff.

I gave the (previously unmet) Twitter friend a lift back to her home in Fulham, then headed back to Witney, getting home about half-past midnight.

I hope he – the Twitter friend in hospital – is good this morning. I hope he’s fit and hope his prognosis is excellent.

But this activity? This is the kind of thing we do for our friends, isn’t it?

Whether they’re unmet Twitter friends or not.


Despite last night’s cider and almost-frozen vodka chasers, I feel remarkably excellent today.

Finding myself partially-dressed, when I got out of bed, confused me slightly, but we’ll just gloss over that for now.

My Twitter stream, from last night, seemed terribly amusing at the time.

Slightly less so, in the cold light of morning.

Oh well.

Heike went to bed complaining about the food baby she was carrying.

Yes, I’ll admit I got the quantities of last night’s Chinese sweet and sour stir-fry a little wrong.

But she hardly eats enough to keep a sparrow alive, so it’s not really my fault, is it?

Today I’m going to be madly busy.

And we’re going to a gig this evening to see, amongst others, Black Hats (a fine trio of energetic talent, who purvey musical thuggery for their own enjoyment, as much as for anyone else’s).

The chaps have promised to ply me with alcohol.

Pints of crème de menthe and crème de cacao have been mentioned.


Heike leaves tomorrow.

This makes me sad; her company (not to mention her arse-kicking) has helped put me on the right track, and helped do it much quicker than I should reasonably expect.

I’m spending tomorrow (Saturday) night in Peterborough.

On Sunday I have an afternoon meeting in Lapworth.

And in between these things I have the usual domestic and equine duties to crack on with.

Sadly, on the equine front, the Vin-related news is not good.

The vet has said that the entire left-half of his head is paralysed, due to nerve damage.

We’re giving him a week before the vet comes back for another look.

But if there is no improvement, the prognosis is terminal.

I want to say something really profound here, but the bottom line is that we wait and see.

Wait and see.

A nice day out with a friend

I decided that my German houseguest needed to see more of the UK than just Oxfordshire, so we took a trip down the A40 and I introduced her to Wales.

The first stop was Raglan Castle which looks remarkably like this:

Raglan Castle

Or, from another angle, it looked like this:

Raglan Castle - bird's-eye view


Then we hit nearby Abergavenny for some spicy mushroom soup. Well, we had spicy mushroom soup, we didn’t go there just for that, obv. Anyway. That looked like this:

Spicy mushroom soup


Then we went on top of the Blorenge and, with great predictability, the weather clamped down and tried to blow us/rain us off the mountain.

We retreated.

We got down to the Usk valley and felt the need for coffee.

I decided to try and put another part of my past behind me, so we went to Llansantfraed Court for refreshments.

That’s where Sophie and I got married.

And yes, it did feel like closing another door.

We had a bit of a chat, Heike and me, as we sprawled across the couch in front of the log fire.

I tried to explain how having another human being around has helped keep me sane during such a critical week.

She looked faintly embarrassed.

I tried to teach her how to pronounce Llansantfraed.

She kept making it sound like ‘handsome Fred’.


Anyway, we are home now.

We’re going to watch ‘Paul’, then eat the vegetable stew that Heike cooked yesterday, and then we’re going to watch Grosse Pointe Blank.

We seem intent on drinking much cider.

I might be asleep before the evening is concluded.

A bit about Manc

On Tuesday evening I drove up to Manchester.

I didn’t really want to have to get up at stupid o’clock on Wednesday morning, to drive up to the Comedy Conference 2011.

Registration started at 9.30am and I wanted to arrive at the venue feeling relaxed and chilled.

Or what passes for being relaxed and chilled in these altered times.

Because I’ve had a total shit couple of weeks, Perp had encouraged me to push the boat out, give myself a real treat.

‘Fuck it’, I thought. ‘I could be dead next week. Let’s be miserable in comfortable surroundings’.

So I did as he advised.

I took a suite at The Lowry.

The Lowry doesn’t need free advertising so I’m not going to bang on about it. And besides, for the amount of money  that suite cost, the advertising needs to be paid for, baby!

But it was nice, yes.

The restaurant was excellent, I had a little forage with the wine-cellar and the Jameson’s White Label I had before, during and after the meal took the edge off the day.

Breakfast, the following day, was taken in my room, as I nestled inside a bathrobe the size of Newport.

Fuck it, it’s only money, right?


I may come to regret thinking like that, especially as I had resigned, with immediate effect, from my job the day before.

But fuck it anyway, right?


I’ll do the Comedy Conference in a separate post; I don’t want to get the subjects mixed up.

At the end of the day, when I was done with both Comedy and indeed Conferencing, I met up with the lovely Vicola and her puppy.

Vicola is absolutely gorgeous.

She is, honestly, one of the nicest, coolest, most straight-thinking, clear-cut people I’ve had the good fortune to meet.

We had a very long chat, during which I told her everything around why my world suddenly turned to shit.

I didn’t leave any single detail out, and even passed on a couple of pieces of information that I haven’t published here.

Yep, she got the full, complete and unexpurgated truth.

I loved the way she listened, I loved the way she talked, I loved the questions she fired at me and I loved the compassion and sympathy in her voice when I nearly fell apart in front of her.

I know!

Vicola, right?

That foul-mouthed, intolerant, irascible, highly-opinionated blogger?

Well let me tell you, my friend, that yes, in real life, Vicola is absolutely delicious, and unfuckingbelievably nice.

It helped, talking to her, it helped a lot. Her questions were keen, searching, testing, but always delivered with sympathy and understanding.

Vicola cleared areas in my head, gave me new thoughts to think and new questions to be answered.

I pulled myself together, we hugged and I drove down to Worcestershire where a mug of tea, a sympathetic shoulder and a fried-egg sandwich were waiting for me.

I spent 3 hours with V; it wasn’t of the same high quality counselling as Vicola, but it was still nice to get emotional support from another friend.

By the time I got home it was late, but I dashed off an email then fell in to bed.

Despite not having an alarm, I was wide awake at 06.00 this morning.

Today I’ve pottered hither, thither and indeed, yon.

I had a phone call asking if I was free to judge a dressage section at Saturday’s Broadway One-Day Event.

Which was nice, obv.

I’ve said yes to it, but I have a house-guest arriving from Germany, for a week, on Saturday evening, so I’m going to be doing lots of last-minute rushing around, to get the house ready.

And that’s it, really.

I’ll do the Comedy Conference in a distinct post; it deserves it.

And breathe…

Life’s rich tapestry just keeps on happening, viz:

  • got up at 3am
  • wrote stuff
  • did work-related stuff
  • made breakfast and tea
  • took it upstairs
  • gave Soph hers
  • got back in to bed
  • ate mine
  • fell asleep
  • woke up
  • came downstairs
  • edited, edited and edited again
  • wrote more stuff
  • edited
  • emailed an over optimistic screenplay to C4
  • did work-related stuff again
  • received a skype IM from someone who said they’d be arriving in 30 minutes
  • panicked
  • showered, shaved, dressed (she was late anyway)
  • received the guest
  • received 1x skype call
  • received 1x phone call
  • made coffee
  • chatted
  • showed the guest around
  • chatted some more
  • ate a couple of sandwiches
  • chatted again
  • noticed that the piece I wrote for Shouting At Cows had gone live (you should go there and read it, otherwise Mr SAC is going to drown kittens)
  • recorded the second hour of tomorrow’s radio show
  • started to think about how I’m going to shoot the performance video for the band
  • built a playlist for tonight’s podcast

So yeah, busy.


Taking the mick?

I shall keep this generic because I don’t want to embarrass anyone…

We are complex animals, us human beings. We’re capable of being simple at times, but the naked truth is that we have more levels of – at times conflicting – personality that sometimes even our best friends don’t know us.

And that’s part of the ‘being human’ thing, that’s part of what makes us tick.

Just when you think you know that person at work, you discover some totally left-field thing about them that forces you to re-evaluate your entire perspective.

It may be a good re-evaluation, it may be not good. My point is that an unexpected piece of information is revealed and you’re suddenly looking at a person who isn’t quite the person you thought it was.

But it doesn’t only happen with people at work, does it? It can happen with anyone, anywhere, any time and, sometimes, for the most unexpected reason.

You might think you know everything about me but…

You may or may not know this, but I host websites for people. I do this as well as most of the commercial webhosting concerns – and better than some!

My hosting is inexpensive, ultra reliable, provides a 24/7 helpdesk (which, frankly, is so seldom used it’s actually gratifying) and has annual downtime which, for the current year, is being measured in units of 1 second.

And, because I’m occasionally (as Ian so elegantly put it in a recent email to me) soft, I will take a view on what my hosting service costs people.

Some months ago I took on a young guy – he’s in his 20’s – as a hosting ‘customer’.

He produces a daily conversation-based podcast and, due to a variety of reasons, he had run in to a number of issues with the company who hosted his podcast website.

There were unpaid bills and, as corporates do when bills are outstanding, they took his website down. This had the effect of removing him – and his podcast – from the internet.

Because I liked what he did, I offered to take him on.

So I bought a new domain name for him, I set him up with a hosted website, I gave him unlimited webspace, I gave him unlimited bandwidth transfer and I gave him an FTP account and a bunch of email addresses.

The key word here is ‘gave’; I have not charged him for any of these things, it never was my intention to charge him for any of these things and that’s an understanding that we both have.


Last night I visited his website, just to see how he was doing. While I was there I noticed that on every single page he has a funding widget.

The text in this funding widget says:

Running Costs:
It takes $1,000 per month to run (name of his podcast/website). If you enjoy what we do, please think about supporting us.

Hang on one cotton picking moment!

He produces a conversation-based podcast. What that means is he sits in front of a microphone and he talks.

He has no costs.

He has no Performing Rights Society licence to buy, he sits in the attic of his parents’ house and all of his content is self-produced.

Anyone who listens to his podcast knows these facts.

And for the grand sum of no pounds and no pence he has a free domain name, unlimited webspace, unlimited bandwidth, a bunch of email addresses and an FTP account.

But he doesn’t tell his website visitors or his podcast listeners that he has these things for free.

Instead of telling them this fact, he has put up a funding widget that says ‘it takes $1,000 per month to run’ his project.

And yet he has, on a number of occasions, told his listeners that my organisation hosts his show.

Therefore, by clear implication (in my head at least), he’s telling people that his hosting costs are $1,000 per month – not free as they actually are.

Be honest folks.

Am I justified to feel a sense of outrage at what he’s done?

Do you think I have overstepped the mark by writing to him, telling him that my organisation is going to raise his hosting costs from £0.00p to $1,000/month to keep in line with his funding widget?

Do you think I should continue providing a service for nothing while he tells people that his product costs $1,000/month to run?

Come on, be honest.

Because even now, 12 hours after discovering his funding widget, I am still fuming about this.

You’re going to have to talk me down.