Sunday, June 18, 2006


Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive was fun but I have to say I'm sure it would have been a bit more focussed if it hadn't been recorded on the day of the England game. It meant that we spent the hours before the show thinking of something else and the audience turned up a little more drunk, hot and bothered than they would have done on a normal day also. But then, y'know, two-nil.

I enjoyed my week on The Wright Stuff again... the only bad thing being that other things have been keeping me up late and I've had to survive the week on 4 hours sleep each night. Full credit to the make-up department if they managed to hide the bags under my eyes. I almost always end up doing the show with Janet Ellis and she has the same attitude to the show so the two of us just spend a lot of the time giggling while Matthew selects topics that will allow him to get some personal therapy in.

The final part of the show doesn't involve the panel, it's just Matthew and a guest and a phone in. Sometimes the guest is an agony aunt, sometimes they're a a doctor and so on. While we're not on the show with these people we often end up sharing a chat and a cuppa in the green room with them before the show. On one of the shows this week the guest was Derek Ogilvie, a man who claims to be able to read the minds of babies. This is the kind of thing that winds me up no end but inevitably I find myself shaking his hand and nodding as if I understand when he tells us how horrible it is that there are so many skeptics in the world. Hmmm.

On the Monday the guest was Rosemary Leonard, a GP who appears on the show quite regularly. It turns out that she is also taking part in the cycle from London to Brighton tomorrow and I think she's the person who persuaded Matthew Wright to take part. On top of that, Amol Rajan - the guy who wields the microphone amongst the studio audience should they wish to join in any discussion - is also taking part in the ride so amongst the 27,000 cyclists there should be four people who were all on last week's The Wright Stuff.

The ride was mentioned quite a lot through the week of shows but more was said off-air with both myself and Matthew getting slightly nervous because of the lack of training we've done. 54 miles is a long way to go. What I have done is bought some very padded cycling shorts and a tub of vaseline - both of which have been recommended to me by several people. Last night, as my interest in the Mexico-Angola game waned I decided it would be wise to remind my posterior what a saddle was like in advance of big journey so I set off on a random night-time ride. I really like cycling in London at night. I set off with no particular goal in mind and headed off on a route I know well towards the Isle of Dogs. On a few occasions I've cycled down this way and used the Greenwich foot tunnel
under the River Thames to cycle up towards the Millennium Dome and the Thames Barrier but this time I decided to stay on the North side of the Thames and continue around the Isle of Dog's perimeter to see what I would see.

I ended up taking a few dead ends into derelict industrial estates and then ending up on dangerously busy roads as I found myself in Canning Town, Royal Victoria Dock and then North Woolwich where there is another foot tunnel under the Thames. It's similar to the Greenwich tunnel but in a worse state of repair and smelling distinctly of piss. Which is a shame. I lugged my bike down the stairs and scooted through, then cycled along the south bank of the Thames to the Greenwich tunnel which put me back in familair territory and my cycling comfort zone. I reckon by the time I got back I'd done a 20 mile round trip. It took a while - but then there were those strange dead ends and the carrying of a bike up and down four flights of stairs and I did stop at the Royal Victoria Docks to take some photos so I don't really know how much of a guide this is to tomorrow's trip. It was only about a third of the distance to Brighton but it didn't hurt and I can walk perfectly well today so it bodes well and gives me a little confidence at least.

With 27,000 cyclists they inevitably stagger the starts for people to spread things out. Aware of the sun I'd applied for a very early start and was scheduled to go at 6am. But the British Heart Foundation (who organise the whole shebang) have asked me to do an interview on the morning and so I've had my start put back to 7.30. People are suggesting that it takes between 4 and 7 hours for inexperienced cyclists like me - which involves a huge margin of error. I expect I'll be nearer the 7 hour mark. It's not a race and I don't think it could be with those kind of numbers involved and I will be taking my camera with me and stopping for an ice-cream or two along the way. Wish me luck.

I now know a little more about the technical problems that were plaguing my sponsorship page. As ridiculous as it seems, the problem was caused by too many people visiting the page and sponsoring me... which meant that at busy times people were struggling to load the page and getting an error message instead. They've made a temporary fix by taking out the first few hundred sponsors from the page (but not from their records) and adding up their sponsorship which shows up on the page as 'money raised off-line'. In doing this, the page then doesn't cound the Gift Aid that will be added by the government to the amount raised 'off-line' but when these figures are totted up at the end of things it will all be sorted out. Assuming that most of the online donations will be from UK tax-payers and that Gift Aid will apply there will be an extra 800 odd quid to add on to the total which would tally well with my running total before the fix happened.

In any case - it's not me raising the money, it's people like you that are raising it and it's all appreciated. If you'd like to donate to the British Heart Foundation, and help to encourage me up the 813 feet climb that is Ditchling Beacon tomorrow then please pop along to

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