Saturday, June 24, 2006

Not my space

I popped into 6Music to be a guest on the Round Table section of Steve Lamacq's show earlier. It's always a friendly place to be. The other guests were Ed Larrikin and the legendary broadcaster, Paul Gambaccini. A real pleasure. I was in the pub afterwards with Steve and his producer, Lovely Jude (that's her real name) and a few others when the subject of myspace and its phenomenal success came up. "I haven't got a myspace page," said I. "Oh yes you have," said LJ. "No, I haven't," I stated, "after all, I'm sure I'd have remembered." "Oh," said Jude, "then there's someone out there pretending to be you... he's using your photo and talking about your books and... well, pretending to be you."

She's as right as she is lovely. There is. He's here. That's my face. That's a bad description of my books. A lot of the details are right. I am 35. I am a pisces. I don't smoke but I do drink. But I'm not a swinger. Or a proud parent. I'm not any kind of parent. Nor am I a post grad. I am however a bit pissed off with discovering someone out there pretending to be me... after all he has 'friends' who, from their comments, clearly think they've befriended me. Whatever he's said to them... they will think I said. He could have said anything. Hmmm. Maybe this is why myspace has become so successful? Maybe everyone ends up joining myspace in order to prevent other people from stealing their identity? I've written to myspace to let them know about this situation. I wonder if they'll remove his page or not?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

London to Brighton

Maybe I'm fitter than I thought I was. Either that or cycling is easy. I really enjoyed yesterday's bike ride from London to Brighton and find myself surprisingly able to walk today. I'd originally applied for a 6am start because I wanted to avoid the midday sun if possible but the organisers had asked me to do an interview at 7.30 and obviously I was very happy to oblige. It did mean that they would provide transport for me and my bike down to Clapham Common and that seemed like a very good deal to me. As it was whoever I was meant to chat to ended up stuck on a tube and so I ended up not doing an interview and setting off at around 8am. The official photographer took this picture as I left.

With 27,000 people taking part it's a massive thing to organise and they really do make a spectacular job of it. There must have been nearly 200 marshal points along the way and every major junction was well managed and controlled. The journey ended up taking me around 5 hours all in but I reckon if I'd started earlier it would have been nearer to 4. The ride started and ended in gridlock and at one point, maybe a third of the way in, we ended up stationary in a lane for a good 10 - 20 minutes while something was cleared up ahead of us. I spoke to a few people who'd left before 7 and they all said that their ride was uninterrupted.


There are small crowds that gather along the way to offer encouragement which really helps to keep you going and the young kids with water-pistols offer a welcome dash of cool water in the heat which is, I think, their intention. And of course there's the encouragement of sponsors who have all chipped in too. They're the ones who actually raised the money - I just had the fun of the ride. And the sunburn.

I really thought I'd cross the line and collapse - or worse still, fail to cross the line, but I'm pretty sure I could have carried on for a good while longer. I stayed in Brighton for a couple of hours for a cup of tea (it does cool you down and anyone who says it doesn't is a liar) and a sandwich and a bit of pebble-balancing on the notoriously stoney beach.

Pebble Balance

For many years a lot of people have travelled back to London on the train but last year the train companies banned bikes on the day of the event and so now the organisers arrange for a fleet of coaches to ferry cyclists back while the bikes go on lorries. I could see the pained looks on the faces of those who owned expensive bikes as their bikes left Brighton on a separate vehicle to themselves but it was a pretty efficient system and our bikes turned up in Clapham about 5 minutes after us. At which point I cycled home. Not a twinge of pain I tells ye, not a twinge.

My favourite images from the day: the youngster on a BMX bike who was speeding up one of the early slopes, throwing some amazing jumps off the back of the speed bumps and the lady of a certain age who was puffing along on an old clogger of a bike with nothing in her basket except the Mail on Sunday.

Incidentally, I recently mentioned taking part in a photo shoot alongside Brian Dowling and others and I'm reliably informed that it appeared in yesterday's Sunday Mirror magazine. It's laughingly titled Sexy British Male Celebs: The Entertainers (so there's two words that make me squirm (no, not entertainers, I have some pride in my job)) and as well as Dowling.B and myself it features Alan Carr, Alex Zane, Dave Berry and Richard Bacon. I'm the oldest man there by a clear 5 years although surely Bacon.R is lying when he says he's only 30. Surely. Isn't he? If anyone who was reading that thinking, Sexy? Him? could have seen me at 12 o'clock, red in the face with both sunburn and effort as I slowly scaled Ditchling Beacon they would have known for sure how wide of the mark it really was.

The ride is done but you can still donate... and let's be honest, it's all really just an excuse to donate money to something that you should support anyway...

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Professor Iannucci

We recorded the last episode of Genius last night and I'll be sorry not to be working on it any more. It's been a tremendously fun few weeks spent thinking about some very stupid ideas. Armando Iannucci was a brilliant guest and so right from the start it stopped feeling like a job-of-work to me and just became a fun night out. I will remember the audience all screaming Tetris-based advice for a long time to come. It floated through my head earlier today for no reason in particular and made me chuckle to myself while I was sitting on the tube. I expect the series will be broadcast in September but obviously when I know more I'll let you know.

It would have been great to have a proper last-night drink after the recording but because I've started another week on The Wright Stuff it wasn't possible. I felt like I was leaving my own party when I left the theatre relatively early. It still hurt getting up on Tuesday morning in time for my 7am car. I didn't think I'd be very compos mentis during this morning's show but it seemed like a lively one when it happened and as usual it whizzed past. Matthew Wright is also taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride on Sunday and we've both spent some time panicking about our lack of training. Oh dear.

On Thursday I'm a guest on Professor Iannucci's Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive. I agreed the date some time ago and was more than a bit miffed at myself when I realised that it clashed with England's second World Cup game. The game is at 5 and I was assuming that the recording started at 6.30 because that seems to be standard for these kind of R4 things. I confessed this to Armando but to my relief the recording doesn't start til later than I thought and there'll be no need to miss the game at all. Disaster over.

Something odd has been going on on my sponsorship page for the London to Brighton ride. I started to get a lot of e-mails from people telling me that they were failing to open the page and getting an error message instead. I got in touch with the British Heart Foundation because it's their website and this was obviously going to cost them money if people were unable to load the page in order to donate.

Apparently the problem was that there were too many sponsors and too many people trying to access the page. They reckon it will take a few days to fix it properly so in the mean time they've deleted some of the names of sponsors - but only as a temporary measure. They told me they'd made adjustments so that the total amount was still correct but I know that's not true because the total raised has gone down and that can't be possible. When last I was here it said it was £8682.99. More people have sponsored me since then, but the total is currently given as £8315.75. Whatever it really is, I hope they can sort it out and that they don't end up short changing themselves due to a technical error. I'm sure they will get it sorted. And of course, whatever it is, you can always make it more by visiting

Saturday, June 10, 2006

St Pauls at Night

St Pauls. Millennium Bridge
St Pauls. Millennium Bridge, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Playing dead...

Brian Sewell made for an excellent and eccentric guest at last night's recording of Genius. He really does play the role of Brian Sewell better than anyone else. The recordings are coming thick and fast right now - the moment a show is done, it's time to focus on the next show. The final recording is on Monday when my guest will be the brilliant Armando Iannucci.

I'll be seeing Armando again on the 15th when I'm a guest on his Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive which is, I believe, broadcast the next day. We have no such frenzied edits on Genius... it will be a few months before the series goes to air. We're recording it now because it was about the only chunk of time in my diary when it could be squeezed in and done properly.

I think when Genius was first conceived we imagined it would be a two-way conversation between myself and the guest each week. Instead it's definitely become a three-way conversation between the two of us and the individual who's pitching each idea and it's their input that makes the show so much fun for me. They all turn up with such different attitudes and given that they're unlikely to be accustomed to speaking in public they can be quite nervous.

But I don't think we've ever had anyone come to take part in the show and not enjoy it and they all leave at the end of the day with a real spring in their step. I wish we'd started a guestbook back at the start of series one because I'm sure if they could read the comments from previous guests in advance of the recording they'd all relax a bit sooner.

We've tried to set the show up so that they're under as little pressure as possible and we try our hardest to make sure they have a fun time. Every night, as they read their idea out, there is always a moment where the audience cheers or laughs or makes some other kind of noise-of-approval and I can see them visibly relax as they realise the audience are on their side and it's going to be fun. From that moment on they seem to have a ball.

Understandably a few people get cold feet and I mentioned recently how one chap called us on the day to say he couldn't come but was persuaded and had a great time. Well recently someone took the not-turning-up thing to a new level. When we start making the series we look through thousands of ideas and we get in touch with lots of people whose ideas we enjoyed. Then slowly as people's availability becomes clear we start to put ideas together that we think will blend well in the same episode.

This time round we had a couple of ideas come from people across the Atlantic. We got in touch with them but didn't really expect anyone to come from Canada or America in order to be on the show. This is Radio 4 so naturally we don't have the kind of budget than can afford to fly people over or anything silly like that. To our surprise and delight a couple of people - one from Canada and one from America - said they wanted to come over and were prepared to fly themselves.

The Canadian chap was scheduled to take part in the show with Carol Vorderman and an American lady (or Americaness as I believe they're called) was scheduled to appear in the show with Sid Waddell. The Canadian chap, Chris, (I'll leave his surname out to spare his blushes) was particularly keen and went to great lengths in his e-mails to explain how he was prepared to fly over at 72 hours notice if required. Then shortly before the show we found that he was no longer replying to our e-mails. Occasionally people have to pull out and as incovenient as it is we understand that there are reasons and we do what we can to accommodate people. If Chris had e-mailed us to say that on reflection he really couldn't afford a trip to London to take part in a show we would have been fine with that and we could have started work on finding an idea to replace his. But instead we just received no replies.

Then, onlya day or two before the show, we received an e-mail from his address but signed by 'Maria.' The e-mail started with the words, 'Sadly, Chris is no longer with us.' Hmmm... we weren't sure if this was someone at his work telling us that he was no longer employed there or someone from the world saying he was no longer a part of it. The e-mail went on to say that he would be dearly missed and that as he had often talked excitedly about the show that it would be a wonderful tribute to him if we were to still include his idea in the show.

It was a very odd e-mail. It was clearly implying that he was dead but at no point did it actually use the word. We were all pretty convinced that it wasn't quite right in some way but of course when the subject is as serious as that it isn't really easy to question it in case it turns out to be true and you appear to be incredibly insensitive.

There was no way we were going to include the idea in the show without someone there to pitch it because the show just doesn't work like that and so we replaced it and got down to work on the show and didn't really give it much thought. The show passed and then the next show came along and this time our transatlantic guest stayed in touch, showed up, pitched her idea and had fun. All was well.

Then a couple of days ago for some reason Chris floated back through my head. I was trying to write an intro for Brian Sewell and was distracted by thoughts of a potentially-dead-but-probably-not Canadian. So I picked up the phone and gave him a call. It went through to his voicemail. I didn't leave a message and returned to thinking about Mr Sewell. Then five minutes later my phone went. I picked it up.
"Hello," said a Canadian voice, "It's Chris, I missed your call."
"Oh," said I. "Hi Chris."
"Who's that?" asked Chris who I have to say was sounding very much alive to me.
"It's Dave Gorman."
"Oh. Hi Dave."
"Hi Chris. How are you?"
"I'm good," said Chris. There was a pause. And then the phone went down. He was definitely alive but, I imagine, rather embarrassed.

How odd? Imagine being so concerned about what some-strangers-you'll-never-meet will think of you that you would rather fake your own death than be honest about letting them down? How very, very odd.

Nine days to go before I cycle to Brighton. Not many opportunitues for training rides between now and then. Gulp. I'm really impressed by how much people have donated though. Total sponsorship so far: £8682.99. You can make it even more here.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Vorderman and Waddell

Genius continues to be a hugely enjoyable series to make. It's remarkably unfraught. Maybe that's just how radio is. Or maybe it's to do with the particular people involved - Team Genius (four bearded men and a Dutch lady - there's a film title) are a very affable bunch. Or maybe it's the fact that every show is so different. I really like the way in which the members of the public who are pitching their ideas all get involved and of course the guests all bring their tone to the show also. So it's impossible to rehearse and the show remains a fresh and fun night out for me as much as anyone else.

We've recorded two shows since I last wrote and they've been very different affairs. I was dead chuffed that Carol Vorderman agreed to be a guest and she was a brilliant sport on the night who completely entered into the spirit of the show. Sid Waddell was as wonderfully eccentric and Waddellish as anyone could hope for and again, I had a really fun night. I'm not sure everyone there understood him, mind.

The recordings are coming thick and fast now with one tomorrow and another on Monday so there's no time to sit back after a recording and we go straight into thinking about the next one. As well as the final show on Monday, I also start a week on The Wright Stuff. I'm going to be on with Janet Ellis again which is always fun. Don't get me wrong, I once enjoyed a week on the show in the company of Anne Widdecombe but I've done the show with Janet more than anyone else (well, apart from Matthew Wright... he's always on it... I think he knows someone) and whenever I've agreed to do the show there's a part of me thinking, 'oo... I hope it's a Janet Ellis week'.

Incidentally, Janet is involved in organising a benefit gig at the Lyric in Hammersmith on Sunday night. If I wasn't so busy with the Radio 4 show I'd certainly be going to it and if you're free you should think of doing so as it's a top line-up. There are details here.

Not so long ago I wrote about the evil ITV show, The Mint after I turned up as an answer. I really do think it's a horrible show while still admiring the skill of some of the presenters who can talk about nothing for hours on end. It's like QVC only instead of selling tacky jewellery they sell hopes and dreams. I mention this because last week I found myself in a photographic studio with Mint presenter Brian Dowling. I was wearing a vaguely Miami Vice outfit and holding a toy golf club while he was licking a cornetto. Did I confront him with the fact that I think his job is evil? Of course not, I shook his hand and said, "Nice to meet you" because I've been brough up properly and he's a nice man. A nice man who gets paid to persuade people to spend money they can't afford entering stupid competitions that offer them only the tiniest chance of riches maybe, but a nice man all the same.

Friday, June 2, 2006

A book I like...

A friend bought this for me after I confessed to my shocking lack of familiarity with Vonnegut's writing. This is described as a memoir but really it's slighter than that - more like a fireside chat with an old guy, albeit a particularly witty and wise old guy with a passion for life that has been undimmed by his years. I will definitely be reading some of his novels after this.

Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx's statement that "religion is the opium of the people." Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress, It was a casual truism, not a dictum.
When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn't even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Kurt Vonnegut: A Man Without A Country

See all the books I've recommended so far here.