Archive for March, 2008

Jealous?

9,March, 2008

I’m off to my osteopath and I haven’t seen her in a long time. Since I’m going to be standing there in just my underwear and socks the dilemma is what sock to wear. After see-sawing back and forth between outrageous and conservative I have settled on some Pink Panther Socks. Below is a photo to give you an idea of what it would be like to be my osteopath. Jealous?
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This is one of the pairs of socks that The Sock Shop has sent me for review. Like all novelty socks they are a little low on the cotton percentage but at 60% they are better than most. Actually they feel pretty good and I think they look fab – but maybe that’s just my legs.

John L

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Levitating a Toblerone Bar

8,March, 2008

When you do what I do, living in a small country is a joy. When my son was growing up, no matter where I was in England, if I had to, I could get home that night. I have comedian friends in the US who do a week in Chicago, then LA, then Miami, and when they come home their kids say, “Mom that man’s here again.”

I loved being home when Finbar was growing up and I feel sorry for fathers that miss so much of it. I guess it’s up to Finbar to decide later whether I was a good dad or not but I hope in twenty years time when he is talking to his psychiatrist he will remember this.

Years ago I did a three week gig for Terry’s Chocolate Company. Terrys makes those chocolate oranges that everyone in the UK has in their Christmas stockings. This one year Terry’s decided that instead of having a big conference where they would show their range to all of the suppliers at once, they would bring their clients in one at a time.

They rented an entire floor of the Marriot Hotel in Knightsbridge and spent a fortune decking it out like a space ship. The theme of the presentation was something like – Searching for the Universe’s Taste Sensation. It started with actors, playing robots and aliens, ushering clients into space-age chairs that shook as smoke filled the room during lift off. There were huge plasma screens (at the time brand new technology) showing the earth shrinking into the distance. At one point in the proceedings the buyers were escorted into a room where I would be found floating in the air. After “turning on the gravity” I would provide the in-flight entertainment with a couple of tricks – including levitating a Toblerone bar.

It was a lot of work but great fun. Almost all of the people working on the show were parents so on one weekend we brought all of our kids on to the set and had a party.

A week later I picked up my son from kindergarten. As I was leaving the teacher came up to me.

“Your son has a very vivid imagination,” she told me.

“Oh, what did he say?”

“Well Finbar stood in front of the class and announced to everyone that his father is a magician, that works on a space ship, for a chocolate company!”

“Actually, “ I said, “that’s true.”

27 Minutes Off of Your Life Expectancy

5,March, 2008

WARNING – THERE BE RUDE WORDS BELOW.

 

More from The Single Dad’s Cookbook

 

I think it’s a travesty that we immortalise John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich for coming up with the mind numbingly simple recipe of putting a piece of meat between two pieces of bread and we don’t know the name of the guy that invented the internal combustion engine.

Americans grill sandwiches. An American style grilled cheese is a greasy, delicious, fat filled thing that is scientifically proven to take 27 minutes off of your life expectancy – but it’s worth it.. You put a slice of cheese between two slices of bread and then liberally butter the outside. Heat up a non-stick pan and grill it on both sides. Sometimes I like to cover the heating sandwich with a small pan lid to hold in the heat and ensure the cheese melts properly.

Serve in true American diner-style with crisps. For kids I almost always add a couple of skinned apple quarters. Children who religiously refuse to eat fruits and vegetables will often put an apple slice in their mouths before they know what they’re doing.

The British on the other hand are the masters of the toasted sandwich. Thanks in large part to that amazing invention – the Breville sandwich maker. Imagine a machine that superheats cheese to the temperature of molten lead and seals it inside a packet of bread. We should be canonizing the Earl of Breville.

I first came into contact one of these marvellous inventions during my vagabond days in the wilds of Ireland. Dan Foley was an ex-music hall magician and plate-spinner who had retired from the stage into a pub in the middle of absolutely nowhere on the west coast of Ireland. I showed up there one rainy evening and didn’t leave for a month. I lived in an electricity-free caravan out back, worked behind the bar and did magic tricks for his customers. I was paid in food, booze and stories of magic and juggling on the old showbiz circuit.

Every night was a late night at Dan Foley’s Pub so often the first meal of the day was lunch. Dan introduced me to Breville toasted cheese and onion sandwich (a combination you couldn’t have paid me to eat in America) and I was hooked. One of my fondest memories happened one late morning as we were having our usual Breville brunches.

Dan like many Kerry men used the word “Fuck” like the rest of us use the word “The.” A mini-van of American women pulled up outside and one popped her head in the door of the pub and said in that loud nasal twang that could only come from a New Jersey suburbs,

“CAN I USE YOUR BATHROOM?”

Dan nodded yes.

As she took off her clingfilm rain hat and said, “IT SURE IS RAINING OUT THERE.”

To which Dan casually replied, “If you wanted fucking good weather you should have gone to fucking Spain.”

The lovely thing about it was that Dan had no idea he was being rude – he merely said it as a matter of fact.

The Jersey suburbanite left quickly – never using the “BATHROOM.”

After waxing lyrically about the Breville sandwich maker I have to say I don’t use one anymore. They’re a pain to clean, the melted cheese drips into the innards and they take up counter space. I’ve found a toasted sandwich making alternative that is almost as good. The Toastabags Toaster Bags is an amazing device I bought at Fenwicks for a fiver. It’s an envelope made out of some Star Trek material that is big enough to put a cheese sandwich in. You them put it into the toaster and three minutes later you have the most perfect cheese sandwich. The envelopes are reusable and dishwasher-able.

By the way, the inventor of the internal combustion engine was arguably Nikolaus Otto in 1876.

Shatner, Jackson & Folds

4,March, 2008

When I heard that Joe Jackson, Ben Folds and William Shatner had collaborated, I could only imagine that it would be a work of genius – I was not wrong.

A Close Call

3,March, 2008

Ok, I admit it. Before I began wearing a new pair of socks every day I already had a couple of sock quarks. It started when I made Stuff the White Rabbit for the BBC. During the recording of the entire series I wore socks with the image of Bugs Bunny on them. (To be honest I still choose Bugs socks whenever I have a really important gig.) For a long time I would only perform if I had a cartoon character on my feet. This became impractical, so over time I have modified my personal rules so that whenever I performed on stage I made sure I wore a pair of two-toned socks. You may laugh but like the Tim Robbins character in the film Bull Duram, who wore woman’s underwear to improve his pitching, for me two toned socks are essential for comedy. It could be worse – I have known a lot of comics who couldn’t perform without alcohol or cocaine.

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So I had a lucky escape yesterday when I wore a pair of solid colour Dog’s Trust Socks to a gig. It was a last minute thing. The club owner had an act drop out on him and I pretty much just put on a clean shirt and left. I didn’t realise I wasn’t wearing a proper two-toned socks until I got there. I rationalized by saying to myself that the picture of the little cute dog constituted a tone but I was worried – it was touch and go. I’m still not sure if it was the sock gods or the magic gods but one of them let me slide this time – I did just fine. I promise I won’t do that again.


The Dog’s Trust Socks feel good and look even better in that bold yellow. 25% of the asking price goes to The Dog’s Trust a group that as well as finding stray dogs good homes also works to castrate and microchip dogs – something my Veterinarian refol says is a good idea. And one should never disagree with one’s refol.

The Dog’s Trust Socks are available from my favourite hosiery website – www.sockshop.co.uk.

It Was Just an Any Old Kind of Day

1,March, 2008

Harry Chapin once wrote a song that began with the line, “It was just an any old kind of day, the kind that comes and slips away. I knew that today was going to be an any old kind of day day. I didn’t get home until 2 am last night (after a cracking gig in Southend, Essex) so I slept in and I certainly wasn’t going to go to the gym. In fact, I deliberately wanted today to be unproductive – I have been giging ever since I returned from Utah and I just wanted to chill. This may sound nice to those of you that mindlessly grab socks out of your sock drawer and throw them on your feet but for a gratuitous sock wearer, an any old kind of day proves problematic.

What sock should I wear? Wearing a really good sock would be a waste on a day where I might not even leave the house (so my remaining Garfield socks are definitely out.) On the other hand if I am actively planning an any old kind of day day then that makes today a little special and I should at least wear something comfortable.

I decided on a pair of Cat Socks.

cat-socks.jpgYes the same company that makes the huge earth moving machines has a range of socks. I can’t remember where I bought this packet of four pairs but I do remember that they were cheap. Now I’m sure that workers in the Caterpillar factory don’t install half ton carburettors into huge all terrain diggers in the morning and then spend the afternoon darning in some back room. I’m sure that some sock manufacturer has asked cat if they could use it’s name on their products -well – Cat really should have picked a better sock maker. Unlike the excellent Jeep socks that are almost all wool or cotton, the Cat socks are 55% cotton. As far as I’m concerned if a sock is half cotton it just feels bad – like half a sock. It’s two in the afternoon and already I’m looking forward to taking these guys off. Watch out Cat – next time I have to spend three quarters of a million dollars on an earth mover I might, after this experience, buy a John Deer.

Next time I want Cat socks I’m reaching for the Garfields.