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Went to London to lay roses for Sarah.

On the pavement in front, a man was filming the theatre with a video camera. He seemed to be focusing mainly on the hoarding above the entrance advertising the plays; I didn't look to see if he filmed my bouquet.

Console Me

Oct. 27th, 2012 06:15 pm
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Just heard the sad news that Jo Dunne, of Fuzzbox, died last night aged 44. So long Jo, thanks for all the great music, fun and laughter.

So glad I saw the Fuzzbox on their 2010 reunion tour.
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** ACCESS LIST ONLY **

The End

Aug. 12th, 2012 07:24 pm
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Went over to Newport Pagnell, where Leighton United Ladies were facing MK Dons Ladies in a pre-season friendly. The barman was a little while appearing behind the bar, and on seeing me standing there he said “A word of friendly advice – never drink Old Rosie and then play cricket.” Seeing my Olympic hat, he proudly said he’d been to the Games yesterday.

“What did you see?” I asked.

“What’s the most wanted Olympic ticket? The event you’d want to see above any other?” he grinned.

“Athletics?”

“Try again.”

Knowing the swimming and rowing were over, I went for “Diving?”

“Beach volleyball,” he said with a huge smile, and showed me his photos on his phone of the ladies’ beach volleyball final.

Watched the men’s marathon supping a Bulmers No. 17 until it was time to head for the football pitch.

Leighton lost 5-0, but it was to opposition two divisions higher. I met club secretary Trevor, a couple of the players and some of the relatives who come and support them, and they all seemed a good bunch.

Made it home just in time to see Samantha Murray win the modern pentathlon silver. Can’t believe it’s all over now – I won’t be seeing the closing ceremony as I’d better get an early night ahead of my first day at work. Going to be left with a hole.
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A last minute search of the London 2012 website failed to yield any women’s handball tickets for tomorrow, for either the third place play-off or the final. Ah well, shouldn’t expect miracles, and I suppose financially it’s a blessing.
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Back to Coventry for the Canada v France third place play-off. Outside the station, joined a longish queue for the free shuttle bus to the Ricoh Arena, sorry, City of Coventry Stadium. Among those waiting in line was a Canadian man carrying a sign reading 'Keep Calm and Go for Bronze'.

The information pack sent with my hospitality ticket said '10.30 - arrival in security area before entering the main atrium'. So on the stroke of half past I advanced towards the airport-style security checkpoint only to be told that doors weren't opening until 11 am. Fortunately I'd brought my Private Eye so stood around outside reading that for half an hour.

The tables were decked out with tablecloths and flowers as befitting the occasion, and by every plate were two chocolate Wenlocks, which was a nice touch. My goat's cheese, beetroot and herb salad, harissa spiced breast of chicken, and lemon meringue pie with raspberries and clotted cream were very tasty, even if the portions were a little on the small side (nouvelle cuisine, I guess). During each of the intervals between courses a waiter came over and persuaded me to have another Sprite Zero. After dinner I watched Keri-Anne Payne swim on the big screen until it was time to file out into the stand for the match.

I gave the Canadian girls plenty of vocal support. The first half was all chess football with nobody looking like scoring. Back to the hospitality bar for a half-time Sprite to learn that Keri-Anne hadn't got a medal :(

The French came close a couple of times just after the hour, Elodie Thomis, who'd been so lethal against Korea, rattling the woodwork. Canada put up impressive rearguard action to keep France at bay. We were deep into time added on, sure that extra time was coming, when the miracle happened...

The ball ran loose in the French area, and Diana Matheson ran onto it and fired into the roof of the net.

I shot to my feet and roared myself hoarse. After the final whistle, the jubilant Canadian players exuberantly celebrated all around the pitch, and I stayed to clap and cheer them until they slowly began to calm down. After pushing the Americans so close on Monday night, this bronze was a richly deserved consolation for Christine and her ladies.

Back in Leighton Buzzard, took the bus straight from the station to the Scout Hall to give blood. I had to clear two hurdles. First, two of my three sample pinpricks floated instead of sinking, meaning I had to have an HB test. “135 or higher and we’ll see you on a bed soon,” the carer said to me as she left me with the nurse and the testing machine. Happily my reading was 137.

Once on the bed, my carer had terrible trouble finding a suitable vein. I’d warned them that that had often been a difficulty in the past, but she couldn’t seem to find one at all. I mentioned that back in Gosport they’d often had to get the venepuncturist to attend to me. “I am the venepuncturist,” she replied. She was on the point of sending me home, but did one last search with the help of a colleague and finally found a vein she was willing to try.

“Have you had much to drink today?” she asked me.

“Three or four Sprites.”

“Next time, drink water instead of Sprite. Water makes your veins expand and makes it easier for us.”

The donation went OK, thank goodness.

Two Tribes

Aug. 7th, 2012 01:45 am
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Manchester )

The Best

Aug. 5th, 2012 10:13 pm
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CONGRATULATIONS, MY SANYA! Worthy lovely Olympic champion *mwah* *mwah* *mwah* *mwah*

Knowing how much it meant to her after her uncle died just a few weeks ago, I was almost tearing up as she did her lap of honour. Highlight of the Games, without a doubt.

Neighbours

Aug. 4th, 2012 06:20 pm
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My first visit to Leighton Town’s Bell Close ground, for the friendly with their – I guess I should get used to saying ‘our’ – tenants Aylesbury United. Nice clubhouse, with Magners and cans of 7 Up (the next best thing to Sprite) on sale, Olympic sailing on the telly and a friendly bunch of bar staff and club officials. Iain introduced me to his MK Donnette daughter Shelagh, who promptly signed me up for the 100 club.

Bob waved me over to join him in the stand just before kick-off. Behind us were a mixed group of Leighton and Aylesbury United supporters. Early on some Leighton fans chatted about the Olympics, Britain’s tally of medals today, a silver won by male rowers one of whose seats broke, and another silver won by two lady rowers who had to be carried out of their boat at the end of the race. They were impressed that I’d been to some women’s football matches and last night’s swimming, and joined me in sympathy with poor old Becky.

An experimental Leighton team came back from conceding an early goal to win 2-1, while throughout the game the Leighton and Aylesbury United supporters exchanged relentless banter. Several of the lads on both sides had played for the other club before joining their current one, and whenever one of them made a mistake it was naturally picked up on by the fans of the player’s old side. Leighton winger Enzo, formerly of Aylesbury United, got stick from both sets of fans (only spoken among the spectators, not shouted for him to hear) for much of the game - then netted the winning goal.

The chips from the tea hut were very tasty, if a bit skinny for my taste, though the hot dog was pretty ordinary – will try a burger next time.

There wasn't a bus home until 6.15. Only one thing for it – back to the clubhouse for another quick Magners and a tad more Olympics on the box, then round to the taxi rank to make it home in time for Dave Cash.

Just A City

Aug. 4th, 2012 12:07 am
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Olympic swimming )

Handy Man

Aug. 2nd, 2012 01:35 pm
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My landlady’s handyman solved the TV problem at first glance. What was needed was to plug the aerial lead into the ‘TV Booster Signal’ box on the wall, then use another RF female-to-male cable (good job the spare one I ordered on Amazon turned up this morning) to connect the booster box to the telly.

One oddity, that my landlady had warned me about, is that our village is in Bedfordshire, so we ought to get BBC East (western edition) and ITV Anglia, but instead we get BBC Oxford and ITV Meridian. Clearly the Oxford transmitter has muscled in with a stronger signal than the Sandy Heath one, despite the latter being a mile or so nearer to us. It feels a little strange watching someone else’s local news, but after three days of no telly at all, I’d gladly have accepted the Scottish or Channel Islands service.

And, on the bright side, it soon occurred to me that if we get BBC Oxford TV, we should surely be able to tune in to BBC Radio Oxford. Hallelujah – we can, so I will be continuing to listen to Dave Cash through a radio rather than a computer. Happy days.

Shine It On

Aug. 2nd, 2012 12:05 am
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Went to Leighton Town's friendly at AFC Dunstable - actually held inside the ground, thank goodness. Leighton fielded a lot of trialists, drawing 2-2, but the place was well worth the visit thanks to the friendly barmaids, the Olympic swimming on the big screen (we saw Michael Jamieson win his silver medal during the half-time break) and the excellent tea bar serving 'Bestie Burgers' and 'Barry's Fries' (both delicious), named in tribute to Dunstable Town's most famous former player and former manager respectively.
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Travelled up to Coventry for the New Zealand v Cameroon women's match. Nipped into the newsagent/post office opposite the station to buy a postcard of Lady Godiva, write it and mail it off to Ann, then took a taxi to the Novotel.

I can highly recommend the Novotel to anyone wanting a place to stay in Coventry. It's a lovely place and the staff are all very friendly and helpful. Had roast duck followed by strawberries and cream in the restaurant with Olympic rowing on the high mounted telly.

The hotel was a 10 minute walk from the Ricoh Arena, sorry, City of Coventry Stadium. There were, alas, a lot of empty seats, but the people who were there created quite an atmosphere nonetheless. In front of me were a row of Kiwi women all face-painted with 'Go NZ'. A couple of blocks along the stand were lively groups of Cameroonians with flags and drums. Most of the crowd was made up of locals, especially families.

Early on word went round the crowd that Great Britain had gone one up against Brazil. All the locals momentarily smiled but no-one was getting over-excited, after all it was early doors and the opposition were Marta, Cristiane and Co...

New Zealand dominated the game and won 3-1 to the delight of the Kiwis around me. For me one of the stand-out moments of the evening came at half time, when gigantic bouncy balls festooned with London 2012 logos were sent into all sections of the crowd. In my block, kids were scrambling to get a touch of the big ball, and when they did their faces lit up with pure joy. They were especially delighted if they got to give it a big biff and send it sailing a long way.

Let no-one say it was "only" a women's football match, and one between two outsiders at that. As it happened, the 3-1 win was enough to send New Zealand through to the quarter-finals as one of the two best third-placed teams, drawing a huge cheer from their fans. And let no-one say it was in Coventry, many miles from London. All their lives, those kids will have the memory of when they were at the Olympic Games.

No updates from Wembley came through all evening, until in time added on a buzz went round the ground that GB had beaten Brazil 1-0. Soon after the final whistle, the tannoy confirmed this to an enormous roar. The tannoy and the big pink screens then announced that Great Britain would face Canada in the quarter-finals, right there in Coventry, and that tickets were going on sale straight away.

By the time I filed out of the ground the queues for GB-Canada tickets were already a mile long. Not that I could have gone anyway, mouthwatering as the prospect is - I'll be at the Aquatics Centre on Friday night rooting for Miss Adlington...

Hoots Mon

Jul. 30th, 2012 07:38 pm
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Glasgow )

Millennium

Jul. 25th, 2012 11:58 pm
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Arrived in Cardiff yesterday afternoon. You could tell straight away you were in an Olympic host city, banners up everywhere. The hotel's cheap and cheerful, only one of the lifts works, and the room's pretty basic but it does have fully functioning Freeview on the telly and wifi so mustn't grumble.

Met the official photographer for the Brazilian team in the lift after breakfast this morning. Walked into the city centre just before 11 to visit the hole in the wall and buy some fruit for lunch; already there was a long queue outside the Millennium Stadium of people either lining up for accreditation or seeking to buy tickets. One local stopped by the end of the queue and asked whether there were matches today; he was told yes, there were two women's games. He said he was looking to go to a men's match so I replied they were tomorrow. After saying he'd like to support the Olympics seeing as they were on his doorstep, he added that he might come along and see the Cameroon v Brazil ladies' match this evening. Naturally I urged him to.

The Millennium's an impressive stadium without a doubt, but food options were very limited - it's a bacon baguette, steak pie, crisps, chocolate or mints! The bacon baguette was quite tasty, and they did serve Sprite (albeit only its Zero edition). The big menus above each stall cheekily advertised a 'Meal Combo' consisting of a steak pie plus drink, or bacon baguette plus drink...which cost exactly the same as the two individual items put together.

It was boiling hot throughout the Great Britain v New Zealand game, and my seat, in the third row from the front, was directly exposed to the sun. Great view of the pitch though. The crowd really got behind the British girls. Anita Asante headed wide of an open goal during the first half, and after the break Karen Carney shot wide when she was clean through, but then Steph Houghton fired home a beautiful rocket from a free kick that proved to be the only goal of the game.

After clapping the teams off, I headed into the concourse for a much needed bottle of chilled water (which, like all drinks at the Millennium, came poured into a plastic glass). Alas, a large proportion of the crowd streamed out at that point - even a girl wearing a shirt with 'Marta' on the back, you'd have thought she'd have stayed to see her heroine play. Only a hard core remained to watch Cameroon v Brazil.

The Brazilian girls were something else and I think they have a real chance of the gold medal. The great Marta was only involved in a minor role until late on, and their other sorceress Cristiane was benched, but they still blew Cameroon away from the outset, netting twice in twelve minutes. The young lady from Cornwall sitting next to me thought Formiga dived to win the free kick that led to their first, so she supported Cameroon from then on.

It was still 2-0 at half time. Cristiane came on at half time and sparked Brazil into stepping up a gear. She and Marta combined brilliantly for the fourth, then with a few minutes remaining Cristiane herself jinked past the goalie and sidefooted home from a narrow angle to make it 5-0.

St Mary Street, Cardiff's main shopping street, teemed with happy spectators on the walk back. On the way back up to the hotel I called in at the Golden Cross, a traditional-looking pub, that had nice-looking cheap grub on its menu, and asked whether they were still serving food. As it was the stroke of 9 pm I wasn't too surprised to be told "no, sorry".

So it was on to TGI Friday's, where there were several other people who'd also been at the games. Excellent selection of music playing there too! As I returned to the hotel, a young Brazilian couple were also going in. I congratulated them on their ladies' performance.
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My last day at the office. All the team I'd worked with for most of the last three years left cards on my desk while I popped upstairs to say goodbye to Sue #5; Sharon and Frances also left me cards, and there was a big card signed by everybody, attached to a parcel containing a gift card and a box of Thorntons. A bit later Sharon and Frances came over to say goodbye and good luck. As they began to head back to their desks and I turned to give them one more smile and wave, I think Sharon remarked to Frances about my having been attracted to Sharon for the past year...

Spent most of the morning housekeeping my email inbox and sending messages to my contacts to tell them where to get in touch with me for the three weeks before I start my new job. Then it was time to clear out my desk and sort the paperwork into three piles; take with me, leave behind, bin.

With my leftover flex hours I was able to knock off at 12.15. Just before noon I began my round of the office, saying my farewells to all the people I'd known to speak to. Tanya said "Have a great time at the Olympics" and Lin called "We'll miss you" after me. Saved my last goodbyes for Demelza and Elaine; Demelza was a bit miffed that she'd been off sick all last week so wasn't able to organise a farewell lunch for today, but she did give me two massive bear hugs and tell me to keep in touch.

Walking across the car park to hand in my ID badge and car park pass at reception, I spotted Demelza and Elaine having a ciggy in the shelter. We waved.
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Drove up to Bedfordshire on Thursday to move my first load of stuff in. With Leighton Town, my new local team, having friendlies Thursday night and today, the original idea was to stay until tomorrow, but last week's rain scuppered that plan.

I'd been due to see The Villagers perform The Winter's Tale on Friday the 13th, but two days beforehand the rain saturated the garden where the play was due to take place (and as it turned out I couldn't have gone that night with my cold anyway). I just couldn't miss the show altogether - I have too many friends in the Villagers to let them down - so asked to switch my ticket to last night, trusting my cold to go away by then (it did). Which meant driving all the way back again yesterday.

After finishing unloading on Thursday, I had half an hour's rest before setting off for Dunstable for the football. A road that the AA route finder sent me down to get there was a real dirt track, and ended in a treacherous T-junction with a main road. And after all that, the football turned out to be an anticlimax. It wasn't even played in the main ground, but on an Astro pitch next door, so I can't tick the ground off. And both teams pretty much treated it as a training match. Still, I did meet a couple of friendly people from the club. One of them, the club's former chairman, was delighted to have a new supporter on board, and he and I spent the half-time break talking about the joys of non-league footie, and his pal - dressed in London 2012 cap and hoodie - joined us for a chat about the Olympics. The guy didn't have any tickets but his enthusiasm for the Games was boundless.

And so the long drive back next morning. The Villagers were worth it, though. As always they put on a lively engaging performance. It was raining pretty hard at the beginning, but they'd put up an awning over the seats in readiness, and by the end of the evening the rain had stopped. Special props go to my friend Carol Hicks, who'd stepped up to the plate to play Camilla at short notice after the original actress had to go away to visit her terminally ill father. Carol, unfazed, played the part superbly. Another pal of mine, Nigel Dean, was hilarious as Autolycus, playing the role of the old rogue firmly for laughs. In that he was ably assisted by the Villagers' musicians with their 17th Century instruments, as they played jolly renditions of the tunes of Nuts In May and English Country Garden for him to sing his little ditties to the tunes of. Another star was Glyn Wright, an attractive, warm and sophisticated Paulina.

My one weeny little criticism is of the editing of the end scene. I like the Villagers' tradition of changing the odd male role into a female one to suit the composition of the company, which has more ladies than men, and I'm generally impressed with the editing jobs they do on the scripts to fit this. With Camillo becoming Camilla, Leontes' proposal that Paulina and Camillo marry had to be cut - but they did this by just having Leontes telling Paulina "Thou shouldst a husband take by my consent, As I by thine a wife" - then jumping straight to "Let's from this place..." making things a little unresolved and odd. As there was an unattached man on the stage, Polixenes, with whom Leontes is after all seeking to repair his friendship, I believe the play would have lost nothing - and been better for having resolution - if Leontes had urged Paulina to marry Polixenes. Minor quibble, though, with a good night's entertainment.

And I won a box of three Theakston's beers (two Old Peculiers and an Old Tom) in the raffle :D

Back up to Bedfordshire today - this time letting the train take the strain - for the Totternhoe v Leighton Town friendly. Got off the train at Luton to find building work in progress, meaning nearly all the usual bus stops by the station are out of action. I finally found the town's major bus interchange in Church Street, but never did find which of the many stops was the right one for Totternhoe and so had to shell out on a taxi.

At least I didn't have to pay to get in, as Totternhoe's pitch is in a public park. But it does have a clubhouse next to it, and they are a Spartan South Midlands League club, so they count as a ticked ground :) The bar manager and the two barmaids were very friendly, and both Stowford Press and Magners were on sale. One of the barmaids went to put the golf on the big screen but found the Freesat box wasn't working. They did have a Spanish Sky box, and one of the sports channels on that was showing the golf, but the barmaid was reluctant to put that on. She phoned someone, who told her something that worked, because she pressed a button and the Freesat box sprang to life.

This was a better game with both sides creating plenty of chances. Leighton won 1-0. I got talking to Bob, a Leighton fan, Leighton committee member Iain and Leighton volunteer Hannah, again getting a warm welcome.

Leighton's 6 ft 8 in striker Leon Simpson - known as 'Ocean' - played well, as did a midfielder named Andre who'll unfortunately miss the first two games through a suspension carrying over from the end of last season.

No doubt about where to get the bus back - the stop was right by the pitch and, thankfully, a bus left 10 minutes after the match ended. And so, via Auntie Anne's pretzel stall in Luton mall, to the long journey back south.
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Had a stinking cold since Thursday, passed on by me ma :(

The weather stayed fine this afternoon, so moseyed up the road to see the Olympic torch relay. Got talking to a friendly lady at roadside, who was impressed that I'd be going to a night of swimming finals - and delighted to hear that I am a huge women's football fan and would be attending six Olympic matches. Cathy, an old colleague of mine from the Shitpool, came up and said hello - she'd recognised my voice. She asked how long I had left at our office and when I was moving, and wished me luck.

After a couple of police vehicles went by playing tunes on their horns, the Torch Relay Bus appeared with some of the torchbearers on and we applauded and waved our flags. Some of them waved back through the windows. Behind them was an Olympic car with signs in the windows saying 'The Torch is 6 minutes away'. Next were the Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB open-top buses, with cheerful people on top wearing company polo shirts waving. Another Olympic car and a paramedic car brought up the rear.

Someone said "Oh, we've missed the runner with the torch." I said they were still to come. There was a long Pinterian pause, with nothing happening while the crowd outside the White Hart edged into the road and a policeman kept order. Finally a police motorcyclist came by beeping his horn, followed by two Olympic vans and the BBC crew. There was a torch kiss about 100 yards up the road from us, but where we were we couldn't see it because one of the Olympic vans was in the way. Slowly the vans began moving and went by us, followed by a young man carrying the torch, burning beautifully, surrounded by a phalanx of six outrunners in grey London 2012 polo shirts, to a huge cheer from everyone lining the road.
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The pharmacist at the other chemist said that it's only Benadryl Plus that you can't take with Ramipril. Regular Benadryl, and Loratidine, are fine. Phew.

Forza Azzurri!
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Catty organised a bridge evening for us beginners, plus instructor Dick, at the Titchfield Mill pub after work yesterday. We had a very pleasant time and the food was delicious, though it was fun and games arranging our cards around our plates, dishes and drinks (we stopped play to eat, of course, but resumed once we'd finished our food). Wendy revealed that she, like me, is going to some of the Olympic women's football - indeed, we'll both be at the Great Britain v New Zealand opener in Cardiff.

To the Co-op Pharmacy this morning for Benadryl Plus. The shop assistant asked whether I was on any blood pressure medication, so I replied Ramipril. She said I ought not to take Benadryl Plus with Ramipril as they contain decongestant, though she added that as the packet was only a four-day supply I should be OK as "it's just short-term". She consulted with the pharmacist, who asked me what dose of Ramipril I was on. When I said 5, he too said I could take the Benadryl Plus if it was just short term.

Problem is, I've been taking Benadryl Plus for the last four weeks. I asked the assistant what hay fever medications were OK to take with Ramipril, and she said "None, as they all contain decongestant." Unfortunately the pharmacist had gone back behind the scenes.

So I've played safe and come off the Benadryl, but I will be going to the local Sunday-opening chemist tomorrow in the hope that there'll be a pharmacist there to consult. The prospect of coming off hay fever medication altogether is a grim one, meaning as it does an annual five-month-long sneezing fit. In the meantime...pray for rain.

Went over to my old FE college for its 25th anniversary Open Day. Lisa, who was in my French group, is now one of the senior managers at the college, so she was first to come out and greet me. Ann popped in early on, and we moseyed around talking to some of the staff who were there when we were students. To my delight, Tracey and Emma, one-sixth of the legendary 'Common Room 12' group of partygirls, were among the first arrivals. We went for tea and biscuits in the foyer then wandered all around the campus, remarking on how it looks totally different now, pointing out what used to be where, and generally reminiscing. Daniel came later in the day, and we both had a long chat with Barry, who was Senior Tutor when we were there and is now a principal at a different college. Barry held forth eloquently about all that's wrong with the world, and he mused that in our college days he'd thought things would turn out OK thanks to our lot. "I was relying on your generation to sort the world out," he said. "We're working on it," grinned Daniel.

Massive thanks to Dave Cash this evening - he played my request of Me And You And A Dog Named Boo in the 1971 hour, then opened the 1981 hour with There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis.

Watched the full-length repeat of Top Of The Pops 1977 this evening, having missed Thursday night's 30-minute edit to see Germany v Italy. I'll be sticking with the Saturday night showing now, as I knew from the TOTP '77 fan blogs that the Wurzels' I Was Farmer Bill's Cowman was one of the songs chopped on Thursday. You do not edit out the Wurzels. Ever. Poor old Neil Innes has been taking some stick online for his Silver Jubilee song, but it struck me as a comedy record, entirely in tune with his usual work.
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