Here Today: Gig the Eighth

Mr Twitchett’s Coffee House and Bar, Stroud
Tuesday 1st April 2014
Secret Musician: Steve Legge (trombone)
Special Guest: Tim Martin
In the Thermos: Agua de Canela


WITH awesome panache, our secret musician Steve not only persuaded a member of the audience to unpack and assemble his instrument, he also produced a wonderful sound from a plastic (pBone) trombone that cost less him than £100.

trombone steve

Lots of likeable, lubricious and lively words starting with L were suggested to Jo for her instant writing exercise. She came up with:

Luminated lupins lit my lone walk in local Loughborough.
Unfortunately I’d latterly eaten lots of liquorice
which was like licking laxatives for lunch.
Oh loathsome licentious lions! What a lot!
Legged it back to Loughborough to
Lin’s little bungalow and relieved myself.
Oh lullaby of lightness and
lack of longing for liberation.

 For the fourth successive month, Marcus took up helmet and sword to portray an historical figure – this time a bloke they’ve named lots of pubs after, also summed up in an alphabetical piece entitled Endangered Species Put to the Sword:

Awesome bravery competition: dragon encounter!
Fearless George – hobbies include journeying, killing, lizards –
mounts narcissistic opportunistic patronage quest,
receives sainthood, though upsets vegetarians
when xuberantly yelling, “Zaaaap!”

We had a woollen theme this month, with Jo talking about a colourful skirt she’s knitting, Marcus reciting a poem he wrote that was knitted into a large a tapestry, and Knitting Yarns (ed. Anne Hood) being reviewed in our Look at a Book feature.

jo's skirt

For the Merry Month, we asked the audience to identify:
a) He was born, out of wedlock, on 15th April 1452
b) His father was a notary, his mother a peasant
c) He was left-handed, probably vegetarian, and never married
d) Having spent most of his life in Florence, he died – and was buried – in Amboise in France
e) History has noted his talents not only as a painter, but also a sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, and botanist*

a) She was born on 17th April 1974
b) Both her mother and mother-in-law were once hairdressers
c) The middle names of her four children are Joseph, James, David and Seven
d) She has published two books – Learning to Fly and That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between
e) 437 staff were employed at the wedding reception following her 1999 marriage to a well-known footballer*

We have two gigs next month – on Thursday 1st May at the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum and on Tuesday 6th May at the Cakes & Ale café bar. Both start at 8pm; £7 admission.

Click here and put YES in the subject line to join our mailing-list.

knit 2


* Leonardo da Vinci; Victoria Beckham







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Here Today: Gig the Seventh

Mills Café, Stroud
Saturday 1st March 2014
Secret Musician: Susannah Gooch (violin)
Special Guest: Marguarita Mills
In the Thermos: Pomegranate and rose cordial


1965 was the year Jo started keeping a five-year diary, which she chose as her Show & Tell item for this month’s gig. The entries for 1st March several decades ago revealed a number of amusing incidents from her life as a teenager. We’re now wondering if the diary should become a regular feature.

Our History of the World sketch saw King Alfred as a contestant in the Great British Bake Off. Marcus initially claimed that writer’s block had prevented him from producing an alphabetical version, offering his ‘apologies, but… committed, devoted even for gigs hitherto, I just – kerplunk! – lost my nerve; overnight; pathetically quaking, retching, soiling the underpants – very weak xcuses yet… zilch’. Moments later, however, he recited A King Goes to Sleep, by a Grate:

Alfred, by conquering Danes encircled,
finds grateful hidey-hole in journeywoman’s kitchen.
“Look, mister. Nice oatmeal pancakes – quality recipe.
Sauté. Turn. Understand?”
Visitor watches, xhausted, yawns, zzzz’s

The café was packed, with more than fifty in the audience listening to Marcus ranting about his dissatisfaction with complaints procedures, while Jo tackled the challenge of writing something containing words starting with Z suggested by the audience:

Zoe zipped up her zebra-patterned dress
while watching Z Cars.
“So zealous!” said Zak,
who was reading his zodiac.
“I’m going out to my Zeugma class,” said Zoe.
Zilch response from Zak.
“As you have zero interest,” Zoe continued,
“Your zupper is by your zlippers.”

For the Merry Month, we asked the audience to identify:

a) She will be 67 on 14th March
b) Her career really took off following an appearance on the television talent show, Opportunity Knocks
c) She is a keen gardener, beekeeper, and patron of the Battery Hen Welfare Trust
d) In 2004 she was awarded the MBE for services to literature and entertainment
e) Her first collection, published in 1976, was entitled, Some of Me Poems and Songs*

a) He died on 3rd March 2010, aged 96
b) His wife Jill was a historian and film-maker
c) As Employment Minister, he introduced the 1974 Healthy & Safety at Work Act
d) Having been injured in a car crash at the age of 50, he walked with a stick for the rest of his life
e) He resigned as leader of the Labour Party shortly after the 1983 General Election*

For Look at a Book, we reviewed Bollocks to Alton Towers: Uncommonly British Days Out, written by various contributors to Viz. Among our favourite places the book recommends to visitors are 18 Albany Road, Bedford, which has been made ready as a modest home for the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the bungalow in Essex that houses a secret underground nuclear bunker.

We’re back on Tuesday 1st April, 8pm, at Mr Twitchett’s Coffee House and Bar in the Subscription Rooms, Stroud.

Click here and put YES in the subject line to join our mailing-list.

mills 02

*  Pam Ayres; Michael Foot









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Here Today: Gig the Sixth

Kitsch Coffee & Wine Bar, Stroud
Saturday 1st February 2014
Secret Musicians: Out of Time (duo; guitars and vocals)
Special Guest: Francoise Pinteaux Jones
In the Thermos: Lapsang souchong


CLEO and Tony, meeting by a pyramid in 41 BC, spent much of their first date talking to each other on mobile phones… while standing only a few feet apart: our latest History of the World sketch. Marcus’s alphabetical version of their ill-fated affair is called Eager Egos in Egypt:

Antony beds Cleopatra – daily ecstasy –
foregoing general housework, inevitably jeopardising kingdom,
losing militarily, newcomer Octavian prevailing.
Queen resignedly succumbs to unerring viper,
whispering, “Xxxxpire! You’re zzzzonked…”

While Marcus ranted about how little direct contact we have with strangers nowadays, Jo quickly wrote a piece incorporating words starting with G suggested by the audience:

George and Georgina were gorgeous.
The girl was great, the guy was giggly.
Georgina glimpsed George giggling
on a ginormous, gargantuan grass hill,
where a greedy goat munched.
“Why the giggles?” asked Georgina.
“I am the victim of a grievance. I came here gladly,
believing it was good, but it is ghastly!”
“Go then,” said Georgina and without a glance George galloped off.
Georgina glided giddily after him.

Marcus again lost Match of the Day. Given a minute to find as many words as possible from the letters in ‘k i t s c h’, he managed about a dozen, but was easily surpassed by audience member Caroline – another hit, more stick and feeling sick.

For Look at a Book, a new feature, we reviewed Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems, edited by Simon Armitage.

For the Merry Month, we asked the audience to identify:

a) He was born on 26th February 1932
b) The first of two autobiographies was called Man in Black: His Own Story in His Own Words
c) His parents called him J.R. When he enlisted in the Air Force, they wouldn’t let him use initials as a name, so he came up with a forename himself
d) He was not, however, a boy named Sue
e) Two of his best-selling albums were recorded live at San Quentin and Folsom Prisons*

a) She will be 80 on 11th February
b) Her surname, appropriately, comes from an Old French word meaning ‘clever’, ‘skilful’ or ‘noted for elegance and fine dress’
c) Her first shop was called Bazaar
d) Awarded an MBE in 1966, she arrived at Buckingham Palace wearing a cream wool jersey mini-dress with blue facings
e) Among her many design successes was the iconic ‘Swinging London’ fashion item, hot pants*

The gig finished with our customary song, Dim the Lights, preceded by an appalling pun:

MARCUS     I’m going to go up now, Jo. I need to check on the artist-in-residence.

JO     Artist-in-residence?

MARCUS     Yes.

JO     In the bedroom?

MARCUS     Well, it’s very nice, having somebody there to draw the curtains.

We’re back on Saturday 1st March, 8pm, at Mills Café in Stroud.

Click here and put YES in the subject line to join our mailing-list.

here today

*  Johnny Cash; Mary Quant








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Here Today: Gig the Fifth

Springhill Co-housing, Stroud
Wednesday 1st January 2014
Secret Musician: Callum Wardle (trumpet)
Special Guest: Renie Hudman
In the Thermos: Chort


WITH pleasing serendipity – in view of the watery start to the year – the fifth Letter of the Month drawn from Jo’s bag means we have now had H,Y, D, R, O. While Marcus was recounting his recent hitch-hiking adventures, Jo incorporated as many H words as possible into a piece of instant writing:

 Hurray! Hurray! I’ve had my hysterectomy!
The hospital was heavenly.
However, it is not hilarious having hoperations.
Hell fire! Humungous pain!
Healed by humility, and heartfelt
hobbit-like nurses helping my hurts.
Indeed they hosted me with hamster-like hopefulness,
singing hymns at my head.
Now I’m home, happily humming halleluiahs…

History of the World part 5 featured Hadrian, visiting local builders’ merchants Travis Perkins in search of bargain bricks, with the same Roman highlighted in Marcus’s alphabetical piece, Postcard home to Rome:

Aquae – beautiful.
Corinium – delightful.
Eboracum – frankly grim.
Hadrian, installation junkie, keeps legion marching north
on personal quest, rumour says, to unveil vast wall xhibit.
Yours, Zacharaeus

Once again, audience members were up to the challenge of our Merry Month quiz questions, which included…

a) She will be 50 on 17th January
b) She has two daughters, aged 15 and 12
c) On meeting the Queen in 2009, some say she breached traditional royal etiquette by lightly touching her majesty on the back
d) Her great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia Shields, was a slave
e) She currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC*

a) He was born on 4th January 1813
b) His motto was ‘time saved is life gained’
c) His first name was Isaac
d) He founded and taught at The British School in Wotton-under-Edge
e) His phonetically-based shorthand, first presented in 1837, is still widely used by secretaries the world over*

One of Jo’s undertakings at Springhill is organising the cooking rota – a tricksy logistical exercise involving menus, availabilities, personal preferences and other variables. For Match of the Day, she set Marcus and an audience volunteer the task of allocating six names to three meals, which twelve year-old Sean completed before his opponent had hardly begun.

Chort is the name a local resident has given to her winter-warming drink of hot chocolate with a dash of port. The thermos was quickly emptied by eager tasters.

We’re back on Saturday 1st February, 8pm, at the Kitsch Coffee & Wine Bar, High Street, Stroud. Click here and put YES in the subject line to join our mailing-list.

* Michelle Obama; Sir Isaac Pitman









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Here Today: Gig the Fourth

Woodruffs Organic Café, Stroud
Sunday 1st December 2013
Secret Musician: Oogoo Maia (clavichord)
Special Guest: Toby Kempner
In the Thermos: Rooibos Tea


MARY, played by a pregnant Marcus (bowler hat under jumper), and Joseph (Jo, with suitable tea-towel head-wear) were struggling with the census forms in our advent/nativity sketch: Christmas is Coming.

Having decided that the question about spare bedrooms was to enable the government to slap a tax on them, the couple from Nazareth then contemplated a long list of possible religions, which included… Jew, Orthodox Jew, Unorthodox Jew, Gentile, Sodomite, Ammonite, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Baptism of Fire, Secular Jew, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition, That Stupid Cult in America That Keeps Getting the Day of Rapture Wrong, Wakefield Trinity, Specsavers, The Chicken & Egg United Reform Church, and many more.

Marcus’ alphabet version on a similar theme was entitled The Jesus Tapes, Day 2:

Afternoon breastfeeding.
Catch Dad entertaining foreign gift-bearers –
“Hi, I’m Joseph!” –
keenly legitimizing Mum’s no ordinary pregnancy.
Questioned regarding satnavs,
the unexpected visitors wisely xplained,
“Yonder zig-zagger…”

Audience members won Tunnocks bars for solving all the Merry Month quiz questions, which included…

a) She died in 2005, aged 92
b) Her father was a carpenter, her mother a teacher
c) Part of a highway in Missouri was named in her honour in 1994
d) She was of African, Cherokee-Creek and Scots-Irish ancestry
e) On 1st December 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama*


a) He became President of his country on 2nd December 1976
b) One of his lesser-known quotes is, “If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave, that is 5,000 minutes a year spent shaving”
c) At the height of his powers, he was 6 feet 4 inches tall
d) He was succeeded by his brother Raoul in 2008
e) He stopped smoking Havana cigars in 1985*

While Marcus ranted about not wanting to waste time having to shop around for services, Jo wrote this instant piece incorporating audience-suggested words beginning with letter of the month O:

Oh Oh Oh!
I need ointment on
my oozing objectionable obnoxious
open graze on my knee.
For some obscure obtuse reason,
carrying an omelette
on my own in my orange dress
I fell over and the oleaginous omelette
obstinately made an offering on my dress
and now a hurt knee occupies my body.
My ovaries go ow! ow! ow!
Oh misery… over and out

We dimmed the lights for Coincidences, the fourth chapter of our classic serial, The Pie of Life. Jo’s Beautiful Spot featured four of her delightful sonnets. Marcus, unable to build a tower of plastic beakers, easily lost Match of the Day to audience volunteer Kate.

We’re back on Wednesday 1st January, 8pm, at Springhill Cohousing in Uplands, Stroud. Email us for more details.

* Rosa Parks; Fidel Castro









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The Pie of Life, ch 4

“Matthew, I’ve been meaning to say this for a while now. There’s a new man in my life—”

Chapter 4

“—drawing class, who—”


“—has the same birthday as you! Would you believe it? February the 8th!”

“Well, one has to ask how many in total there are in the group?”

“Oh. Why?”

“Odds and probabilities. I do believe that once you have 23 people in a room, the chances are more likely than not that two of them will have the same birthday.”

“Oh,” Rachael repeated, unsure, as she often was, whether to tell her husband what he liked to hear…

“That’s fascinating, darling. You really are so very knowledgeable about many of life’s smaller details.”

…or to let him know what she was actually thinking…

“Yeah, but what are the chances of us getting it together – preferably before the end of the decade.”

She took another deep breath. This time she really would …

“Matthew, I—”

“And it’s still life drawing. Your art class. Bowls of fruit, vases of flowers… are what they call still life. Life drawing is quite different. The subjects are human. Portraits, nude figures and so on.”

“Talking of which—”

“But I must get on. Already behind schedule. Not to mention this ridiculous meeting in the Royal Oak I ought to attend. Toodle-pip.”

And Matthew was gone, back to the study, leaving Rachael feeling shafted; in one sense, but sadly not the other.

Meanwhile, in the bar of the afore-mentioned Royal Oak, up-and-coming jazz singer Carla Nightingale was beginning to feel left out.

Landlady Bella and retired solicitor Julian were busy finalizing an agenda…

Emergency Relief Committee Meeting
Round the Table
2.     Icebreaker games
3.     Crisis update
4.     Crisis management
5.     Crisis procedure’s
6.     Volunteers to run the raffle
7.     Time of next meeting (tomorrow)
8.     AOB

…while Brian was in the kitchen, still making phone calls, urging anybody who was anybody to come to the meeting.

He wasn’t making a great deal of progress. Almost everybody who was anybody had said they wouldn’t be coming, leading Brian to conclude that the only anybodies who were anybody likely to turn up would turn out to be a bunch of nobodies.

Carla rummaged in her bag, seeking chocolate, but finding only a packet of biscuits – (Garibaldi) – which she opened and began munching her way through, when, suddenly…

…the pub door opened and in rushed Nikki Prior from the Westbridge District Council planning department – that intrepid explorer with a fondness for stopping at pubs to ask for directions:

“Hello. Sorry to bother you. Could somebody please tell me the way to the Grange?”

Sensing the possibility of a lift home – rather than having to walk through the pouring rain – Carla stood up and approached Nikki with a smile.

Her moving away from the table allowed a large bluebottle to leave the mantelpiece above the fireplace, to land by the packet of biscuits – (Garibaldi) – and to start excavating the scene for lost relatives.

“Hi, I’m Carla,” introducing herself to Nikki. “The Grange is on my way home…”

“And she doesn’t have an umbrella,” added Julian. “I was going to offer to, you know, but, um, it’s all hands to the pump right now.”

“Cool,” said Nikki. “We’ll give you a lift if you’re ready.”

So it was, that fateful afternoon, that up-and-coming jazz singer Carla Nightingale quickly bundled her belongings back into her bag – including the all-important packet of biscuits with its coincidental stowaway – left Bella and Julian to prepare for the first meeting of the Upperly Bottom Emergency Relief Committee, and found herself in Nikki’s car…

“Get in the back, Michael. This is Carla.”

…as they set off along Chestnut Avenue.

“It’s not far. Just after the Vicarage. Odd place. The Strange Grange I call it. As dark as dark by day, but lights all a-flickering at night. Nobody’s ever seen the owner, but the mini-bus from Stonegate Open Prison calls there three days a week. Some locals say there’s some weirdo experiments going on.”

“Shall we tell her, Nikki?” urged Michael, enthusiastically. “About the drawings?”

“Why not?”

“The thing is, Carla,” he continued, enthusiastically, “this folder has plans and drawings in it. It’s a planning application from Mr Wells who owns the Grange. Nikki’s on her way to meet him. But I…” he enthused, “…I have seen these drawings before. I’m sure of it. They’re the exact same plans drawn up by my great-great-grandparents, over a hundred years ago!”

“No! Take the next left. Hollybush Lane.”

“Yes. It’s a family heirloom. I’ve spent hours and hours looking at them. I couldn’t believe it when Nikki showed me what’s in this folder. I still don’t. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Nikki stopped the car. There was a hushed silence, broken only by the swish-swish of the windscreen wipers, the incessant ratta-patter-splatter of the rain on the roof, and the tump-tump-tump of their three hearts, beating to a rhythm Carla was sure she’d heard before on a Miles Davis track. As hushed silences go, this one was pretty loud.

“You’ve never seen inside the Grange?” Nikki asked Carla.

“No. But I’ve always wanted to.”

Carla smiled. What with the flood alert and everything, she’d been feeling a bit sorry for herself. Generally speaking, people didn’t call upon up-and-coming jazz singers during natural disasters.

“Well, unless you have a more pressing engagement,” Nikki announced, “you’re coming with us. You happy with that, O nerd?”

“You bet!” Michael exclaimed, enthusiastically.

“This is so exciting,” Carla giggled. “I think I’m going to wet myself.”

Nikki drove on, past the vicarage and turning right into the drive-way leading to the Grange; up a winding avenue between ancient trees; along a sweeping curve that took them through an old stone arch and finally to the steps of the stately mansion’s grand central porch.

Bright floodlights on the building’s façade greeted their arrival. The huge, heavy, wooden door opened and two dark figures appeared, each holding a large umbrella.

“Oh-ho. Reception committee,” mumbled Michael, his enthusiasm shoved out of the way by collywobbles.

The shorter of the two figures hurried down the steps, opening the car doors for Nikki and Carla, and holding an umbrella over them as if they were royalty.

“Why, thank you,” said Nikki, loving every minute of this unlikely adventure, and whispering to Carla as they mounted the steps, “Don’t forget to tell them you need a wee. I want to hear all about the bathrooms.”

“On behalf of Mr Wells, may I welcome you all to The Grange. You are just in time for afternoon tea.”

Nikki looked up at the tall figure in the door-way. She couldn’t decide whether to curtsey or to burst out laughing. But, at that very moment, Carla, beside her, stiffened, stopped and gasped.


“Is something amiss, Ms Nightingale?”

“It’s you. You. From the pub. You who warned us something terrible was going to happen.”

“Not terrible exactly, but life-changing. Please, do come in. Mr Wells has been waiting many, many years for this significant occasion. Please.”

And he gestured for Nikki, Carla and Michael to enter the dark, imposing building that was to wrap them in its mysterious embrace for much, much longer than any traditional afternoon tea-time…









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Justin the Money

13. Justin the Money

(From the Public Parliament’s archive of ‘Misc. Notes’, May 2016)

WON’T have accurate figures before Aug but guesstimate Year 1 costs to be 280-300K.

Wallet & Natterbox want to explore for Year 2 costs& implications of:

– 30 members on national average pay

– 8 x local 4-bed house-share properties (rent, tax, bills)

– self-catering premises with office/meeting rms (rent or buy)

– travel costs to/fro regions

– 2-3 extra admin staff

– extra equipment (computers, phones, mini-bus, bikes etc)

rough calculation = £2.2/2.5million. How do we know what backer/s think as we don’t know who they are or how much they wish to invest? Jess must press Archie for length of their commitment – and depth of pockets.

Interesting results to MPPs Money Matters Survey. 2 have failed to claim w/e fees. 5 more have pledged/donated sums of between 5% and 33% of fees to charity. Most support 1:12 campaign principle now popular across EU. Only 1 claimed additional exps for research work at home (since resigned).

Look into:

– regional public get-togethers costs/dates/venues

– volunteers charitable status

– what %s of tax income spent on what

– Chan 17 contract renewal/rights

– current remunerations etc for juries

Personal observations

Difficult 6 weeks for us all. Low morale after resignations & bad press. But new intake v enthusiastic & stronger sense of direction emerging. “The mouth becomes stronger when we lose our milk teeth” (BP). Hoping for more stability over next few months.

Not convinced by group names – Kitchen (full assembly) Wallet (finance & economics) Post Office (communications, media etc) Lego (system of ops, structure etc) Natterbox (ideas, tangents, anything goes) – but have to learn to live with it.

Could sleep for a week. Can’t wait to get away to somewhere off the beaten for summer hols.









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