Monday, May 30, 2011

Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre

The Royal Exchange Theatre has been a part of my life for most of my life.
For those not in the know (you will be people who have never been to Manchester, because if you have been you would have obviously visited the theatre), the Royal Exchange is a three tier theatre in the round housed within the magnificent Great Hall of the Royal Exchange buildings that was Manchester's trading centre used from the late 19th to early 20th century.
One of my earliest memories is seeing my mum walk through the stage as part of a crowd in (I think) the musical Leaping Ginger. She wasn't meant to be part of the performance, but we had tickets on the top tier and my mum had a dreaded fear of heights, so asked to be reseated, the only way to do this was to have her walk through the set at an opportune moment. Me and my sister sat amazed as we watched her parade through.
The theatre opened in 1978 and has seen an array of famous actors perform there. It always seems to me that the theatre itself is always the star and the intimacy of it makes even the grandest of luvvies that little bit humbler and makes for exceptional performances.
On Saturday 15th June 1996 the IRA bomb that destroyed large chunks of Manchester town centre also severely damaged the theatre. Walking towards the theatre a couple of weeks after that, in an eerily silent Manchester, seeing the bulding with blown out windows and looking like it would never reopen was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.
The theatre company managed to soldier on for the next couple of years with a travelling tent that housed a replica of the ground level of the stage. They even managed to reopen better than ever, in November 1998 with a second smaller performance space being launched.
I have a lot of memories of seeing stuff at the Royal Exchange, watching my dad enjoying Andy Capp: The Musical ("good old legs, what are your legs for? Walking!"), my mum's only stage performance, a sneaky afternoon off seeing a matinee of Waiting For Godot (I'm a rebel!), my wife and I laughing hysterically at a preview perfomance of Charley's Aunt and so many more.
Even memories of what I recall as bad productions leave good memories, my mum and I did something very rare and left at the interval of a production of Pinter's The Caretaker starring Charlie Drake, you can't like everything!
So thanks for the memories and keeping me cheerful.
One of the theatre's founders Richard Negri, has further details of the history of the theatre on his website.

The Muppet Show's Scooter - Ross' sock of the day

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The song Warpaint by The Brook Brothers

We were wandering around a local town centre and noticed a lady with way too much make up on, and then I started singing this song. "You're not going to fight a war, you're only going out with the boy next door", what a fab line.
Written by Howard Greenfield and Barry Mann, songwriters from the infamous Brill Building. Despite both Mann and Greenfield writing numerous hit songs with other people, I can't find many others they wrote together. The song in this version was a hit in the UK in 1961. It was also recorded by Barry Mann and Bill Haley amongst others.
The Brook Brothers are real brothers and were for a time the British answer to The Everly Brothers, one has to wonder what the question was.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - Star Wars' R2D2

Ken Dodd's song Happiness

It's difficult not to feel a bit cheery with this song. Written by prolific country writer Bill Anderson, who also recorded the song. Anderson is known for speaking a lot of lyrics, and the majority of his version of the song is exactly that. Doddy's song is much more upbeat. Ken Dodd, a British comedian spanning several generations had a number of hit records in the 60s, the most famous "Tears (For souvenirs)" was the third best selling UK single of the 1960s, only being beaten by two Beatles' hits.

The song lyrics don't bear too much scrutinising, "A wise old man told me one time, That happiness is nothing but a frame of mind, I hope when you go to measuring my success, That you don't count my money count my happiness". It's all very well to live your life that way, but after you've gone it's a lot easier to quantify assets than how often your teeth got an airing.
Here's Doddy and Anderson's version below it

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rubber Ducks 1 - Ducks in a mirror

I like a rubber duck, they're harmless, or at least all the ones I've encountered are. These two rubber ducks were in my eye line, sitting on our bathroom window, they looked very cute with the sun shining behind them, I should probably have been working at the time, but I took this picture instead.

I can't find any definite answer as to who made the first rubber duck or when that was, it seems to be around 1890 and they were made of rubber.

Ross' sock of the day - A Mr. Messy Sock

A Pizza Express Neptune Pizza

I'm sure Pizza Express won't mind my singing their praises. I watch my cheese intake, so despite my liking a nice chunk of Cheshire, I very rarely have any. I also like a pizza but again don't have too many. The neptune pizza was a regular on the Pizza Express menu and after a few years off has had a recent return. Its toppings are olives, capers, anchovies, tuna, onion and a lemon, there is no cheese and surprisingly it isn't missed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - Walt Disney's Donald Duck

Confusion 2 : You had to be there.

Those moments that don't always translate well to the telling of a tale. When you get half way through telling an hilarious story that turns out to have probably not been that funny after all. All reasons to be cheerful, well unless you were the story teller.

My reason for today was confusion during a recent shopping expedition. Now British supermarket staff have become almost helpful over recent years, a new one creeping in is "Thank-you for waiting" which is fine if you have been waiting, but sounds a bit insincere if there isn't a queue and you just walk up and get served straight away.

Apparently one of the most common replies to "Do you need any help with your packing" is "No thank-you, but wouldn't mind some help with paying", hilaaarious.

So back to my story, the checkout lady asked "do you need any help with your shopping", when she realised her faux-pas, she was in hysterics, "ooh, I meant, do you need any help with your packing, I can't believe I said that". We didn't have the heart to point out that there wasn't really anything wrong with her first sentence, oh well, you had to be there.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ross' Goofy sock of the day

Doing A Harry Worth

I'm actually too young to remember Harry Worth from the series where the levitation in the window routine on the opening credits took place, yet it remains fairly well known 50 years after the first series aired. I even did a Harry Worth on my wedding day, there was a partition wall standing alone, I had no choice!
On my Comedy A to Z blog, I recently did a Harry Worth entry and whilst looking for any good YouTube clips of the great man, I found a host of people of all ages "Doing A Harry Worth", so stay cheerful and check some of these out and maybe find a window and try it yourself. If you're in Manchester find the Starbucks in St. Anne's Square, that's where the original was done. (It wasn't Starbucks then, but that was the place).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - Bugs Bunny the First

A Nice View

There's something about a nice pretty view of the world or at least my own part of it. This pic was taken a little while ago from out of our lounge window.
It doesn't have to be greenery or the sea, just something interesting, so be cheerful and look out of a window, if you don't have a nice view then buy a postcard.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - a froggy frog frog

Stuffed Olives

More specifically a pimento stuffed olive. The middle class snack of choice is one of my reasons to be cheerful. Now I have nothing against other types of stuffing (no Carry On jokes please!) but they never top the good old pimento, like salt & vinegar crisps they should have just stopped after pimento, not try and introduce new varieties. Garlic, chilli, almonds, anchovies, onions have all been attempted but the pimento still wins. In the Channel 4 programme 100 Best Olive Stuffings, pimento was number one, even Stuart Maconie agreed and this was backed up with the Channel 5 programme 100 Greatest Olive Stuffings.
It is generally green olives that get stuffed and this should be with pimento.
Unlike many other foodstuffs it is often the cheaper types that are the nicest, so well done to the olive.
Olives are also used in the production of olive oil and olive tapenades as well as other things that have olives in. Olive pits were not used in the construction of The Great Wall of China.

Friday, May 20, 2011

She Wears Red Feathers - Cheerful song of the week

Well for a truly bizarre yet chirpy song, let me take you back to the 1950s.

Written by Bob Merrill, who wrote countless hits including How Much Is That Doggie in The Window, Mambo Italiano and "If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake". He also wrote the stage show Funny Girl and wrote the subsequent screenplay. He wrote a number of Broadway plays and musicals.

So She Wears Red Feathers, a song about a London banker who marries a tropical island inhabitant who lives on just coconuts and fish from the sea (presumably there weren't supermarkets on the island).

The wedding ceremony looks to have been quite exotic, her parents seemed to have approved of the relationship and consented to the marriage, yet it was an elephant who brought the bride in and not her father. There didn't appear to be an organist, but there was a rather clever rendition of "Here Comes The Bride" performed by 6 baboons on bassoons.

Evidently the island life didn't suit the bridegroom and they returned to London, where he seems to have gone back to working at the bank. The island lady likes to sip tea and stroll arm in arm with her husband along Piccadilly, her diet appears to have not changed even living in London. I'd assume her fish supply comes from the Thames whilst her coconuts are probably imported.

The American singer Guy Mitchell had a number one hit with the song in 1953.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - a sock for a Thusday


Quite possibly the worst idea for entertainment in the history of the universe, a hand puppet that looks fairly routine and doesn't even talk. If it wasn't for Harry Corbett then it probably wouldn't have lasted for more than 60 years and be a part of almost every British adult's childhood memories.

His first TV appearance was in 1952 on a programme not too dissimilar to Britain's Got Talent. The thought of some middle aged guy with a glove puppet and a water pistol stood in front of Simon Cowell is cause for cheerfulness in itself.  Corbett and Sooty went on to win, to have regular TV apppearances, live shows, records, books, annuals, spin offs, merchandise until now and there are more in the pipeline.

So thanks to Sooty. Bye bye everybody.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ross' sock of the day - a pukka Only Fools and Horses one

Rumpole Of The Bailey

Rumpole Of The Bailey, a tv character and star of a series of books by John Mortimer. His shining hour was acting alone and without a leader in the notorious Penge Bungalow murder trial, his knowledge of bloodstains was legendary down at the Old Bailey. Drinker of Pommeroy's Chateau Thames Embankment and married to She Who Must Be Obeyed, the feared Hilda.
Played on TV by Leo McKern and on radio by Maurice Denham and Timothy West, the Sherlock Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch also played a young Rumpole in one of the latter episodes.
Horace Rumpole had Chambers at 3 Equity Court, London.
The last TV series was in 1992 and the last book published in 2009. Leo McKern died in 2002 and John Mortimer in 2009, so it's unlikely we'll see him again, I do miss the old darling.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Orinoco Womble Sock of The Day

Battenburg Cake

Battenburg is a cake with a pattern, can anything be better? It is generally just 4 sections, the one above seems very fancy. I would have taken a picture of the one I had, but I just ate it.
It's plain sponge with marzipan wrapped around and very nice indeed.

If you like you can make your own with Simon Rimmer's recipe on the BBC website and even a "How to" video by Lesley, who also likes a Battenburg

Monday, May 16, 2011

Foghorn Leghorn

The greatest cartoon character of all time, I say, the greatest. Foghorn Leghorn was voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc. Created by Robert McKimson the mighty rooster first appeared in 1946. It was originally a spoof of "Senator Beauregard Claghorn" a character on the Fred Allen radio show Allen's Alley by Kenny Delmar. Delmar later had to ask permission of Warner Brothers to play the character he created after they had copyrighted Foghorn Leghorn!
Stay cheerful son, I say stay cheerful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Max Wall

Max Wall was a unique British star, a variety act, comedian, dancer, actor, singer. His best known routine was as Professor Wallofski and the 'funny walk' which is said to have influenced John Cleese to write The Ministry Of Silly Walks for Monty Python and is influenced by the routines of music hall giants Wilson, Keppel and Betty.
Whilst he doesn't get a mention in the song Reasons To Be Cheerful, Ian Dury was a big fan and Wall recorded Dury's "England's Glory" which was released as a single.
A Max Wall appearance used to make me smile. Good evening.
So here's a bit of a very young Max, I Took Off my Hat

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Confusion 1

Confusion is not always a reason to be cheerful, but something that has happened recently has amused me.
My other blog, My A to Z of Comedy has an entry about 1930s comedian and writer Charlie (or Charley) Chase also known as Charlie Parrot. Now this entry has been by far the most read or looked at or possibly just clicked on. Now I am interested in Charlie but I couldn't work out why he is more popular than Stan Laurel for example or other more modern entries. Read past this very fetching picture of Charley Chase to find out why...

Charley Chase is also the name of an actress in the adult film industry, so when Googling for a blog related to the star of films such as Busty Nurses 2 or Real Racks 6 (I just read IMDB, honest!) you happen across my musings on the contemporary of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy, I can only imagine the thoughts when they see the picture above.
I am slightly more amused by my adding to the confusion with this blog too.


I've heard say that some people don't like cucumber, this is very odd to me. Cucumbers have origins in India but now China is the largest cucumber country. It is said that if you pile up all the cucumbers grown in the UK in one year on top of each other then you probably wouldn't get past one before it fell over.
The cucumber above was sliced and eaten by me, I even did the arrangement.

In America, the Americans like to use cucumber as part of English tea parties. The Queen is said to eat cucumber sandwiches, but never with the crust.


So, well, I, er, hold on, now where's that piece of paper, I've written it down somewhere, my wife, she likes Columbo, I don't always get that kind of thing, but she's a big fan...
Columbo as it is best known started as a stage show, that was adapted from a short story that was made into a short TV programme in 1960, the stage show evolved into a TV pilot in 1968 and then 3 years later a series, the last special was in 2003.
If you didn't know, it was Peter Falk what done it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A bagel

For a proper bagel the dough should first be boiled then baked. Sadly a lot of bagels in existence are essentially bread rolls with a hole in the middle, at best using steaming instead of boiling.
The bagel was first made in 17th century Poland and made its way to the UK in the mid 19th century and to the US not long after.
The bagel above was bought by me and eaten by me in 2011, it was very nice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls always makes me cheerful. On stage or on the big or small screen it never fails. The film was meant to have Dean Martin in the Sky Masterson part. Frank Sinatra was none too pleased that the non singing Brando got to do the best number, Luck Be A Lady. I personally think there is something charming about Brando in this role. Stealing the show though is the wonderful Stubby Kaye as Nicely Nicely. So to stay cheerful, why not ask someone "How goes it?" today, if they answer "Nicely nicely thank-you" buy a lottery ticket.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bourbon biscuit

The first of my own reasons to be cheerful is the finest of all British biscuits, the bourbon. It is a rectangular sandwich biscuit with a chocolate fondant filling. Originally made by the company who baked the Queen and Prince Philip's wedding cake, Peek Freans back in 1910. The Royal connections don't end there, it was named after the French royal family's house of Bourbon.
I personally like a good old bourbon plus they aren't too bad for you, containing no hydrogenated fats and have less fat than a Digestive, so ner.
They are pretty cheap to buy, but if you want to make your own, here's a link to a recipe.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3.

And now the video, all the pics in the right bits, I present Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bonar Colleano

Bonar Colleano: The final of Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful is the American born actor who made a number of British films in the 40s and 50s. Mostly playing Americans and generally the brash and good-looking American soldier stationed in the UK during the war and making friends (often very good friends) with lonely British women. He died in a car accident in 1958, a subsequent fund raising football match saw friends such as Sid James, James Mason, Alma Cogan and Alfie Bass help raise funds to support his son, Mark. Mark Colleano is also an actor and has appeared in episodes of Only Fools and Horses and some other stuff (I have used extensive research!). So with Ian's Reasons complete, all that's left is the video and then I start on my own reasons to be cheerful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Adi Celentano

Adi Celentano: In Ian Dury's penultimate Reason To Be Cheerful we have the Italian Adriano Celentano. An everyman of Italy, film star, singer, TV host, comedian, heart throb. Born in 1938 Celentano has made 40 albums and over 50 films. A favourite song released in 1972 is Prisencolinensinainciusol, this crazy tune is hopefully a parody of English pop/rock songs with Celentano singing English gibberish. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

John Coltrane's Soprano

John Coltrane's Soprano; John Coltrane first played soprano saxophone on his 1961 album My Favorite Things. He may be playing tenor saxophone in this picture, I just don't know. Davey Payne plays saxophone on Reasons To Be Cheerful, apparently Ian Dury asked Chas Jankel (who wrote the music) to include a break for Payne to  improvise the solo so he could get a music credit and earn royalties on the song.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coming out of Chokey

Coming out of Chokey: 'Chokey' is a British slang term for prison, from the Hindi word 'cauki' for shed or outhouse, quite possibly the same derivative as the slang 'carzey' for toilet. Anyway as far as I know Ian Dury never spent any prolonged (or possibly any) period in prison, but as a man of the people he would know that coming out would be a reason to be cheerful. Here we see Norman Stanley Fletcher as portrayed by Ronnie Barker in the TV series Going Straight, a follow up to Porridge, which sees Fletcher coming out of chokey. You'll find my Porridge post on my A to Z of comedy blog

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Singalong a Smokey

Singalong a Smokey: "Singalong" was used before anyone had heard of 'karaoke'. Ian Dury probably refers to Smokey Robinson in this bit of Reasons To Be Cheerful. My picture is an album cover from a Bert & Ernie singalong album, but here's the best bit, one of the songs on the album is "On Top Of Old Smokey" (no it's not rude!). That song is an old folk song, more well known in the US. On this album the version is by Grover. So a double whammy of cheerfulness, singalong and Bert & Ernie, who were largely based on Laurel & Hardy you know? but that's probably for another day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Saying Okey Dokey

Saying Okey Dokey: I've not heard anyone say 'okey dokey' for some time, so I may say it today. If you don't know it's just another way of saying OK, but in a little more of a cheerful manner. I couldn't find any kind of picture that would show anyone saying 'okey dokey', so I found a picture of the Cosgrove Hall, 1995 cartoon series of a similar name. Oakie Doke lived in an oak tree, he may still do, I haven't bothered checking.

Being In My Nuddy

Being in my nuddy: The use of the word 'nuddy' refers to the "naughty naked nude" as used by Ian Dury in the lyrics to another tune. Unfortunately I scoured the internet and couldn't find any pictures of anyone in the nude. The closest was this picture, I believe someone has a bare ankle behind the curtains.