Speaking oop north

It’s good to be back in the land of the long vowel sounds. I’ve just spent the week on the road oop north where baths and paths are much shorter than I’m used to.

On Tuesday I was in Nottingham reporting on the British Open Wheelchair tennis for BBC TV.It’s just the same as abled bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice, and there’s not as much arguing.

I stayed the night with Natalie and Wayne, my regular East Midlands hosts, who are lovely people even if they do make me watch Coronation Street.

Never mind marmalade cats on rooftops, on Wednesday I was off to the real north.  I spent a lot of the morning at Woolley Back services on the M1., That might not be it’s exact name and the term services can only be loosely applied in this case. . It’s free broadband was intermittent and I spent a long time putting the finishing touches to my powerpoint slides for my talk that night. I was speaking at the Holiday Inn at Garforth, just north of dirty Leeds. Oh the glamour.

The speaking world is split down the middle on the issue of powerpoint slides in keynote talks. The purists don’t like them. I do like them.I like them very much indeed.
I have terrible trouble remembering my talks. I know the general outline but I often find myself going down comedy cul de sacs and can’t find my way back to the main road. If the audience think you don’t know where you are heading and suspect you don’t either, it can be a problem. I use powerpoint as a sort of sat nav. When I deviate off the route for comedy purposes, a click on the clicker, my next slide appears and I’m back on track.

Most of my slides are photographs that I have taken myself. I think they add to my stories. The traditional speakers might be turning in their graves at that, especially those that aren’t fully dead yet. But, in a world where attention span is…..sorry what was I saying, oh yes, attention span is shortening all the time, I think slides are great. In our interactive world, a man talking on stage on his own, needs to be very good to hold the attention. I am good, often I’m very good, but the photos add value and make me better. In my view.
And of course they keep me from repetition, deviation, hesitation and repetition.

Obviously I don’t use slides when I’m doing my after dinner talks. When I roll up at a golf club and they are tucking into chicken in a basket, it would seem a bit rum if I suddenly powered up a projector and rolled out a screen. Thinking about it they probably wouldn’t mind as long as I had my shirt tucked in.

With my powerpoint slides in order, I set off for Snaith to spend my afternoon with Phil, my old mate from journalism college. He’s something important at the BBC in Leeds. It’s twenty four years since we left college, but it was just like the old days straightaway. Except we talked about diabetes, baldness and second properties instead of acne, exam stress and demo tapes.

If ever a man should take up after dinner speaking it’s Phil. He’s a natural storyteller. So I dragged him along  to see me in action at the Holiday Inn that night. He wasn’t that keen, as he had to be up at four thirty, as he’s currently revamping Radio York’s breakfast show, but the promise of a free ticket was too much for a Yorkshireman to resist.

People had come from as far afield as Sunderland and Cumbria for the talk.  I did my best to be entertaining. Especially as a few people revealed they’d seen the talk before, but enjoyed it so much, they thought they’d come again. I put in a few topical bits, so it didn’t seem too much like the previous talk, and again my old friend Dr Powerpoint ensured I found my way back to the main road, without too much trouble.

The next morning waking up in Snaith, Phil was long gone, to make sure the good people of York were woken by a quality breakfast show before heading off for work at the chocolate factories.

I had breakfast with Phil’s wife Vicky.  I studied with Phil and worked with Vicky in my first ever job as a reporter at Viking Radio in Hull. I’d introduced them on a holiday in Ibiza in 1987. They’ve been together ever since.Vicky now works as a correspondent at Look North. They have three lovely girls. Daisy who’s about to go to big school. Flora who’s home from university and was worried about going for a filling a the dentist. And Isobel who was on holiday somewhere in Europe, so I stayed in her attic room up the steepest ladder you ever climbed.

The other member of the family is a Scottish terrier, possibly called Bonny. I don’t have much interest in dogs, so I can’t remember. Bonny or whatever, was very yappy, as she was being kept in the kitchen. She was in season. Little did she know that today she was off to be serviced by a boy Scottish terrier, who was to be paid the princely sum of three hundred pounds. He probably didn’t keep the money himself though. Apparently Scottish terrier puppies sell for five hundred pounds, so it was a good investment. A good seed to plant, so to speak.

This sort of thing happens all the time, so they tell me. The internet is full of personal ads for puppy love. Girl dog seeks boy dog, must have GSOH.

I left Snaith on Thursday morning for an early start in Bradford. It was the first proper meeting of my speakers mastermind group. Chatham House rules dictate that I can’t tell you what went on. It was very good though. A mastermind group is an informal group of people who are typically at the same stage of their careers in a common profession. The idea is to help each other by sharing knowledge and experiences. It’s a bit like the masons without the funny handshake.

As the former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond used to say, ‘but what I can tell you is this…’

The members present were John, Geoff, Jem, Rod and Andy. The sixth member Ayd couldn’t make it as he was actually speaking for money that day, which was a shame and a surprise.

On Thursday night I headed back to Nottingham for the night with Wayne and Natalie. They are moving house soon, so I won’t be able to stay with them for a while, which is very selfish of them.

Friday was a lovely day to be outside. I was stuck inside though planning next week’s outside broadcast from Loughborough. Tuesday  marks two years till the start of the London Olympics, so we’re doing a special from Loughborough, home to the GB and Japan teams. The main talk at the BBC is about the changes to the pension scheme. Everyone is very unhappy about it. As a freelance it doesn’t affect me, but there’s talk of strikes.

Back in London today, it’s good to be home. The planes are a bit noisy. Little Miss Afrikaaner isn’t happy because the Springboks lost again. And our Potterton boiler is on the blink. What does it mean when the green light keeps blinking and the boiler fires up all the time?

But it’s good to be back home.

Putting the ‘U’ in Humour

Jem with cowboy hat and arrow smiling

One of my most popular talks is on how to use humour effectively when you are speaking in public.

As a professional speaker I use humour a lot.  It helps keep the audience engaged. If they are being entertained, they are less likely to switch off and stop listening.  It’s so much easier to put your message across if your audience are still listening!

I’m rarely the slickest speaker at an event, but I’m often the one who gets rebooked. I put a lot of that down to humour. People remember the message if they enjoyed the journey.

If you’ve seen this talk, you’ll find the accompanying notes I promised below.  If you haven’t seen the talk, read the notes anyway. They will certainly help you if you want to put some humour in your speeches.  The twenty points work just as well for toastmasters, best men, teachers, team leaders, comperes  or even  priests who want to make their sermons more entertaining.

If you read the twenty points and are intrigued as to why the Welshman isn’t needed at the pub (point 15) then you better book me to speak at your event.  Details are at the bottom.

Best wishes

Jem

(Jeremy Nicholas- London, Nov 1st 2009)

clown sad face

PUTTING THE ‘U’ IN HUMOUR

How being funny can enhance your public speaking

By Jeremy Nicholas, Professional Speakers Association

1. Why be funny?  – People will remember your message.

2. Never tell jokes!  It puts pressure on the audience to laugh.

3. Use funny lines and observations from real life.

4. Never steal material, but it’s OK for inspiration.

5. Always carry a notebook. Write down things that make you laugh.

6. If you don’t believe in a line, don’t use it. People will notice.

7. If a line doesn’t work dump it. You must kill your babies.

8. It’s better to be an amusing speaker than a comic.

9. Avoid anything racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s not acceptable.

10. Check anything that is likely to offend in a local culture.

11. Find your own style.

12. Keep a high status on stage. Don’t become a clown.

13. Comedy is truth and pain.

14. If a line is cruel, make yourself the butt of the joke.

15. The Rule of Three means there’s no need for a Welshman in the pub.

16. Get it right. A nearly accurate punch line won’t work.

17. Use your best material in your opening minute.

18. And your next best material to close with.

19. Be topical.

20. Lastly mix humour with information. If they don’t laugh, you’re still speaking!

This is a handout from a talk called Putting the ‘U’ in Humour by Jeremy Nicholas.

To book Jem to deliver this talk at your business event, or to find out details of his other talks, please visit www.jeremynicholas.co.uk.  Email jem@jeremynicholas.co.uk. Phone +44 (0) 7802 251530

Splitting my trousers on stage in Johannesburg

I’m smiling in the picture above, but a few hours earlier I wasn’t feeling as comfortable. I was in Johannesburg at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa’s international convention. It was held at the very swanky Emperors Palace, so swanky it doesn’t have an apostrophe. I was honoured to be the only European to be asked to speak on the main stage at the three day event, but there was a big surprise in store for me. A real ripper.

Maybe I’m getting a little too big for my boots, with lots of positive feedback recently, but as I took to the stage, I realised I’d got a little too big for my pants. As the previous speaker left the stage, I bent down to connect my laptop to the projector and felt the seat of my trousers tear open.

At that point the MC introduced me and I ran onto the stage with my trousers flapping open at the back. (see pic below, taken afterwards in my hotel room)

I decided to come clean and tell the audience what had happened, but of course they didn’t believe me. I was there to give a talk called Putting the ‘U’ in Humour, about using comedy to brighten up your speeches, so of course they all thought it was part of the act. I think some of them still do.

It took me a few minutes to regain my composure. If I seemed a little two dimensional, it was because I wanted to stay front on to the crowd of one hundred odd professional speakers. Some of them very odd. In the end I just turned round, showed them my pants, took the humiliation and moved on. At least it was an icebreaker and I received some lovely comments. Some were about my speech, but mostly of course about my pants.

The event was brilliantly organised by Michael Manley and Andy Brough, seen with me below. I’ve still got that slightly wild look in my eye, even though I’ve now changed into my dinner suit.

The previous night I was invited to dinner by my good friend Paul Du Toit along with Gustav Gouss, the President of the PSASA and many other former presidents and global presidents and some soon to be presidents. I seemed to the only one who had never stood for presidential office. I do have the box set of The West Wing, so maybe that’s why I was allowed in. (I would kill for a re-elect President Bartlett bumper sticker)

There’s always someone at these events who decides to go native. On this occasion it was NSA President Phil Van Hooser. It’s not everyone who can keep their dignity in that sort of African headgear, but I think Phil pulls it off.

I’m always amazed at how friendly speakers are. My background is in the broadcasting world, where it’s dog eat dog. The speaking world is very different, with everyone offering tips to each other and being very supportive.
At the gala dinner I sat next to Craig Ferreira who speaks about great white sharks. A few days later I found myself a guest at his home in Cape Town, enjoying a lovely meal with his family.

Gary Bailey is South Africa’s equivalent of Gary Lineker. He fronts the football on the SuperSport channel. UK football fans will remember him as the white haired South African who played in goal for Manchester United in the eighties and won some England caps before injury ended his career early. He went back to SA and played for the Kaizer Chiefs, the team not the band and then moved into TV.
He now does a lot of professional speaking, and does a great job in promoting the benefits of the World Cup to the people of South Africa and the world. He was inducted into the speakers hall of fame at the event, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

I loved the South Africa event. I saw some brilliant speakers like Steff Du Plessis, Billy Selekane and Anton van der Post. Paul Du Toit made the compering look easy with his relaxed yet authoritative style.

I’ve been invited to speak at various events as a result of my trip and I hope to get back to South Africa later in the year to fulfill some of those. I’ve cancelled plans to attend the World Cup itself as it was going to be so expensive, but I’ll be cheering on Bafana Bafana along with England, and blowing my vuvuzela, which has already had a trip to the hallowed turf of the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park.

Jem – back from South Africa 10th May 2010

Public speaking shouldn’t be scary

Public speaking shouldn’t be scary. It’s just talking out loud, which most of us do every day. If it’s on a subject you know about and  have prepared for, it should be no harder than talking to a group of friends or colleagues.  Unfortunately for many people that is not the case. It is one of the scariest things they ever have to do.  Some surveys have said more people are worried about speaking in public, than they are of dying. I don’t really believe that.  If it is true, it’s because people haven’t grasped how bad dying is, because no-one who’s died ever speaks about it.

I’m lucky, because I love showing off and have made a career out of it, but I still get scared. I mainly worry about dying on stage. Not in the Tommy Cooper sense, where he actually did die on stage, but in the drying up, forgetting my talk, getting booed off sense of the word dying.

On that cheery note, this week I was delighted to be a judge for the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge. It’s the largest youth speaking competition  in the world.  The event is open to  schoolchildren in London and Essex. Having judged in previous years in Hounslow, Newham and Tower Hamlets, this time it was in Teddington, with school speaking champions from the London boroughs of Merton and Richmond.

Seventeen brave youngsters stood up and spoke for around three minutes each. They’d all received coaching from Speakers Bank, an excellent organisation that provides free training in public speaking for fifteen year olds in state schools. The standard was as always impressive. The courage these youngsters show is inspiring.  When I was fifteen I would have been scared stiff.

I’ll pick out one youngster for particular praise. Let’s call her Liffey. That’s not her real name, but I don’t want to embarass her, so I’ve used a cunning Irish river based pseudonym. After about a minute she lost her way and completely forgot her talk. She looked petrified for a few seconds, but as the audience shouted out encouragement, she took a few deep breaths and continued.  I think she missed some bits out, but the important thing is she carried on, and her talk still made perfect sense.  During the moments when she was struggling, she pushed both hands slowly downwards as though she was on a set of parallel bars. It seemed to s help her rise above her nerves.

Of course she didn’t win, but she was a winner in the eyes of most in the room. Every one of the seventeen was a winner.

It always amazes me the subjects that the youngsters speak about. They are  so diverse, from being an orphan to coping with being short. Of course there are a few favourites that seem to crop up every year. Bullying is always popular, along with knife crime and body image. Respecting your parents seemed to be a recurring theme this time. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks often get a mention, which is fine by me, but if I hear another speech that starts, ‘I have a dream’ I will scream.It’s great to quote famous people, but it’s far better to tell your own story.

The actual winner on the night was Richard who spoke about gay marriage. He was incredible and should do well in the Grand Final in the summer if he qualifies. Second place went to Samuel who reminded me of a young Kris Akabussi. He was hilarious and a natural performer talking about computer games. There were seven judges in all. On my scorecard I was pleased to have correctly picked the top two, albeit in the wrong order.

At the end of the night, I spoke with a couple of the youngsters. I wished Richard all the best if he reaches the Grand Final. And I found Liffey and told her she must not give up, because she’s going to be a great speaker. I didn’t want her to feel bad about losing her way, so I told her the story of my first ever stand up comedy gig.

I was so nervous that I’d forget my material, I’d written prompt lines on the back of my hand in felt tip pen. Unfortunately,  nerves made me really hot. The back of my hand was soon dripping with sweat. When I glanced down for a prompt, all I saw was a sea of blue felt tip, and no words visible at all.  I did exactly what Liffey did, I took a deep breath, jumped back into the routine a bit further down the line and finished a little early. I didn’t use the parallel bars technique because it hadn’t been invented then.

No-one in the audience realised and I left the stage to applause.  It was by no means a standing ovation, but at least they didn’t throw anything.

Liffey said she would carry on speaking. I hope she does. If you have children in London and Essex encourage them to take part next year. Hopefully it will roll out to the rest of the UK in future years. And if you are a professional speaker, volunteer to be one of their judges.  It’s always fun and I left Teddington with a bottle of Rioja, which I’ll be sampling as soon as Lent is over.

You can find out more about the Speak Out Challenge here

Jem –  Greedies Cafe, Isleworth  – 1st April 2010 (but it’s not an April Fools Day trick, honest!)

Write your own introduction

As well as speaking for a living, I often act as the MC or compere at an event.

It’s not rocket science. I  tell people where the fire exits and toilets are located and glare at them until they switch their mobile phones to silent.

Then I pop up in between speakers, make a few light hearted comments, based on what they’ve said.  I always challenge myself to think up new comments for each event, based on what the previous speaker has said.

That way,  people think, ‘what he says isn’t brilliant, but at least he’s made it up today, and it’s specially for us, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and they clap and maybe even pretend to laugh.’

At least I think that’s what they’re doing.  It’s so hard to focus when they start throwing things.

There was an episode of Friends, where Ross made a list of five celebrities who Rachel would allow him to sleep with. It was  like a Get out of Jail Free card allowing him to crack off with someone famous, without risking his relationship.  Off the top of my head I remember that Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder were on the list, along with Elizabeth Hurley and an ice skater. Possibly Michelle Pfeiffer as well, but that might have been on Chandler’s list. Anyway that’s not important. What is important is that he’d laminated the list.

By covering the list of his five chosen women, he’d set them in stone. He could carry that list around in his pocket without it getting creased. It meant he could have that list ready at all times, just in case Winona or Liz were down the laundrette. He could produce it triumphantly and claim his reward. Maybe after hearing his chat up lines about dinosaurs and robotic dancing, they would decide to forgo the chance of a bit on the side with a fossil hunter, in favour of a return to Beverley Hills, but at least he had the card with him.

And so we come to the point of my story.  You’ll be glad to hear that there is one, and you haven’t read this far for nothing.

When I speak at an event, I hand the host a laminated cue sheet. On it I have typed my introduction. This is how I would like to be introduced. It does not vary. It is always the same. I know if off by heart. I can make sure that the MC  gives me just the right build up.

My laminated introduction takes away the wildcard element.  Occasionally I’ll be introduced as Jeremy Nichols or Nicholson, but at least the bulk of what I want them to say will be correct. You can’t cater for hosts who are stupid, sloppy or have forgotten their reading glasses.  But at least you’ve given yourself a fighting chance of getting off to a flying start. I think of my laminated introduction as a golf tee.  I may end up playing in the rough at various points during the next hour, but at least I know my opening shot will be off a raised tee, giving me every chance of hitting it straight down the middle.

But how many of my speaking colleagues have a printed introduction which they hand to the compere at an event? In my experience it’s less than half, which I think is a disgrace.  OK you don’t have to have it laminated, that’s just me . I get nervous before speaking and often spill things!

As the host of events, I’ve lost track of the number of speakers who say they are happy to be introduced however I see fit.  Worse still they hand me their biography and want me to pick something out of that! I give them a chance to get off to a flying start and they don’t take advantage.

Here are a few comments from speakers  who I’ve asked how they want to be introduced to the stage:

*Just say I’m a Marmite speaker, you either love him or hate him.  (really? I hate you already)

*Just say he’s written a couple of books and he speaks all over the world.   (no kidding, you’ve written some books, whoopee do)

*Just say he’s a professional speaker who is well known in business circles. (you’re well known? Maybe I don’t need to say anything?)

One speaker at a recent event,  who had no printed introduction, handed me a few handwritten lines, scribbled onto the back of a flyer. There were a couple of very good points, which made me think his talk would be brilliant. Unfortunately, he mentioned those very same points in the first minute of his talk.  The audience must have thought, yes we know that mate, the compere just said that.

I hope he didn’t see me roll my eyeballs into the back of my head. But I think he did.

Avoid the hazards and the rough with your opening shot. Write your introduction out on a sheet of A4. And if you really want to make my day, stick it in the laminator.

There’s a lovely laminator here.

Jem  – pulling out what’s left of his hair- 26th February 2010    London, England

Get back on the stage

You’re brilliant. You should be on the stage. And there’s another one leaving in fifteen minutes.

This is an old joke from the days of the Wild West, as told by members of the National Speakers Association of Dodge City.

Of course, stage coaches are long since gone. They would have been gone a lot quicker if their wheels hadn’t gone backwards in the old films. Something to do with motion capture and frames per second.

But the point remains. If you are good, you should be on the stage. If you speak for a living, get on that stage. If you have to speak at events because of your expertise, get on that stage. If you are invited to a venue, to speak to an audience and there is a stage at the front of that audience…..stand on it. Do not get off it. No matter how much the room starts spinning, plant your feet firmly and command that stage.

If you get off that stage and start walking about in the audience, you have stopped being a speaker and you have become a trainer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with trainers. I own several pairs. They are very comfortable and supportive and make me feel like running.

Of course when times are hard, like most speakers, I do my fair share of training. But I keep it quiet. The training page of my website has a WordPress widget which is an animated librarian who makes a Shush noise.

No of course it doesn’t, but here comes the point of this article. (It’s a bit like the L’Oreal advert where you have to sit through a lot of hair flicking, before you come to the science bit.)

I compere events, where there are many speakers across the day. I watch in horror as speaker after speaker, leaves the stage to wander among the audience. They’ve probably been to some session on presentation skills, where they are told it makes them appear more human, if they connect with the audience. Let me tell you, this is nonsense.  If you are on the stage people can see you better because you are in the light and you are raised up. They can hear you better because that’s where the microphone works best, without feeding back on the speakers.  Besides who wants to be human? No-one pays to hear a mere human speak, they want a guru.

The other week I was at an event, where six  out of eight speakers left the stage during their talk.  It meant the people in the front were having to crane their necks round to see them. The camera operators were struggling to find them in the dark. The shorter speakers might as well have been in a hole, for all we could see of them. (Yes I admit it, I’m only5’8″, that’s why I like the stage.)

You don’t have to stay on the podium or behind the lectern. It’s OK to move about, whatever Toastmasters tell you. But it’s not OK to get off the stage. It just isn’t. Not unless you are luminous, tall and have a very loud voice.

God invented stages so we could stand on them.   OK maybe it wasn’t actually God, but Jesus was a carpenter and he probably built a few stages for the Nazareth Speakers Association in his time.  When he was talking to his followers he probably couldn’t afford a stage, so he would stand on a hill. We’ve all heard of the Sermon on the Mount. Well we wouldn’t have heard of it, if it had been the Sermon in the Hollow, because no-one would have been able to see or hear Jesus.

So the next time you are onstage talking to an audience and you are tempted to go amongst the people, please don’t. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

I would have given individual feedback to all the so called speakers, who wandered off the stage in search of the common touch, but they wouldn’t have thanked me for it. I’m not Simon Cowell.  Besides, they all had more than enough feedback on the day, because they wandered too close to the loudspeakers!

Jeremy Nicholas  – 19th May 2010 – David Lloyd, Hampton, Middlesex, UK

(If all the world’s a stage, where are the audience going to sit?)

Speaking in South Africa

I’ve just arrived in Cape Town after a brilliant three days at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA) in Johannesburg.

I was the only European speaking on  the main stage at the event at Emperors Palace.

It was a brilliant convention and I met some lovely and inspiring fellow speakers.  I’ll post some pictures and audio clips  in my speaking tips blog over the next few days, so pop back later in the week to have a look.

But at the moment, I’m shattered and I want to spend some quality time with my wife, drinking wine and listening to the ocean.

Jem       Peninsula Hotel, Sea Point, Cape Town      2nd May 2010

Sound decision

jem-at-ecademy

I’ve just missed out on a speaking job for a bizarre reason.

It was to compere the end of season dinner for a well known English football club.
(Not West Ham, but not one of our rivals, so stop looking at me like that, it was a paid gig!)

They contacted me. I gave them a quote and they gave the job to someone else.

I never mind missing out because someone has undercut me on price. But that wasn’t the reason.

It turns out the chap who got the gig, has his own sound system. He turns up with microphone, amplifier and speakers.

It’s always disappointing not to get a job, but I’ve no plans to become a roadie just yet. I used to be the face of football on Channel 5 you know, till my hair fell out. So I won’t be buying a transit van just yet.

Now where’s that box set of Saxondale?

Picture courtesy of Dianna Bonner

Blue Peter

When I was a kid, Blue Peter was a top programme full of educational features.

This week I have seen Dick and Dom making pancakes on Blue Peter, plus a song by the young pop combo who are so poor they have to share the single name of Jedward.

I should point out that I only watched out of the corner of my eye and with the sound turned down, because I was in an edit suite at the time, putting together a cutting edge TV feature.  However, most angry letters to the Daily Mail  begin with the phrase, ‘I didn’t see it myself, but I was outraged to learn……’  (I don’t read the Mail myself, as it outrages me, but I’m led to be believe in the existence of such letters.)

What is going on in the world? Blue Peter used to be educational.  If you wanted to muck about you turned over and watched Magpie.  That was what commercial television was for.

Are really going to produce the leaders from tomorrow by teaching them how to make batter based snack products?  It was hard to tell the ingredients with the sound turned down, but these looked a bit like French pancakes to me. They were certainly a bit crepe.

When Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, he knew he needed to carb up, like marathon runners do with a pasta meal the night before a race.  That’s what pancake day is all about.  Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, call it what you want, it’s all about stocking up for the long haul ahead. It’s about getting ready to make a few sacrifices in your life, like giving up chocolates for Lent or going camping in the wilderness.

It’s not about dicking about in da bungalow and seeing how much mess you can make by battering each other. It’s certainly not about putting a Jedward wig on a Blue Peter dog while the tuneless, high-haired, halfwits leap about scaring the rest of the animals.

I remember the days when Janet Ellis was sacked from Blue Peter because she set a bad example to youngsters by giving birth to a young pop star, Sophie Ellis Bextor.  Presenters have always had to be whiter than white. Richard Bacon was sacked for having a diet coke, I seem to half remember.

I’ve still got my Blue Peter badge from the day I made a film for the programme. I got into the last three to become a presenter, having made it through the rigorous and notorious trampoline audition.  But did I get the job?  No they gave it to Anthea Turner, who after a good start spoiled everything by selling her wedding for the price of a bar of chocolate.

So that’s what this is all about. It’s not about wigs on dogs or messy cooks, it’s about not getting a job back in the early nineties, when I still had hair.  Well I never realised that’s what was going on in my subconscious.  This blog may well be turning out to be a bit dull for you the reader, but I tell you what, it’s saving me a fortune in trips to my analyst.

(I should point out in case my Mum reads this, that I don’t have an analyst and this is poetic licence. Even if it doesn’t rhyme.)

Jem    19th Feb 2010   On the couch

All of my funniest ‘And Finally’ TV reports all in one place for your Friday amusement- Jem
http://www.youtube.com/user/TheJeremyNicholas
(includes Stilton Elvis, Shark House, Rabbit Hotel and Little Britain)

Assisted suicide

Earlier this week I was making a cup of tea in the BBC Nottingham kitchen, while a wild haired man with very red cheeks was holding court with a couple of producers.  He was Ray Gosling, a veteran TV presenter, well loved in the East Midlands. He has a great style and a fantastically  rich Nottingham accent. He was about to become well known throughout the country.

That night a documentary aired on the Inside Out regional strand, broadcast only in the East Midlands area, which is roughly speaking Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire, with a bit of Lincolnshire. In the programme Ray told how, many years ago,  he smothered to death his young lover with a pillow. He stressed it wasn’t his lifelong partner, but a ‘bit on the side’. It was an act of mercy,  he said, as the young man was dying of Aids and was in a lot of pain.

I’m actually in favour of assisted suicide. I can’t see the point of life going on, if the person doesn’t want it to.  If I was in a lot of pain, I would want my friends and family to help me out.  The problem of course is people helping you out of this world, when you don’t give them permission.  I’m sure there are many families, not as loving as mine, where inheritance might be mistaken for illness.  But I think if you are planning to kill someone it probably not a good idea to go on TV afterwards and say you’ve done it.  While many people will sympathise with you, the law has to be seen to be upheld, and that means the police are going to come calling.

The next day I was leaving the BBC building just as the police arrived to interview my friends and colleagues who’d made the feature.  Ray Gosling had appeared on BBC Breakfast News and confirmed the story. He was surprised it had caused a national outcry, as he’d only appeared on a programme in ‘his country’.

When I drive up to the East Midlands most Monday mornings, I don’t recall going through passport control.  So I think he was a bit naive to assume that it might have different laws to the rest of the UK

He was taken in for questioning the following day. We wait to see what will happen to him.

He could well have made the whole thing up. He is a bit whimsical.  He hasn’t given any details of who the person was, or where it happened.

As he clearly thinks he’s above the law, saying he ‘made it up’ might turn out to be his best option.

Well done to my colleagues who made the programme. It was great storytelling in the finest tradition of the BBC. I hope it wins awards. One day when the licence fee has been abolished and we are watching wall to wall rubbish on satellite, this programme will pop up on a channel called UK Dave Gold or the like.  Anyone watching will be reminded of how brilliant the BBC used to be, before the feature is interrupted at an unsuitable point by an advert for Cillit Bang.

Jem 17th Feb 2010 –  Twickenham