The tallest cricketer ever

As it’s Christmas week, I thought I’d create my own version of the advent calendar, but without the chocolate.
Like so many of many ideas, I’ve had it rather late, so instead of 25 days worth, there’s just going to be 5.

Each day this week I will post one of my favourite BBC TV reports from the past year. Kicking off today with the tallest cricketer ever to have played professional cricket. I caught up with him at Leicestershire for the start of the season, along with his rather smaller batting partner.

Click below to open the window. (He said trying to keep the Advent calendar theme going, even though you can clearly see from the YouTube clip who is behind that window!)

Badges, badges, badges

Frank Setchfield from Loughborough has over 150 thousand badges. He collects all types except military and he specialises in button badges.
He has sporty badges, funny badges, ones with saucy slogans and political badges that have changed the world.

I interviewed him for my BBC series on Collectors. Here’s the report.

Fireworks

I’ve compered many events for companies over the years, but I’ve never compered a bonfire night before. Until now.

On November 4th I was at the global headquarters of Boots to run the stage at their 7th annual fireworks night.
It was for their staff, but as Boots is such a massive company, there were over four thousand there.
I was the MC on the night alongside Radio Derby’s Johnny Kinch.

A great time was had by all. Johnny has a great voice and serenaded the crowd with some great tunes. Highlight of the night was probably his duet with EMT weather man and One Show reporter Des Coleman. Both those boys can sing.
Low point was my rendition of Delilah. I’ve heard Stoke City fans sing it more tunefully than I managed, but I was trying to encourage people up onto the stage to do some karaoke. If I’d been good they wouldn’t have felt comfortable coming up. Was I any good? Let’s just say lots of people felt they could do better and we had a queue of willing participants all night.

A local band called The Fakers came up to do some songs and went down a storm. I had to keep interrupting them because we had a three year old girl who’d lost her parents. Much as I was enjoying their Brit pop covers, nothing is more important than a lost child. The biggest cheer of the night came when we found the parents. The Fakers were very good about my interruptions.

Best of all the people from Boots were happy and you can read the comments on my testimonial page above.

Jem

Lovely Clean Tigers

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wash the dirty kit of a professional rugby squad?

That’s the challenge faced every day by Brenda Hargrave. She’s the laundry supervisor at Leicester Tigers.

At the age of seventy she’s become a bit of a celebrity having starred in the break bumpers for Eviva either side of the live TV coverage of Premiership rugby.

I went along to meet her at the Tigers Oval Park training ground in Oadby. She was a charming lady, who takes great pride in her team running out in bright, clean kit.

On my wavelength

Here’s the latest in my series on Collectors for the BBC.

Phil Rosen from West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire has over a hundred valve radios. They’re beautiful pieces of furniture and have lovely rich tones you just don’t get with modern radios.

Edinburgh Talk

I’m off to Edinburgh next week for the festival.

On Wednesday night I’ll be giving a talk on how to keep an audience’s attention using comedy. Forget jokes, I’m a big believer in telling true stories that have happened to you. It’s called ‘Putting the U in Humour’ . It’s a talk I’ve done many times to businesses and organisations, but this is one of the few times when members of the public are also welcome.

Regular readers of this blog will know this is the talk I gave in Johannesburg earlier in the year, where my trousers split open at the back as I plugged in my laptop at the edge of the stage, just before I was announced. I literally did get through the talk by the seat of my pants.

If you fancy coming along on Wednesday it’s at the Apex European Hotel, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh. Tickets are twenty pounds and that includes a networking supper.

More details are here

My stadium gig

I

So we’re up and running again. It was great to be at the Boleyn for the pre-season friendly against Deportivo La Coruna for the SBOBet Cup.  Even better to win it on penalties.Avram Grant has won silverware in his first home game.

It was a hot day. I could have done without wearing the tie to be honest.

Outside the ground beforehand, everyone was smiling. I think there’s a sense of optimism about the new season, the new manager, the new kit and a new beginning.  I nearly said ‘a new hope’ but that’s a Star Wars film..

I thought I better take a few pics to spice up the blog. I snapped a few of the ground, which I’ll be dropping in over the next few weeks. Andrew the ‘Over Land And Sea’ fanzine seller took the top picture of me outside the ground, so it only seemed right that I returned the favour and took one of him. Nice ‘Only Fools’ tee shirt mate.

Football chairmen often need security for their own protection when they arrive at grounds.

Our David Gold is a bit different, he’s worn the claret and blue and he’s popular with fans. He needs the security escort otherwise he’d never get through the crowd of autograph hunters. He did sign plenty though.

In the tunnel pre-match club photographer Steve Bacon was snapping the mascots.

Meanwhile the other mascots, the furry ones, seem to have spent the summer hiding in the shower. I share a changing room with Bubbles and Herbie. It always makes me laugh when I arrive to see their heads sitting patiently waiting for the human inhabitants to arrive.And always smiling.

I did my best to pronounce the Spanish names as I read out the team sheets. I didn’t want to ‘go native’ as there’s a danger of sounding like an Italian with a lisp. I wrote them out phonetically after consulatation with a member of the Deportivo coaching staff and then did my best, using the English abroad approach of loud and confident.

As it wasn’t a premier league game there was no TV coverage to worry about, so the ref wasn’t waiting for a floor manager to give him the nod to ‘walk’ the players. That makes it so much easier to coordinate the playing of ‘bubbles’ so it reaches a crescendo as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Avram Grant was given a great ovation for his first home game. The new players were all warmly applauded before the game and as they came on as subs. When the Sir Trevor Lower fans sang ‘Avram, Avram, give us a wave’, he did and was cheered. That’s was an important moment for me and a promising sign for the season. Gianfranco Zola would never respond to chants for waves. It was because he was ‘in the zone’, but it’s important to acknowledge your own supporters.

The match itself certainly wasn’t a cracker, but the penalty shoot out was. All of our penalties were scored with certainty and Robert Green made a great save. If you are looking for further comment on the match itself, you’ll need to look elsewhere on the web. That’s not the aim of my blog and it would clearly be a conflict of interest with my role as MC Hammer.

From the announcer’s point of view, the match was notable because there wasn’t any time added on in either half.  After announcing five Deportivo subs and three for us, I thought there might be a few added minutes in the second half, but no. I asked the fourth official if he was sure. He smiled. I cheekily asked him if it was his first ever game in charge. He smiled again and said he couldn’t remember any subs. I smiled, in case he booked me.

My favourite sub for Deportivo, was Riki, who I announced as Bianca’s favourite.If you can’t chuck in an Eastenders gag in a pre-season friendly, when can you?

As each Spanish sub pulled on their shirts, I noticed they were all wearing heart rate monitors. It seemed strange, but it’s OK in a friendly, as long as you have the ref’s permission.

On the way home I notice someone had put an England flag on the World Cup Heroes statue.

My journey home was slow. My regular short cut through the Isle of Dogs was scuppered by road closures for  a triathlon the next day. I listened to 5 Live and cheered on Derby County as they beat Leeds at Elland Road. Nigel Clough had stopped the Derby bus short of the ground before the game and his players had walked the last few hundred yards through the Leeds supporters. It was an echo of Don Revie’s actions when he took his Leeds team to the old Baseball Ground to play a Derby team managed by Nigel’s dad Brian. It was a scene I’d watched on TV a few weeks before in the  film ‘The Damned United’. It seemed to work. Having braved the fans outside, the fans in the ground held no fear for the Derby players.

606, the football phone in followed the match. What a joy, no  Alan Green or Spoony,  it was presented by Mark Chapman, who is always entertaining. I hope he’s got the gig for the season. Better still Derby captain Robbie Savage finished the match and then joined Chappers to co-present the show.I’ve never known that before.

Robbie is carving out quite a career as a media pundit. Of course he loves the sound of his own voice, but he is a good listen. He could do very well. There’s not many footballers who come across as well. I’ve regularly interviewed him at Leicester and Derby when I’ve been working for BBC East Midlands Today. He’s as charming in real life as he is irritating on the pitch.

So Robbie and Chappers accompanied me all the way home. On arrival I found the house full of children’s clothes hanging out to dry. My wife had met a Nigerian family in Twickenham Tesco. They were on holiday and staying in the hotel at the rugby ground. They asked my wife for directions to a launderette. Instead she had brought them home and done the washing for them. Slightly strange if you ask me, but that’s why I married her. She’s a lovely woman. And she does the washing.


Meeting the viewers

I’ve spent the day meeting the public in the centre of Leicester.

I pulled on a large red BBC East Midlands Today tee shirt and an even larger smile and joined up with my colleagues to meet real people. That may not sound scary to you, but trust me it is.

In general I really enjoy meeting them. Most of them are lovely, but it’s the questions they ask. Because you are on TV  people feel as if they know you, and can ask you anything.

Here’s some questions I was asked today, along with my answers. The bits in brackets I only said in my head. And the very last Q and A sequence only happened in my head in the car on the way home.

But these first ones are all real:

Q. What’s your golf handicap

A. Eighteen

Q. How many golf balls have you got?

A. Eighteen.  (if in doubt I always say eighteen)

Q. Can I knit you a scarf?

A. No I don’t really wear scarves. (a lie obviously, but I was worried they would come round my house for fittings)

Q. Why aren’t there any pictures of you?

A. Well the postcards are really only for the big name presenters.

Q. Where do you live?

A. London

Q. Where exactly?

A. I’d rather not give my full address.(in case you come round)

Q. Do you have any signed photos of Lucy Kite?

A. Sorry no.

Q. Why not?

A. Because she’s on ITV, We are the BBC, look it says here on my tee shirt.

Q. I never watch ITV

A. Oh OK.  (but I think you do)

Q. Do you have any photos of Penny Smith?

A. No, she used to work on ITV  too but she doesn’t any more. Have you read my tee shirt by the way?

Q. Are there any pictures of you?

A. I’m sorry no. Can I sign this information leaflet about the programme for you?

Q. Go on then. Who are you by the way?

Q. Why isn’t Sara Blizzard here?

A. Well somebody has to stay back in the studio to present the programme. (Ms Blizzard is our appropriately named weather presenter!)

Q. Can I have a key ring?

A. No sorry we don’t have any.

Q. Why not?

A. We’ve got presenter photos, notepads, pens and if you go round the corner you can try your hand at reading the news and weather.

Q. Do you have a key ring?

A. Yes

Q. Can I have that?

A. No

Q. Why not?

A. Because it has my car keys on it.

Q. Have I seen you on the television?

A. I don’t know, you might have done, I do the sport and the funny And Finally reports.

Q. What have I seen you doing?

A. Well only you would really know. We can’t see out of the screen to see who’s watching.

Q. I know I’ve seen you on TV. What was it?

A. I don’t know. (I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a short time ago)

Q. Why aren’t there any picture postcards of you?

A. Well what happened was, there was lots of them, but we had a rush of young women who snapped them all up early, so we’ve only got pictures of the ugly presenters left.

Q. What a shame, I really wanted a picture of you. Will you sign this leaflet for me?

A. Of course what’s your name?

Q. David

I’m doing the BBC East Midlands Today roadshow again on Thursday when we are at the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. Bakewell is famous for it’s tarts, so I’m looking forward to it.

Come and say hello if you are there. I’ll be the one in the large red BBC  tee shirt with the large red smile and the slightly scared look in my eye.

Jeremy Nicholas  2nd August 2010   Beeston, near Nottingham. (While Nat and Wayne are watching Corrie.)

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