2022 in Review Part 2: Performing e.g. arsing around for attention

Is this self-indulgent? Yes. 100%. Looking at the title again after finishing this blog, it’s clearly an excuse for me to brag about the fun things I’ve done this year. The only bit you only really need to read is the bit where I look forward to 2023, because I can’t really brag about things I’ve not yet booked in.

2022 was a good year for mucking about in front of an audience. Theatre audiences have seemingly not yet recovered from the COVID pandemic and people are still wary to book a ticket more than a week before the performance date, but the opportunities for getting on stage have grown massively since 2021, at least from where I’m sat. And that’s been really nice! I’ve missed having a fun time with my theatre friends without the constant fear that this will be the last time we can all play together. But what performancey things have I been doing?

14/48 things!

14/48 has become a lovely constant in my life, giving me the chance to get on stage and act, something I find myself missing more and more recently. But I’ve also been able to direct a lot this year, starting with the Spring 14/48 Leicester at The Attenborough Arts Centre, and then again in the summer in 14/48 Wolverhampton. I probably shouldn’t have done the Wolves festival given that I’d only just recovered from COVID the day before and was all manner of still broken. But directing was still a lot of fun, despite how much that second day in Wolves absolutely broke me, and it gave me some brilliant 14/48 moments. From the perfect casting and easiest day in my whole time involved, to a mad rehearsal process and watching the show through my fingers as the cast knocked it out the park.

But my favourite moment this year was the surprise I felt when I got the coveted Christer Award at 14/48 Leicester in November, before a festival where I got to be married to Stuart Reid and worship the Sun God while wearing a loincloth. I said at the time that this festival means the world to me, and to be given this perfectly-named trophy was a lovely shock.

I’m really looking forward to the new year of 14/48, seeing the new talent coming in and grabbing the festival by the scruff of the neck and, above all, having fun and meeting new people. It’s a Godsend.

I’d like to act more in 2023, whether in 14/48 or otherwise – maybe I just like being someone else for a bit?

Improv and Stand-up

I’ve bundled these two together because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I like, thank you very much. It’s been a really fun year for everything ‘comedy’ I get to do on stage and I think I’ll start by the fun series of improv things I’ve been allowed to ruin with my presence.

Improv in the Midlands is great. We’ve had the start of a new international improv festival in Nottingham, led by Lloydie James Lloyd, Liam Webber and their team, in the form of the Robin Hood International Improv Festival (RHIIF). Not only did Tiny Stories get the opportunity to perform to a packed interntational crowd of performers and fans, but we were also able to see some of the best, most exciting improv on the planet, from improvised Tennessee Williams plays, brilliant fast quick sketches, and the chance to meet and perform with some of the biggest names in Improv from the USA. It was fun. It was amazing and I’m looking forward to the 2023 edition.

We also started a lovely new improv project called Date Night: An Improvised History of (Nearly) everything, a ridiculous two-hander between myself and the really rather chaotic Hannah Platts. I’d explain the format here, but it seems to be the loosest, jolliest improv show around – almost defying definition. Imagine a sketch show linked together by a loose, historical story that we inevitably get wrong. But since it launched in Spring we’ve had our debut, an hour long show at the Old Joint Stock theatre in Birmingham, had gigs in Nottingham, and found a new home in Leicester Upstairs at the Western where we’ve been gifted a monthly house show! People seem to find it funny, so I won’t correct them.

Back in January, I took part in Jay Neale’s Comedy Workshops with the aim of getting together a few minutes of written material for a change. After 6 weeks I had 5 minutes that I thought was funny and BOOM it was time to do a gig at the Leicester comedy festival.

Now, I’d dabbled in stand-up before when i was 17-18 and was shiiiiiiiit. Not just bad, but so unfunny I was sucking the funniness out from the past. Memories that had previously been a hootriot of giggles were now painted beige and played in my mind to the sound of crickets and polite coughs. But this was suddenly a lot of fun! Whod’ have thought having experienced comic guiding you through the process would teach you a thing or two?

Following that first 5 minute gig I set myself the target of 12 shows during 2022 – a vey low bar compared to some of the other graduates of the course – and, after a very slow start with no gigs between April and June because I am awful at admin, I was so happy when I walked off the stage after my 13th gig at the end of November. I’ve met from really funny people, seen comics that are just amazing, hilarious, and work so hard at their craft to milk every line and word for as much comedy as possible. The people in this industry are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and they’ll be doing 4, 5, 6 gigs a week, getting stage time, airing new material, writing every day, and very often all the while doing a full-time job at the same time. They’re inspirational.

Best moment might have been the gig in the kiln up in Swadlincote, where, having had a truly awful gig the day before, I was nervous that I had suddenly lost my funny. But between a mix of chatting to the audience and my scripted bits, it felt so natural and so good, and left feeling 8 feet tall. My favourite moment, different to best, shut up, was a gig in a wacky warehouse, under a slide and next to 2 ballpits. It was so bizarre, I loved it.

My goal for 2023 is more gigs, I’d like to see if I can reach 30 for the calendar year – but this will involve me beating my biggest demon – simple admin tasks.


We’ve been making music. I’m part of a band called Dopamine Crash and we’ve got a gig in early January. I’ve not been in a band since I was 16/17 and cannot wait to get back on stage, drumming behind a group of talented people, noodling around with guitars, keyboards and microphones and the like.

Drumming regularly again has just felt like getting back on a bike – I always forget quite how easy it is to be okay but it’s bloody hard to be anything other than average.

Anyway, come see our gig! Friday, 6 Jan, 19:00 at Duffy’s Bar Ir’s a fundraiser for Leicester LGBT Centre too 🙂

2022 in Review Part 1: Books what I read (part 2)

More? More books? But no one cares! Anyway, here’s another 8 books I’ve read this year.

Imaginary Friends by Philip Pullman

A nice, short essay to start the list off. Philip Pullman, of ‘all those books he wrote’ fame, posits that the imagination and creativity of children is something that should be nurtured and developed, rather than stripped out. Pointing to the lack of fun and games in the lives of most grown ups, something backed up by both anecdotal and scientific evidence, it’s a desperate plea to let children be children and fun with their imaginary friends, made up stories, and slightly weird creative brains. It’s only a few dozen pages long, but it’s something I’d ask everyone to read once.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Yeah, not all the books I read this year are ones I hadn’t ready before! Oddly though, this is probably the H2G2 book I have read the least, which is very surprising when you think about how ‘un-hitchhikers guide’ book 4 is. During some of the harder parts of the year I went back to read some of my comfort books and this is definitely one of them, although how much of that comfort is from hearing the voices of the radio series in my head while I read is yet to be determined. The Trilogy of Five is probably my favourite book series with one continuous plot, and it’s like a word-based blanket for me. It’s got even more of the Adams-isms we came to expect following on from the first H2G2 novel, with ‘the book’ doing even more whimsical infodumps.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Someone once described this book to me as ‘Jeeves and Wooster without the social poise and added cynicism’. This is another of my cosy blanket books and I will read it maybe once every few years, because the rhythm of the prose tickles a part of my brain that seems to exclusively react to writing from the early 20th century. It’s a story as old as time – three men, all of whom are slightly at a loss at what to do, bored of their jobs, bored of London society, and generally bored of being bored, decide to hire a boat and go for a punt up the Thames. What follows is a proto-farce, with delicately written prose full of of delicious similes and metaphor, stupid people making stupid decisions, and the slow realisation that this was an awful idea. If you like P.G. Wodehouse, you’ll like this.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

See, not everything I read is good? A perfect opposite to Three Men in a Boat, where the dialogue and prose gleefully skip along, singing little ditties and offering sweets to all the good children, Atlas Shrugged is the fucking worst. Characters talk to each other like they’re giving speeches at the local libertarian conference, with no humanity or humour, and the characters themselves are thinly veiled political stereotypes, spouting extreme strawmen arguments if Ayn Rand can’t use them to promote her terrible philosophy and holier than though, perfect people if they represent her social ideals. In short, it’s a story about a rich person who doesn’t like being told his ideas are dangerous and risk people’s lives, so goes to create their own society with no restrictions. If you can pay to do something, do it. Got a scientific idea that requires human experimentation? Sure. But in Rand’s utopia it all works fine because everyone is a good person and they have no flaws, and there’s no way anyone could ruin this brilliant new world. It’s a drudge to read, it’s terribly written, and it’s just an excuse for Ayn Rand to rant about government regulation for 1200 pages. I do like the cover and the font is nice.

If you find a copy, throw it in a canal.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Recommended to me by my Brother, this is the baby version of Ayn Rand’s philosophy; heavy handed, unimaginative, and a waste of paper. If you have to read one Ayn Rand novel the is definitely the only one you’ll ever need to, unless you happen to be reincarnated as an arsehole. Even the cover is crap.

I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand. I hate Ayn Rand.

This gets the Adam award for most annoying book of the year

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

800 pages long, three layers deep, utterly bewildering to read, and the layout is as much a part of the storytelling as the words – House of Leaves is a feat. Ultimately, it’s the story of a young family moving into a house that doesn’t make sense – a cupboard grows while they’re not looking, a door mysteriously appears, and their expedition into the new world behind it is the bulk of this novel. As a story on it’s own, it’s excellent, suspenseful and at times genuinely disturbing. However, that’s just the beginning. We are shown this story through an academic analysis of a documentary film made about the house, The Navidson Film, shot by the family living there, the eponymous Navidsons. This academic tome also gives us an insight into that author, an old reclusive man who died in his dark, squalid apartment, who apparently made this whole event up, this factitious non-fiction, complete with pages and pages of references, notes, footnotes and addendums. And THEN, on top of all of that, we’re getting footnotes and memos from the man who found this manuscript, detailing his own slipping sanity and health as his life is taken over by trying to understand everything he’s reading.

So there’s a definite cult around this book, and I am one of the many who drank the Kool-Aide and never looked back. This book makes you feel smart and then stupid and then smart again, as it forces you to work as you read it. It’s unorthodox in every single way and I love it. I will likely never read it again.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendationmy book of the year!

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

When Billy Connolly tells you to read a book, you read the book. The Big Yin said it was one of the funniest things he’d ever read, and within but a few pages I was laughing out loud at the ridiculous life, arrogance, and ignorance of Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of this tragicomic tale, an overweight and unemployed thirty-year-old with a degree in Medieval History. Following a day in a bar, during which we learn that Ignatius hates literally everyone, society, and the downfall of mankind as he’s sees it, his mother crashes her car whilst drunk. After having to walk home (which causes him such verbose distress that I was giggling with tears in my eyes), he has to work for the first time in his life to raise the money required to fix the family car. It’s a simple story of someone going through job to job, adventure to adventure, but what makes this is the interactions between the colourful and, more often than not, flawed characters of New Orleans.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation! Buy it now.

And that’s my run down of the best and worst of the books I’ve read this year. I’ve missed out another 9 but they’re mostly either histories, novellas, not particularly interesting or a mix of all three. I read 27 books in 2022, an increase of 22 on 2021’s measly 5. What will 2023 behold I wonder? All I know for sure, I missed reading.

If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

2022 in Review Part 1: Books what I read (part 1)

Given everything else that’s happened this year, many might think that starting my ‘year in review’ with a list of the books I’ve read rather than literally anything else is strange. But there is a very simple reason for it – the only resolution I set back at the end of 2021 was to read more. So, instead of diving into a hard hitting, deeply personal look back at the last twelve months that will no doubt make me, you, or my mum cry, here’s my thoughts of the books I read. Or at least the first part of them as I seem to have read 27 books this year.

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler

An odd start, I’ll admit. Blame my Brother and his continued ‘game’ of buying my Nazi themed Christmas presents. However, this was no novelty gift. It’s a very well researched and well written history of the use and reliance upon methamphetamine in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. From the party drug of choice of the German upper classes, keeping them going from party to the office, through to the heavy doping of Nazi storm troopers during their blitzkrieg warfare giving them the ability to fight for 48 hours without sleep. Once the drug supplies start to dwindle, the advancements slow to a crawl and then a stop. It’s a fascinating read.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation! (If you like that sort of thing).

Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

See, maths IS important in the real work, Jake Webb, despite your protestations in Year 8 arithmetic class. Another non-fiction title to start the year, another Christmas present well received. If you don’t know the name Matt Parker, you might know his YouTube channel Stand-Up Maths which taught me more than either of my A-level maths teachers ever did. (ps if your students are still having anxiety dreams about going to your class, you’re a shite teacher and need to evaluate your life). It’s a fun read, seeing how small maths errors have caused massive issues in the real world, from bridges wobbling to planes almost falling out of the sky.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation! (If you like that sort of thing).

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

The first play on the list and a book that is incredibly easy to recommend with no caveats, no warnings, no anything. It’s a brilliant story told in a way that is both harrowing, impactful and emotional. It’s a dark, twisted story of torture, murder, and childhoods in pieces. I am desperate to see a production of this and more desperate to be in it.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

The Black Locomotive by Rian Hughes

Okay, the first difficult one. I enjoyed reading this book, but I don’t think it’s a very good story. It’s the tale of workmen discovering something harrowing under London while digging the tunnels of Crossrail, something that might impact the entire history of humankind. What follows is an EMP pulse, a secret group of steam train enthusiasts and the mythological Black Engines coming to save the day. It build the tension and story well, continually upping the stakes until we get to the final act and it just stops. There’s no real resolution and I felt disappointed – it was like having a lovely Christmas dinner with all the trimmings only for the dessert to be overly runny angel delight. But the book itself was gorgeous, the graphic design work is beautiful and the overall aesthetic is worth picking the book up for, but maybe only if you borrow it.

Hare House by Sally Hinchcliffe

A beautifully well written book of witchy goings on in the Scottish Highlands. The unnamed narrator is a disgraced teacher who leaves London for a rental cottage on the Hare House estate in Galloway, and accidentally stumbles across a family plot of death and superstition that snakes through the community. It’s a good read, one that is genuinely unnerving at times, although the story does go through a few flits and starts around the two thirds mark. Once the true intentions of everyone is laid bare, it really leaves you wandering who is telling the truth, who’s lying, and who’s the real witch in the glen. It’s not for everyone, but if you like folk horror, it’s one for you.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

Dare to Know by James Kennedy

A really interesting premise kneecapped by some ‘clever’ writing and a boring love story seemingly tacked on because the author couldn’t think how else to use his idea. A shady tech company have worked out an algorithm that accurately tells you exactly when you’re going to die, but now their technology is no longer their own and every two-bit website is offering the service. After a bad job, our narrator puts his own details into the algorithm only to find out he should already be dead. Sounds cool right? Well, what if I said that the only person who could help is his ex-wife, so he must rekindle their love to work out what’s happened and I can hear you sighing and getting bored. It’s a really creative idea draped over a tired story, like a rainbow cloak covering those blokes that commentate cricket.

This gets the Adam blot of shame!

Felidae by Akif Pirinçci

How is it I have read a book about Nazis this year and yet this is the book with the racist author? It’s a pity because this is such a good read, from a unique perspective. Told from the perspective of a cat that’s moved into a new area only to discover a series of neighbourhood cats that turn up murdered. What follows is a fun, feline detective romp with all the twists and turns that you need. But what makes this book more than just another novel and propels it into recommendation territory is the voice of our hero. He’s got every single sneery, arrogant opinion of humanity that you expect your pet cat to have, and you’ll see your own moggy in him the whole way through the story.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

Wales: England’s Colony? by Martin Johnes

Another non-fiction? Mostly. This is a good introduction to the thousand year age of oppression between Wales and England*. It’s a very good intro to the topic of English rule over Wales, and the constant, depressingly successful, attempts to remove Welsh culture and language from the British Isles, from the Norman ring of Steel, through the Welsh Not, the drowning of Capel Celyn and the Tories clear hatred of devolution. Definitely worth reading if interested in the construction of Wales’ identity and its Sense of Place within the world, but to say it’s unbiased would be to bury ones head in the sand. For a more holistic, academic view of Welsh History and the relationship with our noisy neighbour, I’d recommend A History of Wales by John Davies

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

I love this book. I’m not going to even pretend to bury the lead here, there’s no point. This short novella is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Three separate narratives are weaved seamlessly together by Bolander to make an emotive, thought-provoking story about how humanity is made up of mostly nice people hampered by a noisy minority of pricks. Set in an alternative history where humans an elephants can communicate and, as is our destructive way, we’ve taken to treating these gentle giants as menial labour and second class beings. I really don’t want to tell you more about the plot, but with the three stories taking place throughout different parts of history, the author does an excellent job in showing that, as much as we like to distance ourselves from the horrors and prejudices of the past, some things stay in the mind forever.

This gets the Adam seal of recommendation!

Join us later for part 2 of this first section of my year in review!

*Death to the Stormcloaks

The Shard is a big, pointy, trash-building

I’ve written lots of genuinely deep and emotionally honest blogs lately. This isn’t going to be like that.

It genuinely started out as a joke, fuelled by a lack of sleep and an irrational dislike of it’s placement, looming over a hospital like a drunk about to pounce on an errant pizza slice on a gravel path. I had no real opinion on it’s architecture, the design, it’s place amongst London’s already hideous skyline, I was perfectly ambivalent to the vile, pointed blight.

Then my loathing developed from sleep addled hysteria into a genuine hatred, eclipsed only by my deep-seated animosity towards Julia Hartley-Brewer and hangnails. And I’m not entirely sure why. I have a geologist friend who now works in civil engineering (whom I used to respect) tell that the Shard is a marvel of modern engineering, a modern wonder, the design of which pushed computer software and the brains of some of the finest minds in the world to the absolute brink. It’s become an icon in it’s own right, dominating the South Bank’s skyline as it stabs at the sky like a hyper child trying in vain to get into a Caprisun. But despite all the rational arguments to the contrary, I hate the Shard and everything it stands for.

Firstly, and most irrational of all, I hate it’s name. The Shard. Shard. You never get good things in ‘shards’, only glass and the remains of your heart after a lover betrays you for the postman. It’s an incredibly sharp word too, evocative only of violence. Now, I do understand that a lot of London skyscrapers get their hilarious names once they’ve been built, christened not by planners but by the famous and massive wits of the city who can come up with such knee-slapping monikers as the Gherkin and the walkie-talkie. Such creativity. But the Shard can’t even blame cockneys, they chose the name early on in the process and it appeared on the hoardings as the tosser was being constructed. I know it looks like a spike of glass, perturbing out the undergrowth and poised to pierce the foot of an unsuspecting German Shephard pup, but is that really the image and feel you want your building to have? A giant ‘fuck you’ to the sky, literally stabbing it’s way through the heavens?

Someone tried to defend the shard to me by saying that it’s an impressive feat, something to be inspired by. The problem with this argument is that it really over-exaggerates how far one can be inspired. I see the Shard, I think it’s very big (too big, but we’ll come to that), and decide it’s inspired me. But to do what, exactly? I can hardly build something like that, I’m not a billionaire and am highly unlikely to ever become one. It’s not a figure of inspiration at all, it looms over London, over the people below, dominating the skyline like a giant hard-on to capitalism. It gives the constant image of aspiration while clearly being out of reach and unobtainable. I’d be more inspired by a well built library, not gonna lie.

It’s ruddy tall is the Shard, that I will not deny. I cannot deny it, or I’d end up no worse than those people who argue about the existence of Global Warming under BBC articles on Facebook. The issue I have with the Shard’s incredible height is how it’s used. A triangle is a strong shape, as Joe Wilkinson once said ‘There’s Strength in Triangles’, and the point of a triangle is going to be teeny weenie. Any pointed traingle building will have wasted space that can’t be used, fact. My problem is that, of the shard’s 95 floors, 22 are taken up with ‘spire’. There’s 4 floors of Shard Observatory (home to London’s best views as they’re not spoiled by the fucking Shard) then 22 floors of ambiguously named spire space. What’s it for? Almost solely height. Nearly 23% of the Shard is given over to a space that isn’t used for anything productive, just so that it can be a big tall building that gets on the postcards. I’m not going to work out how much wasted material that is, how many hundreds of tonnes of glass, steel and concreate went in to the empty void known only as ‘spire’ but I’m going to make a rough guess and say it’s the size of Wales. So much wasted space, materials, money and time, just so we can, as a species, say fuck you to the birds and spit down upon them, flapping below as we drink cocktails in our ‘spire’ space.

Aesthetically, the Spire is boring. Its a spike. Wow. I’ve ranted about this whilst drunk to people who, until then, were my friends, but why are so many modern buildings, especially skyscrapers, so damn boring? I know they’re efficient and sleek and designed to be as aerodynamic as possible to deal with the constant pressures and stresses of the wind and the elements, but c’mon, try a little to make them interesting. I am a huge fan of art-deco architecture, when form and function cuddled each other in a really cute Venn diagram, and I appreciate the effort that went into the design of the great Art Deco skyscrapers of the ’20s and ’30s. I know we can’t use the same techniques or materials, but we can at least try to make our buildings more fun and interesting for me to look at, rather than just an angry stabby stick.

Finally, I think I really dislike the Shard because it’s in London, and everything’s in bloody London. Put it somewhere that actually needs the investment. I’d love to see the UK’s tallest people be in Port Talbot, or Morcambe. Now that, I’d pay money to climb.