I woke up feeling poorly. I think I’m starting to come down with a small cold, or at the very least congestion. So, I kind of lounged a bit, but got out on the road around 10 am.
Since I felt under the weather and the weather itself was projected to be dreary, I headed over to Westfield to wander. It was an indoors place where I could stay out of the rain and keep warm.
Malls like this do nothing for me. It’s all clothes and high end stores of which I have little interest. I did buy a little Lego man for my bulletin board at work, however. He’s a little chap dressed in a black suit and wearing a bowler hat, and he has a handlebar moustache. He’s darling.
Had some lunch at Wahaca, which is a Mexican street food place outside Westfield. Enjoyed a chipotle chicken quesadilla and a pot of frijoles.
I also picked up some effervescent Vitamin C tablets that go all fizzy in water and have a blackcurrant taste. And, I snagged a box of Strepsils to help ail my sore throat that’s been developing.
It was soon time to head over to the Hilton Park Lane as I had booked an afternoon tea service, Confessions of a Chocoholic. I arrived JUST on time, and it was in an area of London I hadn’t been yet and when I walked out of the tube station onto the edge of Hyde Park, I realised just how large a city London really is and it made me love it even more!
The restaurant that the tea was at was quiet and moderately filled. I was sat at a nice small table and was presented with the menu and a small box of loose tea samples for me to smell in order for me to choose one.
I opted for The Hilton Royal English (India | Ceylon), which was a rich, robust and full bodied black tea, delicious malty Assam blended with mellow Ceylon. (Their words, not mine, as I would have said it was creamy, and well tasty.)
They brought my own pot and a strainer and a timer for me to accurately time my steep for the tea. And, sugar cubes rather than granulated. You know a place is high end when you get sugar cubes. This is big living now!
I was asked if the sandwich course was alright and did I want to make any substitutions. I opted to take the cucumber and cream cheese one out, as I find both those things horrid.
Moments later, I was presented with a plate of 5 open faced sandwiches (crusts removed, yeah baby!). I had 2 prawn mayonnaise, (had to suffer through lettuce on that one), 1 ham and mustard, 1 smoked salmon (not hugely a fan of raw fish, but didn’t die, so that’s a plus), and 1 egg and watercress (egg salad doesn’t make much sense to me, it’s eggs…..and mayonnaise….also…made of eggs, so eggs and eggs, just all creamed together. Right.)
I gobbled those up, enjoying my tea, when they brought out a 3 tiered dessert tower. On the first tier, was 4 mini chocolate chip scones, complete with a pot of clotted cream, chocolate cream, and strawberry jam. The second tier had 4 small cakes: Battenberg, Sacher torte, Raspberry cupcake and, a Red Velvet cupcake
Realising midway through the second tier, I was getting full, but vowed to finish the whole tower, I began pacing myself like a marathon eater, except with pastries and not hot dogs or chicken wings.
After quite a while, I reached the third and final tier, which had on it: White chocolate and cherry cheesecake with a red velvet and orange tuile, Milk chocolate cremeux in a white chocolate shell cup, Pistachio macaron with Manjari chocolate filling, Iced shortbread butterfly on top of an orange and chocolate
profiterole, lemon and raspberry marshmallow cone (which tasted a bit like Fruity Pebbles cereal), and a meringue lolly. These were all served on a completely edible chocolate plate.
I ate everything, except the plate which I had boxed up and brought with me.
The tea ran my budget aground fairly badly, so I’ll probably be eating cheaply the next few days to stay on track.
All that under my belt, and sloshing round in my overenlarged gut, I headed off to the South Bank.
Tonight was the night. Tonight was HIGNFY night. I’ve been waiting for this for a year.
I arrived, in the rain, outside The London Studios and thankfully the queue was relatively small. Of course, I was more than an hour and a half early. The studios were kind enough to offer those without umbrellas some golf style umbrellas to keep them mostly dry.
Jonathan Ross was also taping this evening, so there was a queue for him as well.
I stood in line and chatted to two very lovely couples, the first was a young female geologist and her Canadian civil service boyfriend who worked for City Hall. She told me his visa was close to running out and he may be deported soon unless they marry, which she said they were considering. (Funny that when he and I spoke later while she was at the loo, he never mentioned his visa was running out. Interesting how men and women work in what they’ll tell you.) She and he are going on Bargain Hunt in February, so I’ll have to watch it to see how they do.
I also spoke with a retired couple, he had some sort of injury where he had trouble standing for long periods of time, and he had family living in the States, so we got to chatting about lots of things.
We finally were allowed in to the studio, and oddly enough, they didn’t even check to see if we all had tickets. The retired couple ended up with seats at floor level. I should have said I was with them! Damn! I ended up next to the young in love couple about 5 rows back and up, in the center section. This was a perfect view of everything. You MAY spot the back of my head during the opening and closing.
Tom Price did warm up, and then announced everyone. Naturally, Ian was announced first. He strolled out and looked fantastic (as he would, in my eyes.) He had on a black suit, a dark teal shirt, and the blue, purple, black and white “checked” tie. (As the creator of The Fashions of Have I Got News For You series, the importance of this tie, and the sad fact I know which one this is, would ONLY be relevant to me.)
Paul strolled out next, bowed to the audience. He had on a charcoal grey suit, and a floral shirt, with no tie.
Graham Linehan was next on set, in a black jumper, black shirt and dark jeans. Making up the rear of the guests was Ken Livingstone, in a tan suit, blue shirt and yellow tie. (I swear he wears the same damn outfit every time he’s on, it seems)
Clare Balding was last, in a sheer cobalt blouse and black trousers.
Everyone did sound checks. Ian told his joke about Boris, people asking him if he’s really just a clever man pretending to be an idiot, to which Ian’s response is always ‘No.’, Graham said a few things about Father Ted/Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Ken made a joke about Boris, and Paul told of his troubles coming in to the studio today. They didn’t know who he was despite appearing on the programme for 22 years.
This prompted Clare Balding to tell a story about how lots of people think she IS Clare Balding but only that she just looks like her.
Ian told a story how he was on the tube recently and a woman said to a friend sitting next to her ‘That’s Hislop!’ to which her friend replied ‘Oh leave him alone, he looks NOTHING like Ian Hislop!’ The rest of the panel joked as to whether that was a compliment or not, and Ian responded ‘At this point, I’ll take anything!’ (I wanted to shout, ‘You’re damn sexy!! How’s THAT for a compliment?!’)
As the opening credits played, Paul did a tiny dance to them, and Ian fussed about sitting up straight and playing with his pen.
Clare did 5 opening videos, and started with Round 1, which went to Ian and Graham. Their footage was the Tory conference. Lots of joking about Boris and Boris and Ken’s rivalry, and they also discussed the Labour conference and how Ed Miliband memorised his own speech. Clare Balding did a joke about floppy haired blondes presenting a tv quiz and then becoming Prime Minister, and implied this about herself, ending with a slogan for her campaign: ‘A Balding Britain is a better Britain’. Ian smiled and said ‘I’ll agree with that!, in regards to his follically challenged pate. (What a doll!!) Naturally, I began clapping, solo at first, and the audience followed suit after me. Hehehe.
After much discussion on that, the round was tossed to Paul and Ken, with a simple image of Jimmy Savile.
Paul opened up by stating, categorically, that the transcript his rant during Jimmy Savile’s appearance on HIGNFY in 1999, was a hoax and not real. Ian didn’t even know this hoax existed until he said some skinheads came up to him outside the cinema in Maidstone and said ‘good for you, catching the paedo!’
They spent a fair time talking about Savile, with Ian asking the audience multiple times did anyone actually REALLY like Savile even, at least as much as the media portrayed they did when Savile died.
At the end of this round, it was 2 each.
Into Round 2, which was the Picture Spin quiz, there were 2 spins. The first one was based on an image of what humans are projected to look like in 3012. The second was Abu Hamza. They discussed Hamza’s extradition to the US to be tried in court, after England failed to do so for 14 years.
During this segment, they showed some news footage of a man who appeared to have a huge right arm because of the way the background was he was speaking against. Graham Linehan made a joke about wanking. Ian immediately put his head on the desk in embarrassment.
At the end of this round, the score was Ian 3 and Paul 4.
They moved to the third round, which ended up being, The Wheel of Idiots (originally The Wheel of Nutters, but was changed at the end during a re-take). A few spins of the wheel saw questions about Felix Baumgartner, who is doing the space freefall, David Blaine, doing his latest unimportant media stunt, and finally Chris Todd, who built a human hamster wheel to cross the Irish sea.
Paul’s team did particularly well here, and by the end of the round it was Ian 3 and Paul 9.
They finished with Missing Words, which as its’ guest publication was Horse Brasses Magazine. Nobody even knew what a horse brass was or what it looked like. Each side got 5 missing words to guess, and neither side fared very well, yet Paul guessed one out of the blue and got it right, in regards to a music student who is getting work as a scarecrow.
Because Ian and Graham were faring poorly, Clare issued them some sympathy points, bringing the final total to 6 to 10.
Ian gave Clare some guff about how she was pronouncing his name at the end, saying it was a very Scottish pronunciation.
Ian was naturally bothered by the loss, and while they were doing a handful of retakes, he looked antsy and was singing to himself a small bit. He kept looking at his watch and Clare asked him if he was alright, and he mentioned he was just thinking about the train and maybe he’d have to book a hotel room for the night through Trip Advisor)
Paul plugged his stage show, Out Of My Head (which I’ve seen already, thanks).
They called wrap and Ian got up to leave, scanning the audience for someone, presumably. He was really kind of just strolling along looking up intently. (He probably heard that crazy American woman who adores him and has sent him letters and cards was there!)
As usual, Ian was very attentive during the whole production, asking if there were technical errors along the way and writing things down feverishly. He was looking out into the audience the whole time. It was lovely.
I felt the show was a little slow moving, and dry, actually. Do not get me wrong, I love HIGNFY, but it wasn’t flowing terribly well tonight. Perhaps it was due to Clare Balding not being an experienced host, nor a comedic personality. It just lacked the oomph that other episodes have had.
I ended the evening riding the tube back with the lovely retired couple from earlier. We chatted a lot, and they wished me luck in my travels and my job search.
I felt pleased having seen Ian, and knowing I’ll see him again before I head back overseas. And watching HIGNFY makes me feel so very much at home. It was like all was right with the world while sitting there watching. London felt home to me.
On the train tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Hastings and then to Brighton later to see Jack Dee.