Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Monday, 26 October 2020

Great fun - live table read of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound in support of The Royal Theatrical Fund.

Oh this was great! I really enjoyed tonight's performance of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound, done as a live table readthrough via Zoom. Just wonderful. Several scenes involved people on telephones so they used bananas as props, haha. It all worked brilliantly from a tech point of view and then we had a moderated Q&A at the end. 

I'd not seen the play before so that was a treat (it's a one-act comedy, poking fun at whodunits based in a country house and has a play within a play) and we had a message at the end to say that Tom had been watching, so that was rather nice (he was also in the audience on one of the times I saw his Travesties too). 

Image cheekily pinched from Lockdown Theatre's page (hope they don't mind!) advertising Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound, with Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow, Jennifer Saunders, Freddie Fox, Emilia Clarke, Samantha Bond, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Gary Wilmot. Narrated by Robert Lindsay, directed by Jonathan Church and produced by Rob Grant and Paul Jackson - thank you all :-)
Poster design by Lily Grant.

Lockdown Theatre has been raising funds for The Royal Theatrical Fund by putting on several of these performances and they've already raised £100,000. I only heard about this one (missed the earlier events) but I'm now on the mailing list so won't miss any more (the producer, Rob Grant, is one of the Red Dwarf co-authors).

It was fun to see the actors enjoying themselves and occasionally stifling giggles and lovely to be a part of as an audience member. In the Q&A afterwards several people wondered if this might form a new medium for theatre that would persist after lockdown ends. The actors commented that it was also interesting to be 'onstage' during bits where they'd normally be back stage or in their dressing room, so they got to see everyone do everything. 

It's also very accessible in the sense that you don't even need to leave your house, and it's generally cheaper to attend than a West End production (tonight's show was £35) - so I could see this as being a useful addition to the theatre, even once they re-open. Possibly attracting a different audience too.

There are already live-broadcast versions of theatre where the show is 'simulcast' in cinemas and recorded for later. Other performances are BSL-signed and on some productions there are post-show talks and Q&As too - so there are already all sorts of additional events that go on. I wonder if productions might add a live table read, or if it would be far too much additional work (eg the play may need adjusting and it still needs to be rehearsed, not to mention everyone needs good wifi and hardware).

Everyone in the audience is muted so you can cough and rustle your Maltesers as much as you like and no-one's disturbed if you pop to the loo. Perhaps there could be PDF versions of the programmes too - I might be getting a bit carried away though!

I also wonder what I'll take away from it in the next few days, and how I'll remember it. Generally after seeing something in the theatre I'll remember bits of it as they related to what was happening on stage, or where someone was, costumes, set decoration and of course music and sound design - which wasn't included (imagine it might be quite hard to include). That said, Radio 4's plays have a lot of sound design and music but you can't see anything at all so it isn't really comparable. Strangely it does feel as if I actually left the house for a bit - while writing this it feels as if I've "just got back" from somewhere! (Something that I remembered a day after the event is the lack of geographic restriction - I think we had people joining us from the US!).

Anyway a really good event and I hope there'll be more.

Also congratulations to Tom Stoppard whose most recent play, Leopoldstadt, has just won the Olivier Award for Best New Play.


Further reading
Review: The Live Table Read of The Real Inspector Hound - Theatre Weekly (25 October 2020)
"Robert Lindsay takes on the role of narrator, relaying the stage directions to the audience at home.  This may not sound particularly thrilling, but is in fact a terrific insight in to how the play is intended to be performed."

The Real Inspector Hound, review: Derek Jacobi and Simon Callow the highlights of a starry Zoom performance - inews (26 October 2020)
"It was a pleasure to watch the performers respond to one another’s choices – something we wouldn’t see normally. We also heard Stoppard’s witty stage directions, read in by Robert Lindsay. It put focus on how precisely crafted the piece is, and also demonstrated the affection (albeit barbed) Stoppard holds for his industry."

The Real Inspector Hound - British Theatre Guide (26 October 2020)
"An excellent company intent on enjoying themselves as much as entertaining the public is completed by suave Robert Lindsay acting as Narrator.

This is the kind of play that has worked well on radio, which makes it a perfect choice for this medium. Not only is it great fun but the script also benefits from Tom Stoppard’s legendary rich use of language and delight in sending up a minor art form that is often taken too seriously and therefore fully deserves to be lampooned.



Friday, 9 October 2020

Some places to find out about jobs in the UK

There are several ways in which can find jobs: (1) job portals where jobs are advertised from all sorts of different organisations, and (2) individual companies' websites where their own jobs are posted. For (2) it can also be helpful to find (or create) your own list of companies by theme - eg the Association of Medical Research Charities has 100+ members so there's a ready made list of 'medical charities'.   

(3) For the sorts of jobs where people are headhunted (I don't move in those circles or at that level so can't help) I think it's all down to networking so things like LinkedIn would be for that. The UK Gov't has some advice on networking. CV Library has advice on How to address unemployment on your CV.

(4) What about a 'hand search' - poring over Google Maps of local areas to see what companies are there (that you might not have come across before) and sending speculative enquiries. 

(5) Put together a short pitch in a tweet / video and send it via Twitter and ask for RTs and suggestions, or via a public Facebook post etc.

(1) Places where jobs are advertised / portals

(2) Thematic ists of organisations' websites - I recommend creating your own tailored version. These lists are not set up with job seekers in mind so you will need to drill into any org's website that interest you and find their vacancies page.



Background to this post
The UK Government is increasing the number of Work Coaches through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), by creating 13,500 new jobs for people to help as JETS: Job Entry - Targeted Support. Their role will be to support other jobseekers into finding suitable employment and the scheme was launched on Monday 5th October 2020.

This story was widely covered in the news media on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th October but none of the stories I saw linked to where someone could apply for one of these 13,500 new jobs. Even the Government's own press release made no mention of it. 

Eventually I found it: JETS jobs - (via a search on, restricted to DWP organisation. When I clicked on an example job and then 'apply at advertiser's site' that's where it took me. 

It seemed like it would be the sort of things that would just fall out into the top results on a Google search for jets dwp jobs, but no.




Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Things that have made me laugh so much I couldn't breathe

Table of Contents

1. Things that have made me laugh so much I couldn't breathe
2. Things that have made me chuckle
3. Context 

Sometimes stuff just strikes you as funny, here's what did it for me. I'm sure I've forgotten LOADS!

1. Things that have made me laugh so much I couldn't breathe

Mitsubishi car advert - polar bear mascot can't stay on his feet

@abuttguy's "Male writers writing female characters" (shared by Scott Baiowulf)


Woman amused by sock mask

Man seeks mercy from hotel that banned him after seagulls trashed his room

Huffpost story

Table-cat memes

Zak McFlimby's response to Marshall amplifiers - from b3ta


See original and context here.

Mark Twain's 'The Awful German Language' 

On the challenges of learning a language whose rules appear to be out to get you, with suggestions for improvement. 

"In the next place, I would move the Verb further up to the front. You may load up with ever so good a Verb, but I notice that you never really bring down a subject with it at the present German range--you only cripple it. So I insist that this important part of speech should be brought forward to a position where it may be easily seen with the naked eye. " 

The Clbuttic Mistake: when obscenity filters go wrong (£)

The Simpsons (1): Call of The Simpsons

The Simpsons (2): Homer jumps Springfield Gorge

To craunch a marmoset

The entirety of Stephen Pile's Book of Heroic Failures killed me age 10 and the bit I remember the most was the chap who took it upon himself to create a Portuguese-English conversational book having only a French-English dictionary and an Portuguese-French phrasebook.

As paredes têm ouvidos (Portuguese original)

The walls have hearsay (English translation)
The walls have ears (correct, idiomatic translation).

My mum telling jokes

She couldn't do it. Every joke had the punch-line "Oh no, wait a wee minute - that can't be right" and Dad and I would be laughing so much anyway it didn't really matter.  


I have also laughed myself silly seeing Boothby Graffoe (London) and Miles Jupp (Edinburgh Festival) live.

2. Things that have made me chuckle

Cats hiding behind food

 I'm afraid I saved the pictures without making a note of who took them. 

Gye gye cruel world

Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan on The Day Today

Patrick Marber should be on the telly more, his comic timing is *chef's kiss*. That little 'German' at 0.48. Dead :)

Alan Partridge after eating a chocolate mousse

The out-take version is also fabulous.

All of Monty Python especially...

The matter-of-fact way in which John Cleese says "The plumage don't enter into it" in The Dead Parrot sketch.

The mere idea of the All-England Summarise Proust competition. 

Ripping Yarns

When the camera pans back and Terry Jones realises what's going on. Hahahaha. 

The radio ventriloquist

My mum told me about this when I was little. Laughed for days. I assume she meant Peter Brough.

Blackadder - Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking

Remember watching this with my mum and howling with laughter

Every Street in Manchester closed. No, wait I mean...


Bus ping

I once had to get off the 380 bus early after I got the giggles. The bus had had an upgrade and now had a new STOPPING sign at the front that lit up in orange whenever anyone pressed the button. There was new music too - a gently falling three tone ping-ping-ping motif which accompanied the bus press and the illumination. Unfortunately the first four letters (STOP) of the sign didn't light up properly. So whenever someone pressed the button the sign just lit up as PING while the musical accompaniment pinged along - I lost all sense of reason every time someone pressed the button (and also in anticipation when I could see someone was about to) and had to get off and walk the last few stops.

Help Bury animals

I'm on a horse (moo)

Man puts 3.5m dinosaur in the family garden to prank his wife...

...she takes the dog out for a midnight wee and gets quite a surprise

The Leamington Courier

Face swap baby nose

The Telegraph

3. Context

Being very easily amused I spend quite a lot of my time giggling or rather trying not to giggle, particularly when I'm in public where giggling by yourself just unnerves everyone. 

Finding something amusing and trying not to laugh seems to set off some horrendous feedback loop, where I find myself giggling not just at the thing that's made me laugh in the first place but also at the terrible predicament I'm now in (where I'm not supposed to laugh) and finding that funny as well.

I once heard that people tend not to laugh by themselves as much as they do in public and I'm sure it's true - laughter has an important social function - but I certainly laugh out loud by myself at funny television programmes and articles / books (I wouldn't read Bill Bryson in public again after losing it on a tube train during one of his tall stories).

What we find funny is so personal so I can easily imagine people reading the examples above and not even managing to raise a chuckle for some of them. Of course now that I've laughed at these in the past I probably will never laugh at them in quite the same way again.