Monday, 16 October 2017

Potatoes

The subject of today's blog entry, as the title suggests, is the humble potato. At first glance this might appear a somewhat mundane topic. What on earth can he say about potatoes to fill a few hundred words, I hear you ask? Well, quite a lot. believe me!

As a member of the potato buying public, I have become increasingly frustrated of late by the ever declining size and quality of my potatoes. As an old-fashioned chap at heart, I like to keep a lot of the traditions I grew up with alive and one of those is cooking the great British Sunday roast.

Sundays aren't what they were when I was a lad. Much of what made Sunday special has now gone. You can't even listen to the Top 40 any more - not that you would want to considering the crap that's in it these days. Radio One in their infinite wisdom have moved it to Fridays. Bit that's another story.

But no-one can stop me making my Sunday roast. Except when we have it on Monday, which is quite often, because Claire often works Sundays. But I still call it Sunday dinner, regardless. This caused the kids a bit of confusion when they were younger and learning their days of the week, but they've figured it out now. I don't see a problem. Munich have their Oktoberfest in September and no-one complains about that.

One of the key ingredients of a Sunday (or Monday) dinner is of course the roast potatoes. 26 years after leaving home, I feel I've pretty much got them down to a tee. At least I had until the supermarkets started making things difficult for me.

The first issue I have is that the potatoes seem to be getting smaller. My preferred choice of potato is Maris Piper, which is widely sold by most supermarkets. They are generally sold in 2.5kg bags which I find is enough for two meals - a roast on Sunday/ Monday followed by some home-made chips later in the week. Back in the day you might get around 12 decent sized potatoes in a bag which was great - peel them, cut them up, job done.

Now, I get incredibly frustrated rummaging around the bags in Tesco to discover there are as many as thirty potatoes in a bag and most of them are way too small. To make decent roast spuds you need to cut them in half so you've got a flat surface. They are never as good if you do them whole, but some of these potatoes are so small it's not worth cutting them. They look more like new potatoes. Why are the farms that produce them digging them up so early? Let them grow to a decent size for goodness sake!

A typical modern day bag of potatoes,
which I argue, are too small.


Not only do you waste more by peeling (the smaller they are, the more you cut out), but it also takes bloody ages. It's a hell of a lot quicker to peel six big spuds than twelve small ones and peeling spuds is bloody boring, to be honest, even if the end result is worth it.

The second problem? The quality of the produce which at the moment is the worst it's ever been. When I peel a potato I expect to find some nice white flesh underneath, the odd eye perhaps that needs to be cut out, but generally a decent, fresh potato. I accept that I am bound to get the odd dodgy one, that's part and parcel of buying fresh produce, but recently it's been far more than that. Among the problems I have been encountering constantly are:

a) Horrible brown mottling all over the potato, so you have to peel each area two or three times to get beneath it.

b) Eyes/ yucky bits deep inside the potatoes where it looks like a collections of grubs have buried their way in and set up home.

c) Whole rotten areas extending right through the middle of the potato, leaving me having to cut at least half of it away or in many cases, abandon the whole potato.

These problems have been getting steadily worse for months now and reached a peak these past two weekends when I have had the two worst bags of potatoes ever. They came from two different shops (Aldi and Tesco) and were two different types (Maris Piper and Tesco own brand) so can't just be one bad batch. Last weekend I had to throw over half the bag away. There was barely enough to eek out a Sunday dinner for four and it meant I also missed out on my midweek chips. This Sunday it was just as bad. I would have taken some photos but the whole lot is in the bin and I'm not rummaging around in there now, you'll just have to take my word for it.

So what is going on? Is there a particularly bad crop this year or some sort of blight we don't know about? Are supermarkets cutting corners, not storing stuff properly or leaving it in warehouses for months? The public needs to know. Or I need to know anyway. When I used Google to find out if anyone else was having these problems, I found absolutely nothing. This means this is either just a problem I have by being incredibly unlucky or fussy and I need to get a life, or I'm the first to champion a cause that needs highlighting.

Either that or something even more sinister is going on and there really is some sort of evil blight infecting our potatoes but somehow the superpowers of the potato world are managing to suppress the information. I can imagine the following scene at an emergency meeting in Downing Street:

"We can't let the public know the potatoes are all ruined Mrs May. Never mind all your other cock-ups, if the great British public thinks they aren't going to get their chips for tea, this Government will be doomed!"

Maybe this is all in my mind. I do hope it's not. If just one person that reads this blog comments "Yes, I've been having the same problem" then I'll feel reassured.

What's the solution? Try another shop? They all seem as bad as each other. Grow my own? Nice idea in principle but they won't be ready by next Sunday and the kids might protest if I dug up the lawn and turned it into a vegetable patch. I could try the greengrocers in town - they always say we should buy local and at least they'll be fresh. The one thing I absolutely refuse to do is go down the convenience route and start buying Aunt Bessie's or any of that rubbish. I tried them once in an emergency and they were horrible.

Anyone out there got any other ideas/ solutions? Cheers.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Blog 101

Panel shows aren't always my thing (especially if they involve Jimmy Carr) but you can't go wrong with Frank Skinner. Consequently, I'm a big fan of Room 101, currently airing on BBC1 on Friday nights. So much so, that I've been thinking about what topic I might choose in the unlikely event I ever find myself invited to take part in an episode.

As someone hurtling at high speed towards the Victor Meldrew phase of life, I find there are no shortage of things to irritate me on a daily basis. However there is one thing that is currently irking me more than everything else and so here we go.

My topic is...Downsizing

I don't mean making people redundant. Although undoubtedly an unpleasant experience for many, in my case it was a completely liberating one. No, I'm talking about the disgraceful habit of manufacturers of sneakily reducing the sizes of their food products and hoping we won't notice.

We've got 10 Jaffa cakes in a pack instead of 12. Multipack Crisps and snacks that were once 25g now at 18g with "only 88 calories per bag" proudly displayed on the front. Well that's not going to solve Britain's obesity crisis if everyone now has to eat two bags because one isn't enough.

Then there are chocolate bars are laughably small. Kit-Kat Chunky? Going by the ones in the last 4 pack I bought that title is a complete misnomer. Kit-Kat Dinky would be a more appropriate name.

Honey, I shrunk the pineapple!

Tropicana litre bottles are now 850ml, Toblerone have put bigger gaps between the mountains and the next time you find yourself on the bog with not enough paper left to wipe your arse properly you can blame Andrex. You no longer get 240 sheets per roll - it's now 221.

You could hop between peaks before.
Now some sort of mountaineering equipment is probably in order.

As for an old favourite of mine, Peperami, well they've been well and truly hammered. At one time the length of a standard Peperami would have measured up favourably alongside the dong of your average porn star. As for the current pathetic offering, well all I can say is they even make me feel well-endowed.

What annoys me is the surreptitious nature these manufacturers go about this. In the old days they just used to put the price up - fair enough, it was annoying but inflation is a fact of life we are all accustomed to. Prices go up - we live with it. So man up grow a pair and put the prices up. Don't try and treat us like mugs, shrinking your products and hoping we won't notice - we do!

This needs nipping in the bud now before everyone starts doing it. Before long it'll be three-quarters of a pint in the pub, pizzas the size of CD's and movies at the cinema that only last 55 minutes, with a scaled down box of popcorn to fit the running time. Is that what we want? Because that's what'll happen...

So Frank, please put downsizing (or shrinkflation as it has been dubbed by the media) into Room 101.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Life in a new town

Here I am in Evesham. Yes, I've finally taken the plunge and left Bicester after 26 years.

I've been here just a week and have so much to talk about, I hardly know where to start.

Let's talk about the town first. What a lovely place it has proven to be! First of all there is the river. It runs in a horseshoe shape through the town and you can walk all the way alongside it, as I have done so three times during the first week. The day after we arrived, we walked all the way along on what was a beautiful late summer's evening.

I was reminded more than a little of walking along the river in Oxford, from the Head Of The River pub, with rowers everywhere. The path alongside the river is sandy and lined with mature trees, similar to the main path through Christchurch Meadows. There are various play parks, tennis courts, a cricket pitch and all sorts of other things along the way. Each time I have been along there it has been a hive of activity, with people everywhere enjoying themselves. It's no surprise, experiencing this, that Wychavon (this corner of Worcestershire) was named the second happiest place to live in the UK recently (after the Orkney Islands).

And so in to the town. The main street reminds me a little of Sheep Street in Bicester before it was pedestrianised. It's lively and full of local businesses. There is also a pedestrianised street leading off and all the high street stores are here - including those that no longer exist in Bicester town centre, such as Clarks and Edinburgh Woollen Mills. The main square, surrounded by ancient Tudor buildings, is full of cafes where you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee.

Don't get me wrong - I am not attempting to score points against Bicester here - I'm merely comparing the two and liking what I see.

Shoppers are spoiled here. There are edge of town shopping centres that contain big retailer such as M&S, Next, Currys/ PC World and many more. There is also a Frankie & Benny's and a McDonalds within walking distance of my house. The choice of shops is just amazing - and all of this in a town that has a population only around two-thirds that of Bicester.

What it doesn't have is anything like Bicester Village and I hope it never will.

Speaking of things being two-thirds the size of Bicester, go on to Rightmove and have a look at the house prices. It really is quite unbelievable. I'm sitting here in a 4/5 bedroom house that has room to swing several cats, the price of which you might just about get a two bed for in Bicester. Why? Well it's not because we're in some scummy area, that's for sure. I think it's purely down to proximity to London. We're out of the commuter belt here which makes a huge difference. The number of houses up for private rent here is tiny compared to Bicester. That's because the locals can actually afford to buy them. Good, solid, well-built houses, not overpriced boxes chucked up on new estates for landlords to buy up as an investment which they then let out for astronomic sums. Sorry if I sound like I have a bee in my bonnet about this, but I don't think that helps a community at all.

What else? The pubs are fantastic - proper traditional places. We found one called Ye Olde Horse and had a couple of pints (also at a lower percentage) and some food there. It was a family run, traditional pub and the food was amazing. Claire had a home made burger and I had a steak - both of which were among the best we've ever had. The landlady cooked them and came out to chat to us too, as did many of the locals.

Since then we've explored further, enjoying this happy, prosperous little town where it seems there is always something going on. There are flowers everywhere (Britain in Bloom winners), and all sorts of events. The town even has it's own tourist office where we were welcomed as new residents and given all sorts of information about the many festivals and celebrations that go on around this town and the local area all year long. The locals here are proud of their town and it shows.

I honestly did wonder if I would ever manage to make the break from Bicester. It was a brave move to leave, but I've never shied away from these sort of decisions as you know. I may have been here only a week but already I believe this move is one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's just 40 miles away but it's another world.

But don't just take my word for it - come over for a visit! Just don't look in any estate agent's windows, you might be tempted to stay! I wouldn't mind if you did. The one thing that would make this town complete would be if I could uproot all my Bicester friends and plant you all back down here.

Down by the river in Evesham

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Bye bye Bicester

Next Wednesday will be a landmark moment in my life. For it marks the day, some 26 years after my arrival in Bicester, that I make my departure.

Looking at it another way, that's precisely 9,595 days. I found a website to calculate that for me in case you think I was sitting there like some saddo with a spreadsheet or calculator working out. Which I probably would have been if it hadn't been for the website.

9,595 days sounds huge and it certainly has been a long time. I was 21 then, I'm 47 now. Frank Sinatra sang that when he was 21 it was a very good year. For me it certainly was, as 47 is shaping up to be. The years between have varied in quality but there can be no denying there have been a lot of them. Suddenly I appear to be nudging middle-age.

Here's what Bicester looked like when I arrived...has it really been that long?

We've established, then, that I've given Bicester the best years of my life. So what has Bicester given me?

It has given me a place to live and a place to grow and I don't just mean my waistline. I thought I was all big and clever at 21, but looking back now, quite honestly I was practically still a kid. It seems crazy to think I was buying a house at 21, but the world has changed since then. Less people went to university so more were earning earlier. In fact people did everything earlier in those days - including getting married and starting families. Any couple holding down two average jobs could afford to buy a place back then. We called it settling down, but it wasn't a good idea in my case. I wasn't ready for it. I may have been earning a decent wage, but, well I was 21 and not that big on responsibility. More money was spent in the pub than on the mortgage.

Bicester was cheaper to buy in than elsewhere in Oxfordshire at that time. The M40 had only just opened, as had big Tesco's (mark 1). The road to the M40 was just a single carriageway each way and rarely got clogged up. But of course, there was no Bicester Village then (I'll come on to that later).

Bicester not only gave me a house to live in, but also a place where I felt at home, right from the first day. After unpacking my meagre possessions (mostly records and books), I wandered into town with my girlfriend of the time. We ate chips from the Lemon Plaice on a wall by the church and then went into The Six Bells which we found to be a happy, friendly sort of place. Soon after I found The White Horse, full of salt-of-the-earth, locals, who were only too willing to welcome a newcomer into their midst. In the years ahead, my local changed, to The Plough, The Bell, and The White Hart, making friends wherever I went.

So why leave now, after all these years? Well there are all sorts of reasons behind it, but the primary motivator is financial. I want to buy a decent sized family home for my children and due to the over-inflated property prices in Bicester, it's not possible. We are no longer the sleepy little market town where you could buy a starter home for 3x your salary with ease a quarter of a century ago. We are now firmly in the London commuter belt, something that can be seen on the billboards of many new building sites which scream out "Only 45 minutes from Marleybone", one of their key selling points it seems. There are no prizes for identifying their target market.

Then there's Bicester Village which we are told has put Bicester on the map. Now I've waxed lyrical on Bicester Village many times in the past and I'm not going to regurgitate it all again here. Suffice to say that my personal view is that it has been detrimental to the town for all manner of reasons.

Moving hadn't really been an option for me until recently. I was tied to a career in Oxford for my first 15 years here, then I had my local DJ business for several years after that. But switching to writing has opened up new possibilities - I can now work anywhere.

But where? Well, it took a long time to decide. We went all over the country looking for somewhere to lay down some new roots but nowhere seemed quite right. Then, we found the perfect place in Evesham. It's less than forty miles away but what a world of difference in house prices! Having spent some time there now, it sort of reminds me of how Bicester used to be. It's about 2/3 the size of Bicester currently, but has lots of facilities we don't have here. I have a McDonalds within walking distance of my new house for a start. That's something Bicester folk have been crying out for since I got here, to no avail. It's almost become a standing joke now on the Bicester Chat page on Facebook.

Just five days to go then until an exciting and fresh start for me in a new place. I've never had much difficulty making friends so I think I will be able to make the most of the opportunity. Even so, it goes without saying that I'm going to miss all of you back here awfully. I have made so many amazing friends here in Bicester that it is going to be a huge wrench knowing I'm not going to see you regularly any more. I'm not quite sure how Bicester feels about my departure, I would imagine there would be a range of reactions all the way down from "Bicester's just not going to be the same without him" to "Great, we've finally got rid of the bastard!"

You haven't completely got rid of me as I plan to pop back for occasional nights out, probably on a Sunday, since those of you who remember my karaoke nights will know that it has always been my night. It seems appropriate that I'll be saying goodnight this Sunday at the karaoke night I started at The White Hart nine years ago. It's still thriving four years after my retirement under the wonderful Charlee. If you want a last chance to share a pint with me, or even just the chance to tell me to piss off before I go, this is your chance.

When I think about what I'm really going to miss about this place, there's really only one answer. It's not the place at all - it's the people.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Alternate Realities

August is shaping up to be a busy month. Not only is it the school holidays but we are also moving house at the end of the month. I'm not sure of the exact date - we are still waiting on an exchange of contracts which should have happened last week. More on that when I have it.

In addition, I release a new book at the end of this month so thought this would be an ideal opportunity to let you know how I came up with the idea.

Having written three spin-offs over the past couple of years, I sat down at the start of this year with the feeling it was time for a new Time Bubble book. If you've read the first three you'll recall that the third book tied up most of the loose ends and brought what was intended to be a trilogy to a close.

But the spin-offs raised new questions, plus there were some things at the end of the third book that I still felt needed exploring. I want to avoid spoilers here so all I will say is that at the end of the third book a major change occurred to the timeline. This led me to think about what the effects of that on the people involved might be?

What if both universes were now in existence - the one where the character died and the one where he/she didn't? What if the one who lived could subconsciously dream at night about the other reality? My own personal experience came into play here, because I have this strange recurring dream that has bugged me for years.

Back in 2005 I took the decision to take voluntary redundancy from my job at Nielsen. This was undoubtedly one of the biggest decisions of my life which led me to where I am today. But strangely, ever since I left, I frequently dream at night that I am still there, going off to client presentations, dealing with 'Watty' (the boss) and interacting with my old colleagues. There are other oddities too - in this strange alter ego of a universe I park my car at Pitt Rivers Museum every morning and cycle up to the office in Headington. Which is a bit random, to say the least.

The only two explanations I can come up with are as follows. Firstly, somewhere in my subconscious mind I feel guilty that I left my career behind to pursue other interests because it's going against convention. Perhaps deep down I feel that I should have played the game according to the rules, been a good little office bod, built a career and now be approaching middle age with a highly paid job, mortgage paid off and holidaying in the Caribbean every year. (Except it probably wouldn't be the Caribbean because I don't like injections).

The bit about cycling might be some sort of guilt over my middle-aged spread and lack of fitness, a common affliction for men of my age but not an insurmountable one given sufficient willpower and time, which I seem to lack.

But the reality is that I don't feel this way in my waking hours at all. Leaving Nielsen has brought me new experiences, a family and a whole new way of life. Yes, I may not be wealthy but the thought that I might have spent the last 12 years still sitting in the office and all that goes with it horrifies me.

The second explanation is that there really is another universe where I didn't take redundancy and the other me is still living that life. The movie, Sliding Doors, springs to mind. My dreams are quite detailed and one major difference is that in that universe I never settled down and never had children. That alone is not a good advert as no amount of money or status can ever substitute for my family.

Whatever the true reason for all of this, it provided a good starting point for my new novel. In the first third of the book we meet all the old characters as they get together and the story of one of the affected character's dreams comes out. This piques the interest of Josh, the main protagonist this time, who sets out to prove the existence of these other worlds. Extending his time travel experiments, he eventually discovers a way to travel between them.

Unfortunately at this point things go a bit pear-shaped and he finds his means of getting back damaged. Travelling back in time each time, he finds himself jumping from one alternate world to another, and this is where the story really gets going.

I really had quite a lot of fun with this, exploring many different possibilities of the "What if?" variety. So Josh ends up visiting worlds where his life took a different path, where the whole world took a different path after the Battle of Hastings, and where contemporary events involving Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and ISIS create some very scary situations indeed.

The thing I really loved about writing this was it gave me several different blank sheets of paper to indulge my imagination in any way I liked. I'm hoping you'll enjoy the final outcome.


Splinters In Time will be released on 31st August 2017. You can pre-order it using the links below:

For the UK, click here        For the USA, click here

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Sauce for the goose

Here's a thing that's been bugging me for a while now.

I've got a pretty decent size fridge in my place. Yet the space within is constantly at a premium. I get back from Sainsbury's and I'm struggling to squeeze everything in.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you thinking, he loves his meat and cheese etc, he shouldn't buy so much. Thing is, it's not those things that are crowding out the fridge. My problem is that I'm a permanent shelf down before I've even started.

There is just no room whatsoever on the top shelf of the fridge, and I'll tell you why. It's because of all of the sauces.

Now I'm not just talking about the standard sauces we all have. Most of us have a bottle of ketchup in there and a bottle of salad cream. My kids adore ketchup and it doesn't take long to get through a bottle. No, the problem is all the other stuff.

Take mayonnaise for example. How many different types of that have we ended up with? There's standard Hellmans, Sainsbury's French Mayo, Garlic Mayo, and some other fancy version in a pretty jar I was seduced into buying for £3 off the French market last time it came to Bicester. Never gonna use it.

The list goes on. Brown Sauce, Mustard, various condiments for Sunday dinners e.g. Horseradish, Apple Sauce, Cranberry Sauce. Plus others bought for one off occasions like Barbecues e.g. Burger Sauce, Smoky Texan BBQ sauce, and many many more. I wish I could show you a picture but I'm away from home so can't at the moment. Still, just look in your own fridge, I'm sure it's a similar story.

Some of these sauces have been in there for months if not years. Every now and again I have a clear out. This is the point I discover that the Texan BBQ sauce, opened back on a distant hot August afternoon the best part of a year ago, has "Once opened, refrigerate and consume within four weeks". In the bin it goes, 95% of its contents unused. What a waste!

I'm up in Wales on holiday this week in a self-catering flat. As we're out and about most days, we've been making sandwiches to have on the beach or wherever we go. This required doing a big shop at Asda in Pwllheli on the day we arrived. And once again, my sauce problems struck.

We all like different stuff in our sandwiches. But do I really want to buy a jar of salad cream, mayo, mustard etc for just one week? Sure I can take the unused remainder home with me, but then it'll just add to the ones in the fridge at home. I could have brought some up with me, but am loathe to do that after an incident with a mayonnaise bottle a few years ago that led to embarrassing stains all over my holiday wardrobe.

Therefore I left Asda empty handed, deciding it would have to be plain sandwiches for the week. Later we went out for an evening meal and lo and behold, the answer to all my sauce woes was there, right in front of me staring me in the face. A lovely little holder, full of single serve sachets of sauces. Sadly I didn't photograph it, but it had about every type of sauce known to man in it. Here's one from this evening, slightly less choice, but pretty decent nonetheless:

Single serve sauces - where are you when I need you?

Now I know, what you're thinking. Why not scoop up the whole jar, about twenty mixed sachets and take them home - that's your sauces sorted for the week. It's not stealing, after all is it? They gave you the sauces with your meal, you're entitled to them, right?

Well, no, not really. After all they gave me the cutlery, plate and a glass too, but I wouldn't expect to waltz out with them. I guess most of us would probably admit to taking the odd pint glass from a pub in our younger days, so I imagine the odd sachet here or there (not the whole bowl) isn't seen as a hanging offence, but it still sits a little uncomfortably with me. I'm not going to confess here that I took a sachet of mustard for my ham roll tomorrow, but I guess one could have accidentally fallen into my bag. But in my defence I could say that I went without ketchup during the meal to balance it out. Conscience clear?

Just six in this restaurant, but have had many more in others.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has this problem, so why oh why can't shops sell these single serve sachets? When I said this to my wife, she said, "yes, but you can get them in Bookers". Unfortunately that's not much good to the average person. Even if you've got a cash and carry in your town, you still need some sort of card to get in and they don't hand them out like Tesco Clubcards. Besides, you have to buy a big box of about 100 sachets at a time so you're still going to run into sell by date problems if you want a sachet of Mint Sauce perhaps four times a year.

So I repeat - why don't shops sell them? I wouldn't mind paying over the odds, volume wise, for a single use sachet. I'd rather pay 10p for 10ml of something than £1 for 250ml of something that I'm going to throw most of away. Supermarkets - you are missing a trick here. Sell us some single serve sachets! Or is this all part of your strategy to make us spend more and throw away food we don't need? If so, shame on you!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

"Ken Barlow" of Bicester in shock exit

Soap fans were up in arms last night at the news that popular character, Jason Ayres, is to be sensationally axed from long-running ITV show, Bicester.

Jason Ayres has played the role since the very first episode, and is the only original character left from when it began in May 1991. Dubbed the "Ken Barlow" of Bicester due to his longevity in the role, it seems inconceivable that the show's producers would want to get rid of him.

Ayres has come a long way since he first burst on to our screens as a fresh-faced, idealistic 21-year-old, back on that balmy spring day when Cher was at No. 1 with The Shoop Shoop Song. At the centre of many of the show's most famous storylines since, the character has been involved in all sorts of drams and scandals. But now, it seems that his story has run it's course.

Producers say they are looking for fresh blood in the show and that Ayres had become "tired" in the role. But Ayres hit back at those comments, blaming the writers for a lack of imagination.

"It's not my fault viewers are bored with my character these days" he said. "It's all down to the writers. Back in the day, they had me getting up to all sorts of shenanigans. But in the last few years, all you ever see me  doing is sitting on the sofa, eating crisps and watching telly, or rummaging around for the cheapest packet of cheese on the deli counter in Sainsbury's. It's ages since I've done anything interesting".

Ayres has already filmed his final scenes, and will leave the show at the end of August. He is also not happy with the manner of his departure.

"I was hoping to go out on some explosive storyline - like maybe getting involved with the local mafia and perishing in a spectacular shootout by the traffic lights on the Middleton Stoney Road. Or perhaps I could have saved lots of people from Bicester Village after a Jumbo Jet crashed on it, dying heroically in a touching final scene where I sacrifice myself so that others might live.

Instead, all they've got is me helping load up a removal lorry, saying cheerio to the bloke next door, and then getting in a car and driving off. It's completely unfair. Even falling into the sea, Harold Bishop style, leaving my glasses on a rock would have been better than this".

It is not all doom and gloom for Ayres, who reports he is in negotiations with the BBC for a Last Of The Summer Wine style sitcom, set in Evesham.