Mad Man Cycling… Part One!

The first episode of John Slater’s slightly mad odyssey from Birmingham, England to Istanbul… on a cheap, no-lycra, bike!

I’m currently at home in Birmingham, following the end of work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. There’s a few things I have to do before I can disappear for a while. I have a plan to do the start on Wednesday or Thursday but I need to talk to some people who aren’t contactable at weekends. If that works out, I’ll be cycling to Harwich before boarding a ferry to the Hook of Holland. Hopefully, there will be confirmed news on Monday.

I’m getting very squeaky about this whole thing now. It’s been seven years since I did something like this. Now I’m seven years older. As it gets close I’m starting to think… what the hell am I doing? I can’t announce the start plan yet but I can say it will need 40 miles on the first day, then get up early to set off at 6am to ride 20 miles on the second day, possibly followed by 50 miles later in the day. I’ve done no training and I’ve no idea how hard that might be. Seven years ago, through France and into Spain, my average was 45 or 50 miles a day. My work keeps me fit to a degree. It has kept me knackered recently. So… we’ll see. I’d love to say I’m not bothered, but I am.

Over £700 raised and I haven’t even cleaned the bike and pumped up the tyres yet. Wow.

In other news, about time, a plan for at least the first few days, possibly the first few weeks of the journey is starting to circle my head, like a flock of seagulls spotting someone with a bag of chips.

I thought I’d set off with nobody watching, but I have an idea for a grand depart. However, that depends on the ferry route and on Alzheimer’s Research UK. I have some questions to ask.

Then there’s the possibility of a side visit right at the start, to visit my niece who lives in Amsterdam — the world capital of cycling, whatever Katie Melua has to say on the matter. But I have to talk to Paula, the niece in question.

If I pitch up in Amsterdam, I’m tending towards following the Rhine south to around Heidelberg then cutting across to the Danube and following it east to Vienna. The alternative is to cut straight across Germany, which would be shorter but hillier. Oooh, what to do.

If this is sounding all very exotic, trust me, it seems just as unlikely to me. I’m open to input. Any thoughts? Anywhere you think I should visit?

Blimey! £700 already, plus gift aid. I’ve got to actually do this in a couple of weeks time. Aaaargh.

Mad Man Walking! (Well, cycling actually!)

So you get to 60+ish years old and what do you do? Go Gardening? Retire and watch daytime TV? Start a jolly new Jigsaw hobby? Or get fit? Gentle wandering walks in the park. Sedentary Swimming or Cycling?

But if you DO take up cycling, what you probably DON’T do is decide to cycle from Birmingham, England… to ISTANBUL, ffs! On a cheap, no Lycra, budget, bone-shaker bike!

Unless your name is John Slater, of course. Now, I’ve known John (he prefers being called Slater) for around 40 years from when we were both young bucks on THE commercial radio station for Birmingham — BRMB — now FREE radio.

I was in Programming and Slater was in Engineering (where the brainy people in radio work!) but it didn’t stop us from eventually becoming good pals and boozing buddies. And some years later, when I started the Maverick Theatre Company and needed some technical assistance, John came to help me out for two days. He ended up ’helping out’ for nearly five years! He learned new theatre skills and now does great things with production companies all over the world. Maverick can’t afford him anymore, but being Slater he, of course always helps out if and when he can.

And that’s another reason why this bike thang is so mad! There was a time a few years ago when we were in our 30s and both cycled to see the brilliant theatre director John Adams in Alvechurch, Warwickshire. It was about 5 miles and John hadn’t had his (cheap) bike for long. I’d only had mine for a few months (50 quid from Halfords, Kings Heath) And neither of us is ‘sporty’ but Slater was slower and more wobbly than even I was! To the point where I became a bit concerned about him!


Crazy madman!

Having said that, although a dour techie Scot, once you get to know him, you realise he has a very good heart. So I’m going to cover his mad odyssey here. Come back for updates. And here’s what he wrote on social media about WHY he’s being so mad. Ya gotta love this really…

Mad John Slater with cheap bike!

“I’ve done some longish bike rides but nothing on this scale. I’m a grumpy old git heading from the UK to the edge of the continent, to Asia, to Istanbul — on a cheap bicycle — for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Friends think I’m nuts but my dad was taken by vascular dementia and, when my mother died last November after years with Alzheimer’s, I knew I had to do something to aid the research. Major breakthroughs aren’t far off. Help them make a difference!

I’ve put my own life on hold for a few months to see what I can do. Please join me vicariously on the adventure. Do whatever you can to help the fundraising, spread the word and follow the ups and downs of the ride of my life, your life, our lives…

And to quote Geldof… Give us yer fekkin money…

And please pray the weather’s not as crap as it might be. Thank you!

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

What a stupid, brilliant, mad, idiot. A bit like Geldof was with Live Aid! So amen to that Jonnie!

Come back here soon for more on the ride!



Nick Hennegan presents unique music from some of the new musicals he attended at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022 – including the new ballet, Hamlet, staring Sir Ian McKellen, and a new version of the classic Pride and Prejudice – a new folk musical comedy reimagining Jane Austen’s classic novel in modern America with gender-swapped characters! — Send in a voice message:

Be Sporty Irish in London Pubs.

GAA is Irish football… and obviously you have to live in Ireland to see it. Or have an expensive TV account. Or…

The local team!
The local team!

…or live near Fulham in West London! Yep, I had no idea either and as a second-generation English Irishman (we suffer worst than most) I happened to be in my local W6 boozer, The Raven, and noticed all these tables reserved for ‘the Fulham GAA.’

It was a fairly quiet Sunday evening. Although actually it wasn’t that quiet, because I was celebrating with the folks on the London Pub Crawl. Not the London Literary Pub Crawl I wrote, (touring Soho and Fitzrovia every Saturday, btw! Just thought I’d mention it!) but one created by our mate, Tex. Yep, he’s from Texas, y’all, and every year he arranges an itinerary of four days of pub-crawling around Picturesque London Local Pubs! A full report will follow, but tonight we were celebrating the end of this years offerings. But the REST of the pub was quiet.

But not for long! The pub filled with young Irish and London lads and lasses, and Dave The Rave(n) (affectionate name for the gaffer) hired a guitarist and a fiddle player.

The craic, as they say, was great! And, if nothing else, convinced me to check out the Fulham GAA. It’s one of the glories of living in a multi-cultural city. As in Birmingham, all life is in London!

The website is a little out of date (2019) but the contacts page and their social media are all listed if you want to know more.

And later, I’ll tell you why visiting – on average – SEVEN pubs a day for FOUR days is a rather good idea…Hic!

National Poetry Day 2022

Photo by Ena Marinkovic on


Nick Hennegan celebrates National Poetry Day with poems from some of the greatest names in the world… and some of his own!

Also on  — Send in a voice message:

Iphigenia in Splott

Lyric Hammersmith, London, W6.

Sophie as Effie!

🍷🍷🍷🍷 🥃 (4 glasses out of 5, PLUS a shot !)

It’s always a novelty going to see a play with a name you find hard to pronounce! But having done a bit of research (you’re welcome!) it turns out the story is based, as so many brilliant stories are, on an Ancient Greek myth. And Splott is in Wales.

So good, so classical. But there is a burning contemporary edge to this story. Set in Wales, the modern name for our heroine is Effie… a Slapper and Dirty Skank. Although, of course, she is neither of these.

To be honest, I always get a bit nervous, when ‘working-class’ characters are presented through the prism of largely middle-class theatre practitioners. And this does miss a few beats and isn’t perfect — we occasionally lose some of the dialogue — but generally writer Garry Owen has created a classic character that I identify with as working-class myself. I instantly recognised and sympathised with the frustration of few opportunities, lack of self-worth and over compensation for an emptiness many working class people feel. And how a couple of events changes Effie’s life.

Sophie Melville gives a great performance that mixes elements of a wild Irvine Welsh character and a still Alan Ayckbourn monologue. Indeed, having just returned from the home of one-person shows, the Edinburgh Fringe, (where this show appeared some time ago) it is full of paradoxes: a monologue constrained by singularity through its form, but a production which feels peopled by an entire Welsh town. And an epic tragedy captured by a white working-class woman with no hint of ‘Vicky Pollard’ despite her scraped-back hair, snarls, three day piss-ups, hangovers and street brawls. She is eminently ordinary but exceptional in her heroism, too. And director Rachel O’Riordan must take credit for her pacing and variation of the piece — and of course, for commissioning Gary Owen’s lyrical script back in 2015.

It’s a modern classic in a beautiful theatre and feels even more relevant now than when it was first created in Austerity Britain. The play is brutally effective in depicting the human cost of the cuts and closures and ends on a note of accusatory fury. Yet its politics are surprisingly subtle.

The name may be a bit confusing, but this is a quality piece that makes perfect sense. Go see it.

The Chiswick Book Festival party Part 3 – and new writing venue TheSpaceUK in Edinburgh!

Photo by David Rico on


Nick Hennegan was at the 14th Chiswick Book Festival, at the local author’s party, where the writers have 2 minutes against the clock to talk about their books – or get ‘horned’ off! This is the final part. And we hear from the founders of The Space UK – enterprising venues at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Also at — Send in a voice message:

W B Yeats – LIVE, the unveiling of the first London memorial to the Irish Poet.

W.B. Yeats


Nick Hennegan stood in the wind and the rain (with a tiny mic and no Wind Shield Pop Cover!) to record the entire launch event of a new Artwork built to celebrate the life and times of W B Yeats’ boyhood in Bedford Park, Chiswick.

The new artwork, Enwrought Light.

Built outside the church of St Michael and All Angels, with fundraising support of not only locals, but celebrities including Sir Bob Geldolf, here is the entire, unedited event, faults and all!  A slice of history with the Rt Rev & Rt Hon Dr. Rowan Williams, Martin Fraser, the new Irish Ambassador, other celebrities and musicians and presented by local poet and scheme organiser, Cahal Dallat. 

See other interviews with Cahal about the scheme at  — Send in a voice message:

Chiswick Book Festival Writers Party – Part Two!

Nick Hennegan was at the 14th Chiswick Book Festival, at the local author’s party, where the writers have 2 minutes against the clock to talk about their books – or get ‘horned’ off! Nick recorded it for his Resonance 104.4 FM weekly radio show – ‘Literary London’ This is Part Two of Three!