Black Friday – a poem

For some, Black Friday is a shopping idyll
Where you can buy everything that you ‘need’
When the whole world turns into a Lidl
And we follow like dogs on a lead

Every advert tells us: “slashed prices”
Every promise: “save 80 percent”
You can go get an asbo in ASDA
Queues form early – you may need a tent

You can fight over TVs in Tesco
Maraud for mascara in Boots
Or if you’re a bit more upmarket
Go to Harrods and fight over suits

You can head out to Next as the dawn breaks
Shout at strangers “that tank top is MINE!”
Park your car like it’s just been abandoned
Say a prayer that you don’t get a fine

Or give all your money to Amazon
And have the stuff sent your house
You can shed your entire month’s salary
With one little click of a mouse

These bargains won’t be there tomorrow
These deals, they will not exist
These items, they won’t buy themselves you know
But this shopping tale comes with a twist

You know when Black Friday is over
When your cupboards are bulging with stuff
When you think “yep, that’s Christmas sorted
I’m certain that I’ve bought enough”

There’ll be an email in your inbox
A pop-up that will make you wail
And an ad on the TV announcing
“Good news people – we’re having a sale!


Like this? Why not book me to perform. Or you can order a hard copy of my poetry book ‘I Need a Wife’ by emailing me at toni@tonikent.co.uk . Or, if you want to get digital, download a copy from Amazon.

Check out my next performances here.

How to work from home when you’ve got a new puppy and a dog

What do you do when your dog gets a little bit easier to manage? You get a puppy – that’s what you do! And so it was that our family recently welcomed young Luna to join our 2 1/2 year-old Vinnie – completing our family (hopefully) for once and for all.

Having written previously about what having a dog does to your life, I thought now was a good time to update you if you’re wondering whether to add a puppy to your brood.

1. Wake up. A lot.

You know ‘Rock Around the Clock‘ – where Bill Hayley sings “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock”. Having a new puppy is a bit like that, except those are the times you’ll be waking up as your puppy decides:

  • One o’clock: She doesn’t want to be in a crate
  • Two o’clock: She needs a wee
  • Three o’clock: She needs a wee
  • Four o’clock: She wants a cuddle

And let’s not forget the times in between when your dog gets annoyed with the puppy cuddling up next to him. Or hears a noise. Or thinks that there may be a cat within 15 miles of your home.

2. Feed the dogs

While you have trained your dog to sit patiently and wait for his food, your puppy still needs to learn. Until she does, she will shriek like a banshee and pogo like a punk. You will regret the open-plan extension you built and wish for the cosy sound-absorbing kitchen you used to have.

3. Go for a walk

Now with one dog that is fully mature (although robbed of his knackers – poor boy!), and one puppy that cannot go on long walks, you have the following dilemma. Do you…..?

A. Walk the dog, crate the puppy, then walk the puppy later.

B. Walk the dog and the puppy together, but put the puppy in a rucksack on your front once she’s had her requisite mini-walk.

I went for Option B, because I thought it would be fun. And she would look cute. It was, and she did, but my puppy weighed close to 7 kilos. That’s is a lot of kgs to carry on your front. Especially when your dog likes a good three-mile stroll to start his day.

4. Hop on a conference call

All I can say is thank christ I am freelance. And that working from home is the norm for most of my clients. And that most of them have dogs. One call involved four attendees with five dogs between them. The person who didn’t have a dog was under pressure from his wife to get one. I’m unsure whether the assorted yipping, whining and barking from everyone’s hounds convinced him.

WHAT I WILL SAY IS……despite all the distraction – including my colleague’s dog barking because she heard me say “postman” (!) – we managed to hold it together enough to conduct a detailed discussion on virtual desktops. Perhaps having that level of distraction sharpens your game. More likely we’re all so bloody desperate for non-canine contact that the call was like a lifeline to the outside world and we devoured those technology words like a meal at Le Manoir.

5. Try to write something

A call is one thing, getting into “flow” is quite another. If you don’t have a puppy, you can have an immersive, ‘virtual puppy’ experience by doing this:

  1. Stab yourself in the hand, ankle or thigh every five seconds with a fork to emulate a puppy’s teeny tiny teeth.
  2. Go and stand in your garden every ten minutes to experience the joy of ‘encouraging’ your puppy to have a wee or poo. This can be made even more realistic by squealing, “Wee-wee – good girl!”
  3. To mimic a dog clambering onto your laptop while you’re trying to work, press the palm of your hand firmly onto your keyboard. Then swipe your hand across like Little Richard giving it the full Tutti Frutti. For an enhanced effect, lick your thumb and wipe it across the screen.
  4. Make a cup of coffee. Slosh it liberally across the table.
  5. Depending on the breed of virtual puppy you have in mind, trim an appropriate amount of hair from your head and sprinkle it on your clothes / in your keyboard.
  6. Steam clean your floor.
  7. And again – your virtual puppy has just wee’d in the hallway.
  8. Give up on the idea of writing then notice your puppy is sleeping. Write like a demon.

6. And finally…

Book a meeting for the following day. Announce to your partner the moment they get through the door that tomorrow it’s their turn 🙂


Want more puppy dog tales? Try these:

What to expect when your dog has been neutered

Doggy style

Or you can buy the books.


Want to hear some of my material? Book me for stand up or come along to one of my performances.

Why Our Girls Need a Break from Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes we need to give our kids a break from inspirational quotes and just let them have a laugh. My 13 y/o daughter in particular is bombarded with ‘you can be/do anything’ messages:

Are you on your period? Why not ride a bike in tiny shorts! (Here’s an old favourite featuring a soundtrack by Dr Alban. He’s not a proper doctor).

Are you a girl? Declare yourself a goddess! And a scientist. And a philanthropist. And a footballer. All while demonstrating heightened levels of wokeness and self-care and an ability to raise up your fellow goddesses.

I will admit to being complicit in this. I keep an especially watchful eye out for my daughter and ensure she has a ready supply of kick-ass role models whether it’s in print or repeatedly pointing out to her that there are women we know who are scientists and sensei’s and generally all-round awesome human beings.

The worry I have is that by constantly pointing out to our girls “they can be/do anything” and that they must accept themselves fully, we’re building in a sense that the world at large doesn’t accept them in the first place. And then there’s the question of being even-handed with our boys… My son doesn’t have a book of inspirational ‘man quotes’.

As a family, we point out inequality, call people out when they make generalised statements and demonstrate to our children how fortunate they are to have the number of opportunities they enjoy. They understand the lottery of where you are born and under what circumstances you come into the world. But it can get a bit well, you know, earnest. And it leads me to believe that sometimes we need to take a break from all the #inspo and let our kids have a bloody good laugh.

This need was beautifully illustrated today when my daughter presented me with her art homework.

The brief: Use words that are meaningful to you to create a typography portrait of yourself.

Her response: “Hello all” – the catchphrase of the marvellous, misguided, bewilderingly off-kilter Jim in Friday Night Dinner 😀

Picture of Hello All homework

I regularly perform stand up about family life (much to my children’s horror). Want to book me? Get in touch at toni@tonikent.co.uk.


Update! Having tweeted my daughter’s work, the creator of Friday Night Dinner, Robert Popper, retweeted it to his 50k+ followers. In doing so, he absolutely made my daughter’s day. Something that wouldn’t have been achieved had she used an inspirational quote for her homework 😉

What does a compere do?

Comperes just rock up and introduce people right? Wrong!

A big part of making sure everyone gets value out of an event (and a sign that you’ve got a great compere) is to interview people beforehand.

Today I had the pleasure of quizzing Health & Hart Founder and nutritionist, Joanne Hart, and CEO & Founder of the Cooking Academy and food scientist Kumud Gandhi, on their top wellness tips. This included:

  • The best first step if you want to make a change
  • Nutritional no-no’s
  • Wellness on a budget

I also happen to know now the most important five spices you should have in your kitchen. Happily, they are all ones I know how to use, rather than the myriad of exotic ones my husband has bought – Sumac anyone?

And why was I speaking to these two incredible people? They’re going to be panellists at the next Smart Works Reading Smart Talks: Wellness event. You can get a flavour of what these events are like from the picture at the top of this post – they’re focused whilst also being frank and funny.

From what I know about the Smart Talks: Wellness event so far, it’s going to be awesome. Want to come along? Buy a ticket!


Want a compere who knows what she’s doing, is a safe pair of hands and can bring great energy to your event? Get in touch with me at toni@tonikent.co.uk

Chortle!

I have been trying for some time to figure out where I might be able to pitch content that talked about my experiences as a stand up performer. I can’t believe it took me so long to consider Chortle. Having thought that they only focused on reviews, I had that preconception completely challenged when they published a report about the care home performance.

So I put fingers to keyboard and dropped the news desk at Chortle a line and ta-da! Last week they agreed to run my piece about performing at Sue Ryder. It feels like a fitting tribute to Bel and Paula.

Read the full article

Snip of the Chortle news article

Stand Up for Sue Ryder

It was my absolute privilege to perform stand up at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent day hospice in Newbury yesterday.

The decision to do so was inspired by the care that the hospice services in Berkshire showed my brother-in-law’s wife, Paula (pictured left with her daughter, Alice), and my beautiful friend, Bel (pictured right with one of her trademark mischief-making faces), throughout their illnesses.

Witnessing first hand how the Sue Ryder team focus on making you feel like a person, not a patient, is a testament to how important these services are. We joked about living in the bubble that is rural West Berkshire, the challenge of disguising the contents of your recycling ‘bin of shame‘ and the terror of men in extremely tight Lycra.

If you like the idea of stand up as part of diversion therapy, please consider sharing this post or, even better, make a donation to the Sue Ryder team. I’d like to thank Alison, Lucy, Rachel, Chrissie and the rest of the team for the incredible service they provide, and for trusting me with their audience 🙂

Thanks Alison & Lucy!

Comedy and Palliative Care

“What we’re going to do”, said Bel, “is put the FUN in fundraising!” Corny, yet memorable words from a friend who coupled living with an incurable form of cancer with raising money for the charities that were caring for her. It is something I have never forgotten and her legacy lives on not just in the smile of her son and her husband’s stories, but also in the way her attitude to life impacted everyone who met her.

She prompted people not to shy away from what is most painful and to face difficult circumstances head on. She encouraged me to make the leap from corporate life (and to sing a Rod Stewart number in public, but that’s another story). She also made me think differently about fundraising; as I have no business going near a mountain or a triathlon, I instead put on comedy & curry nights and an indie disco which led to fantastic results without the need for Lycra or medical attention.

And so, it is in that spirit that I am going to perform a stand-up & poetry set for staff and patients at the Sue Ryder Day Hospice in Newbury’s Rosemary Unit on October 15th. Part of the Duchess of Kent Hospice family, it offers people living with cancer the opportunity to remain in their home for longer by providing specialist services on an outpatient basis. This extends to a wide variety of complementary therapies, as well as emotional and practical support. If you live in or around the #Newbury, #Reading or #Wokingham area, chances are someone you know has benefitted from the services of the Sue Ryder team.

But where’s the fundraising in all this? Well, that’s where you can help. Typically, the cost of a ticket to a comedy show is in the region of £15 (I’m talking Jongleurs here, not Jimmy Carr 😉) so if you support the idea of taking a comedy performance to a place of palliative care, why not make a donation of around that size to the fantastic Sue Ryder team. Like Bel said, let’s put a little ‘fun’ into fundraising – simply head to https://www.sueryder.org/donate, decide how much you want to donate and select ‘Duchess of Kent Hospice’.

Donation page for Duchess of Kent

A one minute story

What story would you tell if you only had one minute? This was the challenge last week when I participated in the regional heats for BBC Radio’s New Voices. The temptation was to go for something funny but this time I went with my heart, telling the story of my beautiful friend and a memorable walk to school.

A one minute story about a walk to school

If you’d like to hear the longer version – here’s the original:

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the judging panel said ‘yes’! Round two beckons but so far, no-one knows what it will entail….

The Case for Exercising Outside

On moving to the Newbury countryside fourteen years ago, and being a staunch advocate of punishing classes at large gyms, I wondered how I was going to stay fit now that I lived miles from a David Lloyd facility.

For the first six months, I thought the smart thing to do would be to leave the house at 6am to get to a 7am class.  This meant missing breakfast with my husband (and the opportunity to use a decent hairdryer) in favour of an instructor shouting at me to, “Hit the boxing pads harder, you wuss!”.

Eventually I came to realise that this was quite frankly a mad way to keep fit.  The tipping point was when I managed to forget my work clothes and had to drive into Reading to buy replacements – by 8.45am I was pressed up against the doors of M&S like a shopper waiting for the Harrods sale.  Despite smiling nicely at the shop assistant as I tried to explain what had happened, she became very pre-occupied with getting as far away from me as possible.  Understandable given the circumstances.

After the expense of that workout, I cancelled the membership and looked for an alternative way to keep fit.  My husband and I often rode our bikes along the Ridgeway at weekends and it struck me that, with a bit of diary reorganisation, I could swap the gym for the countryside. Since then, I’ve found outdoor exercise comes with some unexpected benefits: 

  • There is never anyone else’s sweat on your seat.
  • You might smell manure but you won’t smell someone else’s B.O.
  • People say, “Hello”, not, “How much longer are you going to be on that bike?”
  • You never have to exercise in front of a screen showing music videos of rappers in gigantic t-shirts surrounded by greased up women in bikinis shaking their ‘jelly’.
  • You don’t have to listen to people roaring / huffing / dropping their guts through the effort of lifting weights the size of a family car.
  • Your kids can get involved (even if they don’t want to 😉 ).
  • It’s free and always open.

Exercising outdoors has become part of my life. Something I can simply step out the door and do. Thanks to the addition of a dog, it’s also something I can’t get out of… Alongside improving my physical health, my mental health gets a huge boost from watching the seasons change and connecting with nature (and when the nettles are high, we really do connect – ouch!).

There is the challenge of being out in all weathers but I have found that even if I come back boiling hot, soaking wet or stinging with cold, there has always been something to lift my spirits. There is definitely a case to be made for exercising outside.


I was inspired to re-visit this post (you can find the original here) by Sport in Mind, an organisation that uses sport and exercise to help aid the recovery of people experiencing mental health problems. To find out what sessions are available near you, check out their activity map.

What your recycling bin is actually called

One of the things I get great pleasure out of when performing is to ask the audience how their recycling gets done. You may not be surprised to know that in Henley, the recycling bins have lids so that you can discretely hide your alcohol intake or cover up the fact that you have not washed your coleslaw packets. Some areas let you chuck it all in one big wheelie, others make you meticulously sort things into a whole variety of boxes and bags.

The West Berkshire Way

In West Berkshire (where I live) there is the following system:

  • A plastic box for glass
  • A plastic box for paper / cardboard
  • A bag to put your plastic and cans in (but only certain plastic, and if it’s not the right plastic, someone may post on the village Facebook page that they “couldn’t help but notice…..” which could be viewed as petty but makes a change from the usual tirades about dog poo)
  • A green bin with the sole purpose of making people apoplectic with rage that they have to pay to put their garden waste in it.

A Judging Opportunity

Collection dates and time vary too – with some areas enjoying a weekly pick up of their waste and others having to wait for a fortnight. In my village, the collection is fortnightly and crucially it takes place after the school run. Which provides an excellent opportunity for the nosey among us to have a good old look. I’d love to pretend I’ve never done this, but that would be a lie. And it is reciprocated too – one friend asked me if I’d started drinking wine ‘from a box’ because she didn’t see enough empties in my bin.

At Christmas, it almost becomes a competition. People seek out additional receptacles to showcase their wild abandon and some even go in for a “Look what I got from Santa” – placing enormous boxes next to the bins telling everyone that they got a 55inch TV, a bread maker or an abdominal cruncher – and signalling to burglars that their house is ripe for the picking.

What to do…

Some people don’t like the whole ‘putting your empties on display’ culture of roadside recycling and prefer to take their empties to a bottle bank. Some people drink their Fosters in the morning and deposit the cans in an alleyway next to the local shop. Some people put bottles on the bottom and jars on the top. Me? Well I put a picture on LinkedIn of mine for all the world to see – and I wrote a poem about it too. You can read it below and watch me perform it for the wonderful ladies of Charlton WI in Wantage.