Fireside 2.1 ( Beware of the Leopard Blog Mon, 15 Apr 2019 00:00:00 +0100 Beware of the Leopard Blog en 42 Questions: a Blueprint for Establishing Empathy and Compassion Mon, 15 Apr 2019 00:00:00 +0100 3dd27b71-8716-4be5-8963-3d332ca6c2c8 Mind
  1. What % of the population thinks like you?
  2. Where do you place yourself in terms of intelligence?
    • Among the 1% most intelligent
    • Among the 25% most intelligent
    • Somewhere in the middle
    • Among the 25% least intelligent
    • Among the 1% least intelligent
  3. What is your favourite puzzle game?
  4. How would you want to be introduced to someone? [Meet X, they are/do…]
  5. What answer do you always, repeatedly have to Google?
  6. How do you approach correcting people?
    • Whenever I see a mistake
    • When they ask for feedback
    • I notice things but never voice them
    • I rarely notice mistakes


  1. How healthy do you feel? (Between 1-5)
  2. How good do you look? (Between 1-5)
  3. How important is another person’s health? (Between 1-5)
  4. Where do you place physical attraction in your list of criteria when meeting a potential romantic partner?
    • Most important
    • In the top 3
    • Ideal, but not important
    • Not important at all
  5. If magic existed or money were no object, what would you change about your body?
  6. Which sense is the most exciting?
    • Sight
    • Hearing
    • Touch
    • Taste
    • Smell


  1. How do you want to be remembered when you die?
  2. It is known or assumed your parents did a good job raising you. Where, if anywhere, did they go wrong?
  3. What art form moves you to tears, n the best way?
  4. What art form bores you to death?
  5. You must choose a job with a clearly demonstrable benefit to the public. You have been given the necessary training and you have the qualifications and the means to do this job anywhere in the world. What job do you do?
  6. What is another word for “passion”?
    • Sexual desire
    • Romantic love
    • Fierce commitment to a cause
    • Something that really sparks your interest


  1. How did we get here?
    • Something scientific I don’t understand
    • A combination of the Big Bang and evolution
    • God made the universe and kicked off evolution on earth
    • God made humans, and created “pre-history” to test us
  2. Where do we go when we die?
    • The next dimension
    • Back to level 1 in a new body
    • Into the ground to be worm food
    • Someone decides whether we go to the good place or the bad place
    • I don’t know
  3. What keeps most of us from doing really bad things?
    • Morals
    • Law
    • Fear
    • Effort
  4. How are we rewarded for doing good deeds?
    • By feeling better about ourselves
    • A god rewards or punishes us
    • Karma keeps the world in balance
    • We’re not; it’s chaos
    • We’re not; it’s our responsibility
  5. Who is with us in our journey through life?
    • A god of some sort
    • Our own consciences
    • No-one; we’re born and we die alone
  6. What is a sin?
    • Something that goes against a moral code
    • An offence against a religious law
    • There’s no such thing


  1. Given your current qualifications and education, what job would you like to be doing for the rest of your life?
  2. What opportunity did you regret not taking?
  3. What is more important?
    • A happy home life with someone I love
    • A job I’m good at and the respect of my coworkers
    • Money, power and influence
    • Health and safety, and that of those close to me
  4. Who will look after you in your final years?
    • My children or grandchildren
    • My partner
    • My closet family members
    • My friends
    • The state
  5. What will you leave your grandchildren?
    • My memories and the advice I gave
    • My money and estate
    • My debts
    • I don’t intend to have children
  6. What super power would you want?


  1. What keeps you awake at night?
  2. What is the final boss fight you’re gearing up for, or are anticipating in later life?
  3. What is humankind’s greatest sickness?
  4. What is the hardest difference to confront in another person?
    • Gender or sexuality
    • Race or ethnicity
    • Religion or spirituality
    • Appearance or body type
    • Disability
    • Age
  5. How do you deal with meeting different people?
    • Seek to understand
    • Live and let live, but hope they leave me alone
    • Explain why their way of life needs to be challenged
    • Fix or destroy them
  6. What worries or frightens you about yourself?


  1. What will kill the human race in the next 100 years?
    • Climate change
    • Violence
    • A scientific accident
    • A prophecy
    • Nothing; it’ll take longer
  2. What binds us together?
  3. What is pulling us apart?
  4. What are we collectively ignoring?
  5. Why does humanity group together?
    • To share or trade resources
    • For survival
    • For companionship
  6. On colonising a new planet, we can only pack the bare essentials (food, shelter, serviceable clothing). What’s the one item not on the essential list that we must take with us?
Do you know where your towel is? Fri, 25 May 2018 06:15:00 +0100 bba73641-8eb0-4723-b4f5-cda58de624c4 A couple of years ago, the Leopard's Jon B and Danny did some traveling of their own - not quite around the galaxy, but around the coast of the UK anway, trying to visit every seaside pier going. On Towel Day, here's a little excerpt from the book about the trip 'Pier Review', of a thing that really happened to them that is very apposite (Danny goes first)... A couple of years ago, the Leopard's Jon B and Danny did some traveling of their own - not quite around the galaxy, but around the coast of the UK anway, trying to visit every seaside pier going. On towel day, here's a little excerpt from the book about the trip 'Pier Review', of a thing that really happened to them that is very aposite (Danny goes first)...

Got to keep them clean enough to dry yourself

I see his face ashen. Jon hates answering the phone at the best of times but recently I have got the impression that time spent away from the real world, faced with the enormity of nature is more useful to him than just a holiday. He steps away and when he comes back he's running his hand through his hair:

“You know that bag?”

“The one that definitely wasn’t yours?” I ask.

“Yeah, that one - well it is.”

“Well we can’t go back for it,” I say stifling a smile. “What’s it got in it?”

“My towel, T-shirts, and my toilet stuff.”

To the left, underneath one of the sea barriers on the beach, a shrug of teenagers sit chatting and throwing stones at the sea, not laughing at Jon, but laughing.

This is the second towel I’ve bought since we set off. It, being new, will leave fluff stuck to me when I wash in the morning. For us slightly bookish, slightly alternative, kids of a slightly certain age the towel means Douglas Adams. And it means much more than that. Because if a traveler has a “towel with him, [another person] will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., […] any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

I’m not only Arthur Dent, but even more adrift. Except, I know where my towel is.

The Isle of Wight.

You can find out if they make it in Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside

40 years of the Guide : How we picked up Hitchhikers Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000 834dcdb1-5b47-4f1a-803e-53d95c61866c On the eighth of March 1978, with Take a Chance on On by ABBA sitting at the top of the charts, a few weeks after then opposition leader Margaret Thatcher said that many Britons feared being "swamped by people with a different culture", with the Yorkshire Ripper haunting the dreams across the country, some people needed some distraction. Some of those turned to BBC Radio 4 FM. And some of those would have tuned in rather late at night (half ten to be precise). They could have been watching (a recording of) Dave ‘Boy’ Green fight for the Commonwealth Welterweight Championship on Sportsnight on BBC One.

But they weren’t, they were listening to the first ever broadcast of the first ever fit of the first radio series of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And 40 years later, with a new series in the offing, we’ve decided to tell you how that didn’t include any of us.

A radio just like the one we weren't using.

Only Jon B was born, and at two he still hadn’t worked out how to turn over from the boxing. So that dark early spring night that was not how we first discovered Hitchhikers, but given that everyone else is at it, we’ve decided to tell you the stories of how we did enter its universe anyway.

Danny Smith: It’s late, mom’s out and ten year-old me is getting away with staying up with my dad by sitting very still and willing him with no little mental effort to forget he hasn't put me to bed yet. I remember lots of TV from those invisible nights laughing with my Dad, one of them being a show that had the most amazing, and most awful effects. The soothing yet bemused voice of The Guide, the English whining of DentArthurDent, and my favourite, Zaphod Beeblebrox, not just a funny name but a template for the person I aspired to be.

As a teenager I found the books and fell in love with the writing. Its logical rollercoasters, left-hook punchlines, and seeming vast wisdom about how things actually worked. Adams’ authorial voice was the same as the guide’s: bemused wisdom, scolding in places but essentially hopeful. Everybody in HGTTG is flawed in some way. But ultimately that is a message of hope. Our flaws are not individual traits, or even merely species wide, but they’re characterics of sentience itself. That we are we can choose to try and rise above these flaws or even indulge them utterly. We are insignificant enough to live as free as we dare, to fling ourselves to the ground and miss. And if we really try, we could even get a word or two in the book.

Mark Steadman: I was a drama kid, growing up. I was part of a youth theatre group that rehearsed in a methodist church in Birmingham. It’s where I met my first crush, where I understood the rush you get when you make an audience laugh, and it’s the source of some of my most embarrassing memories, never to be spoken aloud.

As well as making good friends, the group opened me up to two important discoveries, both of which first aired on BBC Radio 4 in the 70s. One was the self-styled antidote to panel games, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue (the prequel to which my drama friends introduced me to in later years); the other was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I couldn’t have been much older than 16, but I remember standing at the kitchen sink, doing the washing up, with the kitchen radio-cassette-player turned up and side A of the first of six tapes in the drive. (I don’t think we called them drives then. Drawer? Sleeve? It’s not important.)

I knew from the get-go that this show was a lot smarter than I was. It would be years until I’d get some of the references or be able to unwrap certain phrases to get at the funny nuggets inside. But somewhere in-between Prosser’s “you’ve got to build bypasses” and Peter Jones explaining how a character would end a scene 10 seconds hence, I knew I was going to enjoy myself. The dishes flew by. (This is a metaphor.)

Writing this, I’m thinking back on that feeling of listening to a show pitched a little above my head. I don’t feel like programmes are written like that anymore, certainly not for the radio (although I haven’t kept up with Radio 4 since, well, ever, really). Adams, writing as “the Book”, feel more like they were meant to be read, not listened to. His usage of subclauses feels much more literary than is right for a comedy show. And of course, there’s no laugh track. Chances are, since you’re reading this, you’ve heard at least a little of the radio show or seen a bit of the TV series, so that isn’t a surprising revelation, but it must have been strange to have heard that dryly delivered intro for the first time, being used to radio dramas or books-at-bedtime, where the jokes were few, far-between and stale.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I’m playing Crystal Caves - an ancient DOS game - and listening to the series for what is probably the third or fourth time. (Remember free time? Or weekends where you didn’t have any commitments, and could just fart around for 12 hours and pack in a couple of meals in-between?)

My brother, no intellectual slouch but not a big reader and certainly not a listener of radio shows (there’s a “to” missing somewhere there… I’ll find it later) was treated to an episode or two and I think it grabbed his attention a little… I remember both the allusions to Jesus and evolution being two things that made him quirk a sardonic eyebrow (him being at the age where laughing at anything would demonstrate an unforgivable lack of cool).

Skip forward seven years or so, and it’s the day after New Year’s Day. I have a CD-radio (a DAB one, no less) and I’m listening to the box set, including the newly-recorded “phases”. In the preceding years, I’d walked to work or to the shops and actually listened to them as they were being broadcast, but now I had the lot, and I was sat in my brother’s old bedroom (now mine), playing Half-Life 2 on the Xbox.

That memory is one of my most cherished, and I think it’s because it represents a shift from childhood to adulthood. I wouldn’t know it yet, but I was about to get my first proper job (as in, one where the company actually pays tax and I have to negotiate PAYE), leave home and buy a flat, look after my own pets, and iron things.

But right then at that moment, none of that was on the horizon. I had a little freelance business that I was going to try and build up, I’d just had a very pleasant Christmas and I was still on holiday, and all I had to do was finish this game and listen to Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, Trillian, Marvin, and the Book.

It’s now 12 years later, and I’m running a Hitchhiker’s podcast. Adams’ world never left my imagination, so when I started listening to the audiobooks the year previous - having enjoyed them in dead-tree form many moons ago - I hit upon the idea of disassembling his world, and putting it back together in alphabetical order. It feels like something a character might do to make sense of the world. I can see an Adams-created godlike figure, rearranging planets so their distance from the sun matches their position in the alphabet, reading havoc on their tides and making it impossible to know how much something weighed.

Beware of the Leopard is a celebration of a universe that’s nourished me for nigh-on two decades, and a way for me and my friends to make each-other laugh. We’re sometimes critical, but there’s a deep undercurrent of love for his work that you can feel in every episode, even when we’re skipping over the name of some obscure alien species because it was part of a rule-of-threes joke, but it has to have a mention because otherwise why do anything? (I’m said to have never let fun get in the way of the rules).

And while it’s a wonderful way to spend an hour a week with dear friends, I still want to be that man-boy, sitting on his office chair in his brother’s old room, playing Half-Life 2 listening to my favourite show, and knowing that this will always be how it is.

Jon Bounds: I came to Hitchhikers first via the book and although I do like all of the other incarnations, the novels are the best for me. I do now ‘see’ Simon Jones when I’m re-re-re-reading though, based on watching repeats of the TV show around games in the 1986 World Cup on a black and white portable.

A lot of people aren’t impressed with the fifth book in the trilogy, but Mostly Harmless is a fantastically philosophical work about perception and our realities. It also features Elvis and his pink spaceship, and some great jokes about in-flight entertainment. It’s probably the most fully-realised part of the whole universe and my favourite.

I haven’t left the universe entirely ever, being 42 is a constant reminder, as is the reading we had at our wedding: a bit from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish where love opens Arthur’s eyes to a new feeling, that of not being self-conscious.

But our podcast has not only reminded me of how great HHGTTG is, but how relevant it’s obsessions are to 2018: tech’s impact on our lives and our place in the world. Oh, and bureaucracy, there’s always that.

Jon Hickman: You’d need a brain the size of a planet to calculate the improbability of me finding my way to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I missed Hitchhikers when it was in any way “current”: the radio shows and the novels were already full flow before I was born and I was still in nappies when the TV show was broadcast.

I found the TV series first because a friend’s dad or big brother had shown the presence of mind to tape it (on what must have been a repeat broadcast as it was the mid-80s). I then found the books one by one, and in the wrong order, on trestle tables at car boot or jumble sales. At some point on that timeline I also played the text adventure on a friend’s computer and found its slight diversions from whatever I had decided was canon to be a source of frustration (I guess a seed of fan entitlement had already begun to germinate in my brain by this point). It was all around me, like eddies in the space-time continuum, disturbances in the wash. And piece by piece it settled on me.

All along the line the journey was thanks to the gifts of others—friends who taped shows, strangers who got rid of books—and now the wonderful gift of my friends letting me dive back in to the galaxy with them, jumping on the unexpected Chesterfield of our podcast and riding it all the way to Lords Cricket Ground.

We genuinely are interested in your 'first Hitchhiker's' too. Comment here, or hit us up on Twitter (@BTLpodcast) or email

An essay about a liquid almost, but not quite, entirely like the best cup of tea ever Wed, 20 Dec 2017 13:00:00 +0000 5f051384-d475-4e7e-9a09-9ee85d96fecd Arthur Dent spends a good proportion of his early space exploration looking for a good cup of tea. It was a thing that Douglas Adams felt quite strongly about - going as far as to writea set of instructions for H2G2, in some part to explain to Americans why the English cared so much about it. Apparently the real reason Americans can’t make tea is that they don’t have kettles, and they don’t have them because on their 120V electrical system they would take a day to boil. But it’s nice to let them know how to do it anyway, seeing as we’re making such efforts to learn the whole coffee thing.

George Orwell had written a tea guide too, years before - and they divulge a lot. So who out of possible the best two English authors ever made the best cup of tea? Orwell or Adams? Jon Bounds tries to find out.

The Covered Market in Oxford is simultaneously cheap shoe shop gaudy, and hipsterific. I'm swathed in a gamey fug of meat smells that are contained by the low ceiling. Each turn around a corner brings me a fresh sight of hanging flesh, that is, if I'm lucky enough not to to be blinded by a swinging rabbit carcass. If it weren’t for the prices, and the bubbling pockets of tourists, you could be stepping into almost any England of the last hundred years.

Cardews’s tea merchants opened in 1948 and moved into the market just under 20 years later, and the layout can hardly have changed: tins of tea and jars of coffee beans sit on the dark wood shelves, the shelves sit behind a counter and scales sit on it. I’m here to buy tea, and I have very little idea what I’m doing.

Luckily, on the wall near my head as I queue, there is a tariff which gives prices for different weights of tea. I pick the lowest unembarrassing order and, after embarrassing myself anyway by having to ask for an explanation of the different grades of tea leaf (finer grades make stronger tea, the young assistant told me) tuck two white bags folded and taped into my bag.

Buying a packet of tea, across a counter, in a market feels properly English somehow. Or that may just be the uncomfortable feeling from having to have any encounter where you aren’t totally sure of your exact rank in society. I’m here because I’m doing what George Orwell told me to do. Orwell, in his 1946 essay A Nice Cup of Tea, is very firm on using leaves and is very firm that these leaves must be free to be shaken around the pot (an earthenware pot, firm of course) - and he’s equally clear on the provenance, “anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea” he says. So that’s what I got, along with a bag containing his second choice - Ceylonese leaves. Which in the tea world didn’t change to being Sri Lankan in 1972.

Tea in Britain has been a tale of empire and class, ever since the seventeenth century when Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, popularised it, and the East India Company began to import tea into Britain. Doctor Johnson loved the stuff, and was reported to drink up to 16 cups in a session, but his contemporary Jonas Hanway published an essay that called on tea drinking to be “considered as pernicious to health, obstructing industry and impoverishing the nation”.

So, while it might surprise us that Orwell thought it necessary to give us his “eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden”, he was following both a grand literary tradition and also a British tradition of thinking it necessary to codify and control such a simple action. In 1941 the Empire Tea Bureau paid for a short film called Tea Making Tips in which one stilted and prim lady of indeterminate age tells another, “There’s no great secret to making good tea, but some people get careless.” It has six golden rules and finishes by throwing to a comedy working class lady, “And what do you say, mum?” That film is aimed at those who needed to keep the wartime effort stoked with hot wet refreshment on an industrial scale, George and I are after something more homely. But do I follow the Orwell method, or should I take a more modern approach and take the advice of Hitchhiker’s Guide genius Douglas Adams who set out a similar, but crucially different, set of rules in the 1990s?

Where Orwell is traditional and talks about loose leaves and country of origin, Adams is much more rooted in his time: or the 1950s at least when tea bags were first released in the UK by Tetley. “Go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea,” is his predictably quotidian upper middle class solution. I got mine from a Tesco in the end, as the only M&S near me is attached to a petrol station in Didcot, but most people who say they shop at Marks or Waitrose really sneak to a Lidl when you’re not looking.

Suitably armed, I repaired to my kitchen, which was to become my laboratory. And I was to stay there until the end of the experiment: there and in the lounge drinking cup after cup, and also popping to the toilet (yes, it turns out that the 17th cup of tea is a diuretic). As well as the rigors of science and all forms of confirmation bias I was battling one great problem: that the 17th cup of tea never tastes as good as the first.

The first was made to Orwell’s recipe: pot warmed on the hob, six teaspoons of Indian tea directly into the pot, pot taken to kettle and water at boiling point poured in, a shake and you’re ready to pour. It’s strong, chewy, you can feel it coating your teeth as you drink. The earthy leaves that I spooned into the pot leave an infusion that is tangy and fortified without being stewed.

Adam’s Earl Grey (three bags, boiling water as quickly as you can into the pre-warmed pot, stand for two or three minutes, and then pour it into a cup) fills the mouth with a taste of lemons. I don’t really like it. In any real sense the experiment can declare a winner.

The pot is a crucial stage in both of these methods: the mixing of the brew in a separate place to the cup (and as there was no other advice here I chose Orwell’s “cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type” for all tests) does seem to make a difference. The Indian tea is nicer to my thoughts than the Ceylon, it seems to produce fewer leaves in the mouth (George is against tea strainers). With milk is preferable to without.

Leaves versus bags, and blends can all be a matter of time and taste but we do find one fundamental difference: Douglas says milk in first, George has a very good reason why it should be last. “My own argument is unanswerable […] by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk”.

Both are aware of the societal pressure to put milk in last, Adams notes that “social correctness has traditionally had nothing whatever to do with reason, logic or physics,” and, as he would probably have considered himself an iconoclast, it’s no surprise that he wants to go against the old order.

In one of the later series of 50s-set British sitcom Hi-de-Hi!, the well to do parents of Squadron Leader Clive Dempster referred to his sometime intended bride Gladys as “a milk in first”, meaning that she wasn’t of sufficient breeding to marry into the family. I’d never heard the phrase and didn’t have a clue what it meant, I don’t think at the age of ten I’d given any thought to tea production and class. I’ve made up for that now.

It seems that the question is the ultimate ‘U’ and non-U’ signifier, and one that doesn’t need language to define it. Alan S. C. Ross, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Birmingham coined the terms U and non-U in a 1954 article, on the differences that social class makes in English language usage. "U" standing for "upper class", and "non-U" representing the aspiring middle classes: as a working class lad I wasn’t at the forefront of this battleground, but living in Oxford one can see these interplays everywhere. Should I become a ‘milk in last’?

Nancy Mitford (one of the nice Mitfords) took up the usage in an essay, The English Aristocracy, and in a letter to Evelyn Waugh mentions a mutual friend who uses the expression 'rather milk in first' to express condemnation of those lower down the social scale. Mitford it seems rather meant the whole thing as a joke, but others including the family of Squadron Leader Clive Dempster obviously did not.

If I were to find an answer, the Dorchester hotel seemed to be the place to get it. One can book a champagne afternoon tea for two on the balcony for a little over one hundred pounds, so I did.

We sat on an interior balcony, overlooking the reception where wealthy Russians flow as they check in and out. A little unsure of what to do, we were shown the menu of ‘specially selected grand and rare teas served in our vintage Minton china set’ — I chose an Assam tea after Orwell, while my partner plumped for the blend that Samuel Johnson was a 16-cup fan of. Our waiter was every bit his part in the empire charade: prim, neat, knowledgeable, and a foreign national lead to kowtow to traditions of Englishness due to the still-existing economic hegemony.

At the Dorchester, they put the milk in last. But maybe, like a stopped clock, the U were right on this one. I needed more help, and luckily I found some: back in Oxfordshire. Ross Meredith is a physicist who has studied the science of tea making, he told me:

“As the milk makes contact with the hot fluid, isolated pockets of milk would reach a local equilibrium temperature above scalding point — the milk proteins will become denatured — before being cooled to the net temperature in the cup. This leads to a cup with a noticeably heavier taste.


"This effect can be avoided by pouring the milk in first, as rather than causing parts of the milk to reach the final temperature of the mix 'from above', the milk is warmed to the final temperature from below, as the hot tea is gradually added.”

Brilliant, an answer.

“But whether that affects the taste is up to the individual.”


Ross, perhaps sensing my disappointment, alerts me to ISO Standard 3103: Tea — Preparation of liquor for use in sensory tests. Last reviewed in 2013, this sets out the internationally recognised method for making a cuppa. He tells me, “It's intended to standardise the material 'tea' for scientific/nutritional research rather than, say, for cafés to be judged but you can be sure that any future café I run conforms to it.”

And it says: “If the test involves milk, then it is added before pouring the infused tea”. It feels wonderful to be right, even if I’m never going to be considered socially correct.

Tea, as the Empire Tea Board would tell you, is ‘the cup that cheers,” Orwell said we should: “feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it”, Douglas Adams thought it worth educating Americans that the British were not “generally clueless about hot stimulants.” It’s wonderful.

Fancy a brew? Orwell-style, with the addition of a tea strainer? Of course you do.

Darth Vader knew my father - is Hitchhikers part of the Star Wars universe? Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:00:00 +0000 230c7ce3-59df-43fd-b40f-4db868893b8a Jon Bounds tries to find out if Arthur, Ford and the gang have a chance of popping up in the new Star Wars joint. Crossovers are the meet and drink of the sci-fi fan, they love them. I’m not big on science fiction but I used to get excited when a character from the Dandy appeared in the Beano, and wished that when Ricky left Eastenders for Manchester he would find himself work at Kevin Webster’s garage at the end of Coronation Street. As in Men in Black, everyone loves it when we ‘cross the streams’.

So, we mused in Episode 11 of Beware of the Leopard, was there a connection between the universes of Hitchhikers and, for example current flavour of the month Star Wars? I thought I’d read something about it, and it would be good ‘content’, so I decided to take a look.

The Frood route

When I did a scan of The Frood (a biography of Douglas by Jem Roberts) I found this bit: In the TV version, Darth Vader can be seen enjoying a meal at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

This is of course one of the few places where time travel in HHGTTG is deliberate, so — no matter how the eons line up — if a rich and powerful arsehole in the Star Wars galaxy fancied a night out, this is pretty much where you would expect him to turn up.

It’s very dark, but he’s in there somewhere I thought, that’s what the book says. Not THE book, but the book I’ve just read..

But, I’d read it wrong. Of course, Darth Vader isn’t in there my co-hosts said, but the chap that played Darth Vader’s height, David Prowse, is.

They let him keep the voice here too.

The Blue Peter connection

Then I thought that we could get there through our universe, or at least a very similar parallel one where TV’s Marvin released a single in the UK and performed it on Blue Peter.

Star Wars also featured on the kids show, but they were actors rather than the ‘real’ people.

Dr Who to Transformers, via Lovejoy

So, let’s try another tactic. We know that the Hitchhikers characters are in the same universe as Dr Who — the Fourth Doctor (you know, the one with the scarf, the robot dog and the afro) is seen reading a book by Oolon Colluphid (as his assistant Romana, included as it’s a clearer shot of the cover). It must have been a big seller.

See, look:

Not only that, but we know that at least one incarnation of the Doctor has met Arthur Dent, and there are lots of other relationships (which of course obsessive fans have documented).

At this point, we can make a leap by standing on the shoulders of giants. The sort of giants that take time to prove that ‘80s UK TV antiques rogue Lovejoy exists in the Marvel universe. Oh yes they do.

They reveal that In a Doctor Who Marvel comic, in which the Seventh Doctor meets a character called Death’s Head, spiky chap.

Death’s Head is apparently originally a baddie from Marvel comics set in the world where Transformers are real. (As an aside, this means we can trace HHGTTG characters as linking to not only Marvel comics like the Hulk, but also sideways and backwards to the Antiques Roadshow.)

And of course there are Star Wars Transformers. Why wouldn’t there be. Here’s one:

No idea what’s going on with the little robot feller, maybe he’s a baby. He’s a little short for a stormtrooper.

I’m informed at this point that the connection between Star Wars and Transformers is not, or is no longer, official. Has my theory been killed early like one of the red suit guys that been down from the millennium falcon? Are these not the droids we are looking for? (Sorry, sci-fi types, I know the Droids, dinosaur robot things, aren’t real. Or are they?)

Apparently with Star Wars “everything that isn’t a saga film (from 1-7 and soon 8) or an anthology film (the one with the girl from Birmingham and the one that’s coming out next year with the girl from Fleabag) or a current run (from 2015) Marvel comic or The Clone Wars cartoon series or Star Wars Rebels has been officially retconned away and is non-canon.” Or so says Jon H. So are Transformers non-canon?

This one might not be a canon, but it’s a big enough gun. We win!

There you go — it’s possible that Hitchhikers characters could exist in the Star Wars universe. Although it’s a long way away, and even a much longer time ago than the late 1970s.

It was a complex route though, and I’m not happy with the Transformers connection, even if it does mean that Luke Skywalker could turn up to a with an old light-saver to a stately home on a Sunday afternoon to find out how much it is worth (he’d never sell it of course, so just for insurance purposes).

Fett accompli

But apparently that’s not what ‘canon’ means. It’s confusing. Frank Cannon I understand, but this lot not so much.

We need help. Comics help. Danny Smith help. I sent him a WhatsApp and he said “give me a minute”. I did. It took him about five, but then he sent…

[13:40, 10/27/2017] Danny Smith: This is a page from Fett club that ran in a Star wars compendium comic by Dark Horse.

[13:41, 10/27/2017] Danny Smith: If you zoom in on the background panel right at the top by the door what can you see?


Spoiler alert, it’s a Dalek.

[13:43, 10/27/2017] Danny Smith: It has a page on wookieepedia and I think is canonical.

So, as long as you don’t need to go upstairs, I think we’re good. From a galaxy far far away, to this one (with fewer earths) via a robot on wheels thing from '70s telly.

There is some talk that the TV, film, radio, book, comic, computer game and towel versions of Hitchhikers exist in similar but parallel universes themselves — which is one hell of a way to explain plot inconsistencies — but I think we can say that for one of these at least. Hitchhikers and Star Wars are all one way of looking at the whole sort of general mish-mash.

Now for this…

Something almost exactly like tea Thu, 16 Nov 2017 04:00:00 +0000 ed27f233-9e97-48b2-8537-54af55e9e0b2 Given the infinite expanse of the universe, where everything that can exist does exist, it was not perhaps inevitable but certainly possible that an Englishman who wanted to would eventually find a planet where there was a ready supply of something almost exactly like tea.

Arthur sat down in the cafe, he removed his cup from his bag. He’d picked it up on Duteronemous-Alpha, it wasn’t bone china - but he liked it. The picture on the side reminded him of the hills outside his house on earth, even though it was no-doubt really something else, some being from a planet he hadn’t heard of.

“Can I have what he’s having?” said Arthur to the waiter, who was humanoid, but slightly too blue for complete comfort.

“A ginnan tonix? Of course sir” said the waiter.

“And may I have it in this?” Arthur handed the cup over. The waiter smiled, but it Arthur didn’t know if it was a genuine smile or an eye-rolling smile of courtesy like once got for complaining that his pamplemousse was just a grapefruit. It could of course been just another expression that the Babel fish, great as it was at language, couldn’t help with. It didn’t really matter to Dent, he felt out of place everywhere.

To Arthur it tasted good, he felt the heat hit the back of the throat, he let the slight grittiness roll on his tongue, he wasn’t sure that it was refreshing but it was better than he’d had in years. The waiter hovered expectantly, so Arthur told him that it was just what he’d been looking for.

“I’m glad sir,” said the waiter, “It’s not often we get an alien willing to try our planet’s speciality.”

Halfway through a new gulp, Arthur paused. He held the liquid in his mouth. Hamster-like he smiled and nodded. His eyes didn’t.

“Exquisite though it is, the urine of our megabrew-o-cows is an acquired taste.”

Arthur held on, unsure of whether having swallowed the liquid would be worse than continuing to taste it longer than necessary.

“Especially warm and fresh like that.”