Category Archives: Cake Trolley

Grand Diy SOS

If only life was Grand DIY SOS Designs?

I watched that programme on TV the other night where a team of building professionals rally round, giving their time for free, to help make a families home suitable for their profoundly disabled child’s needs. You know the one, there is always a tear jerking back story full of incredible heartbreak that they have overcome and it’s a real emotional rollercoaster as they battle against the clock to get all the work done.

I wiped away the tears as I heard how after watching their twins battle life and death and spending over 18 months in and out of hospital, the family finally settled back into normal life only for the company the dad was working for to go bust owing him a small fortune and how grandma moved closer to help them bring up their kids, only for her to die suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep. Through all this heartache, they stripped down their house that was totally unsuitable for their disabled son’s needs ready for the builders to move in but start dates came and went in the wind. They were trapped by circumstances to struggle along until Nick Knowles and his team came along to save the day.

When I say I watched it, what I meant was I have lived it. All apart from the bit where the house was adapted to suit their needs, because as any carer can tell you, for most families bringing up disabled children, life is simply not like DIY SOS.

We live with our three children in the middle of the idyllic village of Bromley Cross. When there isn’t a pandemic, it is ideally suited for the shops, the station, great local schools and The Nook and Cranny and has just been voted in the top 10 places to bring up a family in the UK

However, our home being over 4 floors, from a cellar to the attic, it is far from an ideal place to bring up a young boy with Cerebral Palsy*. 

Moving house is a fantasy as we would ideally need a 4 bedroom bungalow but any house like that that comes to market around here, is quickly snapped up by cash buyers to be bulldozed and replaced with several smaller boutique residences.

The government offers some help to adapt homes like ours in the form of a Disable Facilities Grant. We applied for a DFG and were accepted however as our front door is 1.1M off the ground, we discovered that by the time we install a lift to get Thomas and his wheelchair into our house, the grant would be all but spent and yet our lives inside these 4 walls would not be improved one bit.

Thomas cannot walk and he cannot self toilet. He has complex changing needs and is beginning to get very heavy. As he will only continue to grow, we had a radical idea to spend the DFG more wisely by reconfiguring the cellar to be the heart of the home alongside Thomas’s hygiene suite and bedroom. Luckily our front garden is just long enough to build the required ramped access for his wheelchair, negating the need for a lift.

Ultimately it could even become a self contained flat for Thomas once our other children have flown the nest and we move back upstairs. We have to consider that we may be looking after him for the rest of our lives but are hopeful he will reach a degree of independence.

After much playing around on Google Sketchup and cutting up of graph paper, we decided to employ an architect.The first architect was initially enthused by our ideas to gain ramped access into the cellar but then he got confused and irrational when he convinced himself that far from liberating Thomas, we were entombing him. He walked away from the project

The second architect began by doing it all for free. He had a son with special educational needs and empathised with our predicament however just as we prepared to submit for planning. He disappeared off the face of the Earth.

The third architect we employed was my former scout master. We had shared a taxi back from a local pub and persuaded him to get involved. Plans were drawn up and passed by planning then a setback, you get used to these, the DFG expired.

So we reapplied for the DFG only to discover they didn’t like our plans one bit. What you often discover with bureaucrats is that they are exceptionally good at misunderstanding how you live your life tallied alongside a reluctance to deal with people who don’t tick a convenient box.

To cut a long story short though, and it is a long story, after much horse trading, we finally got our DFG re-accepted with some stringent conditions. The next stage was tendering, as even though in theory the money was ours to spend adapting our home for Thomas’s needs, Bolton at Home who managed the grant needed to ensure we don’t blow it all on fast living.

Not that the grant even touches the sides. Even with the VAT exemption for disabled equipment, our estimate for the adaptations comes in at around £120,000. Money we have had to fundraise

We asked three builders to tender but only one completed the process. Facing Hobsons choice, we committed to using him with July 2019 scheduled to be the start date. It came and went. Our neighbours were not mad keen on our plans to move a drain and install some new manholes, so we subtly redesigned the scheme to accommodate their requests and improve vehicular wheelchair access at the front. Our architect thought that this constituted a non material amendment but advised that it was wise to pass it by planning to keep on their sweet side. Not surprisingly, at the eleventh hour they rejected this move insisting on another full submission which they guaranteed they would pass. To cut another very long story short, they disappointed us by reneging and rejecting it. Our architect submitted a compromise proposal but whilst we waited to discover whether it would pass, our builder walked off the project.

So nearly 5 years since we started this process, our house is still unadapted for Thomas’s needs. We did eventually get full planning and we had a new builder who should have started work in January 2021 but he unexpectedly inflated his quote and we parted company. Our fingers are crossed that one day it might finally happen but every architectural draft, survey, structural engineers report, planning application, building control submission costs us a fee and so far we are nearly £4000 down with nothing to show but a set of plans.

And therein lies the crux of the problem, our house isn’t a standard box and our needs cannot be met with a bit of breeze block bolted onto the back. It isn’t a conventional DFG but then neither are Thomas’s needs. Every child is unique and we believe our scheme is the best we can come up with given our circumstances.

By liaising with professionals we have designed an innovative solution to an intangible problem, meeting Thomas’s needs whilst keeping us in the heart of our community and support network. Through clever use of technology to maximise the available space, we hope to future proof our lives and give Thomas independence.

For us this is a once in a lifetime project and neither of us are experienced project managers so we are reliant on experts to get the adaptations done. Trying to tackle it ourselves would lead to the kind of situation that would get Kevin McCloud to issue a sentence structured around the words “I think they are making a big mistake” as he delivered his PTC to a camera on a jib. In another twist regular viewers of Grand Designs will recognise, we were turned down by Santander’s underwriting team for our much needed additional borrowing. Though thankfully on appeal, they have agreed to lend us a maximum of £30K.

We have been lucky that the charity Sullivans Heroes have taken us on. They support families like us whose adaptations go beyond the scope of a DFG. Without their help we would have given up a long time ago. They have helped us write to 101 trusts, foundations and charities to tell our story and so far we have had 5 successful bids, 8 pendings and 65 rejections.

Thomas is now eight. Given the drama of his birth, it is a milestone we never thought we would see. With nearly £10K still left to find for his wheelchair lift, and our backs beginning to give, does anyone have Nick Knowles phone number please?

If only life was as simple as DIY SOS 🙁

*Cerebral Palsy, Cortical Visual Impairment, Epilepsy, Undiagnosed Sensory Processing Disorders etc


As you all know, 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything but by the time you read this, if indeed you ever do, I will no longer be 42

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On the eve of my 42nd birthday I destroying The Sumners cake trolley.  It was an act that defined my life but then I bought a Tilley hat and moved on.

As I reflect on my 42nd year on this planet, it was a strange year as I had very little work. Unfortunately in this modern world, what we do for a living can sometimes be the only thing that defines us?

When I say I did very little work, I really mean it. Endless months of waiting for the phone to ring but amongst this void I managed to cut a pilot for the best series that never got commissioned, I graded my first ever commercial which resulted in an unpleasant experience of extortion. I was involved in a failed coup, helped revamp Dragons Den and graded my first ever feature film before finishing the year in familiar territory, a cutting room at ITV.

I will be celebrating my 43rd birthday by on-lining a film for my dear friend Chris Malone who has spend most of the year filming a man, filming the Queen.

As a man who has managed to miss most of life by working, my 42nd year will be defined by the voids and how I filled them. I have had a remarkable number of new experiences in the past 12 months.

My top 10 highlights of my 42nd year are as follows, in no particular order.

1. I destroyed the cake trolley. If you don’t get it don’t worry you are in good company.

2. I was interviewed on local radio station, Bolton FM about my legendary cake trolley explosion. This led to the some not entirely complimentary fan mail but what is history but a fable agreed upon?

3. From local radio to national radio, I was spring-boarded onto the Nicky Campbell show where I bemoaned the fact that the Labour party needed to offer the nation hope. No fan mail followed

4. From local radio to national TV. Not quite sure what happened here other than I guess BBC bookers are lazy and go for the easy option?

5. I displayed my art work in a pop up art gallery. Regardless of my fan mail, I rather suspect this confirmed my place as an artist.

Pop up

6. I went to my inaugural theatre workshop and ended up selling out Bolton’s Octagon theatre in a hit musical about the futility of war. Quite some achievement for a virgin Thespian and a theme that resonates loudly with the shenanigans in Syria.

7. I won my first ever sporting trophy when I helmed my Miracle sailing dinghy to first place in Delph Sailing clubs novice series. My crew promptly retired because “I am either scared or I am bored and that is no basis for a hobby.”


Speaking of Delph, I became a director of the sailing club and having largely managed to avoid the joy of meetings all my working life, I discovered how it can take upwards of8 months to discuss changing a door handle…

8. A failed quest for Dutch wine resulted in one of the drunkenness experiences of my life. This in turn led to a forming new friendships with The Van den Bergs and The Gandhis. Almost worth the entry fee?

9. The Bongo. There is much debate about who may have been the 5th Beatle but there is no debate about who is the 7th member of our family. The Bongo is the backbone behind a life of adventure and free spirit. What a magnificent vehicle to have transported me through my 42nd year. From helping me help feed the homeless, it doubles as a holiday home, a mobile office and a makeshift dormitory.


It also became notorious when I filled in for Northern rails ineptitude and enacted a random act of kindness. I love my Bongo.

10. In despatches, I also became did a soup kitchen run, raised money for charity, had my super slowmo gimbal footage shown on North West Tonight , experienced mindfulness at Manchester art gallery, became an RTS Judge and finally became a Patron of the Arts!



Adventures aside, apart from having very little money, there is one shadow which cast itself large over my 42nd year . The death of Jo’s mother Ann.

Ann was not just the mother to my wife, she was a  friend and keen participant in one of my most enjoyable hobbies, bitching.  Ann could help create whole ludicrous back stories to people actions and personalities, I enjoyed her company and miss her. Her death broke Joanne and shook me out of a world I was creating based on my self pity.  Being strong for my wife as she dealt with losing her best friend was one of the most important roles I have ever had to play.  I am still learning my lines and am prone to occasional fluffs.


When we got the phone call, I was busy working on the worst thing I had ever worked on in my life. Battling life and death with the twins was always a journey built on a foundation of hope. The foundations of that hope was Ann’s successful fight against cancer 10 years previously. With her death, our foundations were eroded. The under pinning is ongoing.

So that was my 42nd year. A compendium of experiences and possibly the most memorable year of my life.  The twins continue to blossom and Thomas despite his considerable challenges, brings more joy to my than I could ever transcribe in prose.

As my 43rd year brings me nearer the mid point of my life than I comfortable with, I plan to grasp it by the horns and ride it for all its worth. Thank you to everyone who helped share 42 and make it one of the greatest years of my life. I love you all x

Goodbye and Thanks for all the Cake

The most frequent question I am asked about destroying the cake trolley is “Why?”

The most common answer I have to give is “Why does there have to be a why?”

If you have any knowledge of the wonderful Douglas Adams, you will know my Kickstarter campaign slug is based on the title of the 4th Hitchhikers book “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”. Some of this is in here.

If you know anything of the mighty KLF you will know what Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond are purported to have done. There was a bit of that thrown in there too.

“Will it be cathartic?” people also asked. “Not really”, I reply lying mildly, “I’m just creating a full stop.”

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93 people supported my Kickstarter campaign. Admittedly many of them were family and friends and most of them were either bullied or cajoled but some people actually gave of their own free will!

These nutters either “Got it” or felt some sympathy for me. I prefer the former explanation.

To anyone trying to raise money via Kickstarter, be warned although it is both challenging and rewarding it is also incredibly hard work  (and they take roughly 11% of the total in admin fees). I saw no other conceivable way of getting this event funded though and am extremely grateful for EVERY contribution no matter how small. I must also thanks the Stooshpr page on Facebook, It was via advice on there that I decided to add the Thai pie and  pint option for £15. This was by far my most popular donation point.


Unfortunately as very few of my ex colleagues seemed to buy into my campaign of cake trolley destruction, the fund raising became much harder than I had initially anticipated. I began to fear I may have misjudged the love of the Trolley and it would escape to live another day at Penelopes. (Ironically in the end, it almost did.)

To any of those I mercilessly harangued, I apologise for any offence caused. I hope you enjoy the video and we can one day laugh about it all over a beer?


Hard as it was and although it was definitely a squeaky bum experience, we amazingly crossed the finishing line with a magnificent transfer deadline day donation from Thomas Urbye. We then managed to add another £167 taking us comfortably into the winning straight. With the catering done at cost or better still given freely, we also managed to raise £130+gift aid for Scope on the night.

I initially didn’t want to attach the event to charity as it needed to float on its own merit but once it became clear it was in danger of making a profit it was an obvious thing to do. Thank you all who helped out with special thanks to Angela & Dave Sweeney at the Bank top Brewery, Dean & Becky Howarth from The Real Thai Pie Company and Brett Dawson at Turton Wines.

The icing on the cake, if you excuse the pun, was when in an extraordinary generous move, Paul Lilley donated the use of his high speed Phantom Flex Camera to film the event. Adam Barlow, the DOP on the night played an absolute blinder and the super slowmo footage looks, in my humble opinion, utterly stunning.

There were also numerous direct to Scope donations from well wishers who wanted to support me whilst distancing themselves from the perceived political nature of the event bringing us to just over the £200 mark if my sums are correct?

And not forgetting of course, Sitcom Soldiers who were amazing in hosting and filming the event for cost. Their studio space is fabulous and we planned to execute a video that would have been broadly like this. Anybody who works in telly should take a look at their space, its amazingly flexible. We used the derelict studio but they have 3 studios, a tremendous infinity curve and a fabulous green room area.

On the night, in front of nearly 40 people the cakes exploded magnificently but despite extensive test runs, when it came time for the trolley to detonate, like a stubborn Dibnah chimney (A bit of that in here too) it refused to go.

The charges were checked out and an extra one was added.

Take 2 – it shuddered but still nothing, was it indeed cursed?Eventually I was persuaded by a crowd baying for destruction, to finish the job with a sledgehammer. Did this feel cathartic? Possibly, but I was more concerned that the event stood on false pretenses. The spirit in the room told me otherwise.


A huge thanks again to all of those who turned up, I think you will agree it was an unforgettable evening?

So that’s that. And for anyone still looking for a bit of meaning in this act, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is in there if you look closely enough…