Thursday, 31 December 2009
I have ‘worked’ over Xmas on many occasions during the last 30 years. Perhaps one of the most memorable was when I worked at a small station in the North East in the 80's. On the 25th there was just me and the newsreader; no-one else in the building. The Managing Director in an attempt at bonding, decided to come in to give us the compliments of the season. He duly arrived with a box of 6 mince pies. However there were two missing, as the half hour drive from his palatial country home, had caused him to become a little peckish!
After that morning’s programme, I returned home alone and had decided to cook myself the full main course of turkey and all the trimmings. A tiny turkey for one looks like a baby when you dandle it over the tin! The tin was actually too large for the oven so I had to place the bird on the lid of an ovenproof dish, (It was that small!). Whilst it was taking its several hours to cook, what did I do? Queens speech? The Great Escape? Open my presents? Nope I tiled the bathroom.
I was obviously not in the right frame of mind. Some weeks later when I had somehow managed to lure a woman back to my place, she called to me whilst having a bath and said: "Look at the pattern in the tiles?" She was right. The pattern left to right read: "down, up down, up, down up, down down, up!" Also, after all that work and cooking the turkey dinner for one, it took four hours to cook and only 5 minutes to eat. Merry Xmas!
However this year things were different. Since my mother died back in 2002, my sister has taken on the mantle of doing the-do. She had a great tutor and it is an acme of what a stressfree day should be. I provide a small selection of cheese and biscuits. My Dad brings a couple of bottles of wine. Nell does the cooking and John my excellent Brother in law does the washing up. Now that is teamwork! I turned up at about 11am and my Dad arrived about five minutes later. Here is the Lester/Jones recipe for the perfect day:
Cup of coffee
Salty snacks and gin
Big blow out meal with everything. This means ‘pigs in blankets’ two types of potato and three veg. Bread sauce, stuffing, gravy. Nothing is forgotten. Crackers with the usual terrible jokes: "What do you call a trembling ship at the bottom of the sea? A nervous wreck!" Nope - as I type, it still isn't funny. Xmas pudding, trifle brandy butter, custard. (My brother in law John is the world’s biggest custard aficionado, so it has to be spot on!)
Cheese and bickies.
Chocolates and tea
Wallace and Gromit or similar (optional). Usually more talking
Half-past seven and I am in the car on my way home
Along the way we have laughed a lot. Told stories, many of which we have heard before. There have been family jokes. We have spoken to relatives on the phone. It has been warm, unstressed, and above all, I am grateful for having such a terrific family.
As far as the loot was concerned, I was delighted to receive a laminator from my sister and brother in law. The reason for this will become apparent in 2010 as I have been ‘up to something’, over the past 12 months, and this will help in the future. I shall keep you informed. I promise!
This year’s bizarre gift was from ‘Pina the Filipina’ who I have mentioned before as we often go to gigs together, although she does have a curious musical taste which varies from dance to ‘X Factor’ contestants. She decided what I needed was a huge penguin.
Judging by this monster she has been secretly listening to the show for years. As you can see it has all the hallmarks of a ‘Best Time Of The Day Show’ penguin in that it is wearing a scarf! This became a feature of the programme some years ago when a friend of mine’s seasonal good cheer was replaced by festive pedantry due to the large proportion Xmas of cards he received, which depicted penguins wearing scarves and bobble hats. “They have blubber. They evolved to cope with the cold. They don't need to wear hats and scarves!!!"
This is the last blog of 2009. I hope you have had as good a time as I have over the last 12 months. There are changes afoot soon which I hope we can both cope with. More on that in a future post. Above all thank you for your continued support without you the whole exercise is one in futility I do appreciate all your input.
Enormous thanks also to Simon and Andy for their hard work and their unfailing good humour. Have an enjoyable and restful holiday season. See you on the other side! (By that I mean 2010. Who do you think I am Derek Acorah???)
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Friday I was invited to a posh do so had to put my suit on which frankly seems to be a little tight at the moment. I think the dreaded "tailor moth" has been at work. If you are unaware of this little known insect, they tend to hide in the wardrobes of the middle aged as they like the mix of cloth on offer and remove strips of material for their nests. However as a secretive species they repair the items after they have stolen so that the hapless owner does not suspect and go after them with massive amounts of swatters and deadly chemicals.
I was taken to the Hilton in London for the "Music Publishers Association" 50th anniversary lunch.
Lots of tables, lots of food and wine and speeches from luminariees from the industry who I did not recognise but judging by their suits were important, and they talked about others who I had not heard of apart from Tony Hiller who co-wrote "Save your kisses for me".
Everyone was a lot of fun and one of the best things about it was the impatience of the crowd wanting to get stuck into the food and drink. The end result was to hurry things along by blowing up balloons and releasing them so they shot around the room with a selection of satisfying farting noises.
Hugh Dennis was the after dinner speaker who gave an amusing speech and his best joke in my opinion was probably non PC as it dealt in a regional stereotype: "Any one from Norfolk here?...yes? Give me six!"
Then a rather florid Tony Hadley took to the stage and after a false start a backing tape began and he gave a stirring rendition of "Gold" then left to catch a plane. We went to the bar where I was horrified to discover a glass of red wine cost a wallet-weakening £7.
Got talking to a load of people including a selection of excellent old jazzers, who talked about the old days and bands they had been in and musicians that we all knew, including Malcolm Mortimer who I remember from Gentle Giant who I saw supporting the film "Jimi Plays Berkely" at Bradford St George’s Hall in the early 70's.
Another few glasses, luckily bought by others, and it was time to leave as another office party was filing in. I discovered it was 6.30pm although it felt like about midnight.
Up with the lark and then one of those things that you can't legislate for. Putting my sock on and suddenly "ping" - my back went. Scarcely wrenching it lifting a car to help someone trapped underneath, nor saving children from a flood hanging from a branch with an arm outstretched. Told a mate of mine and he said "this is the way it’s going to be"! Thanks!!
Went off to Hastings on Saturday morning by train, saw some friends in the evening and had a conversation with a man who had obviously been in the pub a long time. "what time you working in the new year Alex?" ‘2-5, then it will be Sarah Kennedy’. "Who will be on after you?" Sarah Kennedy. "What time is Sarah going to be on?" 5-7. So who is on after? Chris Evans. "What time is Chris Evans going to start". This went on for some time. Never sure what to do under the circumstances as it is always good to be polite but it can be teeth-grinding.
According to the travel info I saw trains running normally back to London on Sunday although no one had thought fit to tell the train operators or perhaps the public or perhaps somebody who knew who to talk to. No trains had run all day due to the weather so had to get he bus to Tunbridge Wells where the trains we were told were starting. When we arrived we were told that none had run all day and it was Tonbridge, two stops further up the line and we had to wait for a connecting bus. Then there was the wait at the station until the train eventually arrived. So it was a cold and rather irked me that made it back to the rental flat in London after 5 hours in transit. Compared to many of you I had it easy.
Sent all the cards off in advance and on time and so far have had only one from someone that I didn't send to. Odd as I thought we were both dead.
Family Xmas is well organised so have bought the cheese and biscuits as I am cheese monitor. My Dad is wine monitor, my sister does the cooking and it’s always marvellous and my brother in law does the washing up. This way no one ever gets too stressed which is a boon for a relaxing festive season.
Presents are wrapped and so it is time for me to go until next week.
Merry Christmas and here is hoping for a happy and peaceful new year to one and all.
My thanks to you for making the "shoe" what it is with all your input over the last 12 months and also very special thanks to the superb production skills of Andy Warrell and Simon Tester.
Unsung heros of the backroom so I thought it was only right that you should get to see and admire them:
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Having been away for the last couple of weeks you may be intrigued to find out exactly what spectacular locations I "jetted off" to.
Leaving the best time of the day "shoe" in the more than capable hands of the lovely Lynn Parsons my first stop was Hastings. I spent several days camped out on the settee watching not wildebeeste coming to the waterhole to drink as would be the case in a Blue Peter special report in Kenya but catching up on the stuff I had recorded and forgotten about on the telly. Rather like finding one last crisp or chip at the bottom of the bag, I even managed to cop one episode of Star Trek Voyager that I had never seen.
However I was adequately provisioned. In my humble opinion providing a person has enough sandwiches they can survive anything. I recently learned that when Charles Lindburgh flew from the US to France solo he took sandwiches with him but only had a bite of one of them. Frankly if I was alone hundreds of feet above the icy water of the Atlantic, food would not be uppermost in my mind either. After all how many tales of derring do have you read where the menu is as important as battling the odds?
"Currently hiding in a culvert 100 metres from enemy. Waiting for darkness so we can blow the ammunition dump. Operation in jeopardy as only one pork pie left between the three of us" The Heroes of Telemark.
After a few days of R & R & R: Rest recuperation and Roswell I was able to stir myself and head for the Midlands. Here I linked up with friends and we visited the Flight show at the NEC. What we didn't realise was that it also coincided with the Bike Show and also the Good Food Show. End result : transport chaos. It took nearly an hour in the queue to get from the National Exhibition Centre concourse to the rail link at Birmingham International. No extra trains apparently had been added so we were reliant on the scheduled services. After that we needed a drink. So arriving back in Birmingham City centre we headed for the German Market.
This is held every year in New Street and features sausages, chocolate, fancy glasses, and beer. It was with the latter in mind and "Gluhwein" for the laydeez that we started to work our way towards one of the bars.
There was the five of us: Jo, Steve, Debs and Jim. Oh and me.
Steve went to get the drinks in as it was his turn. As we stood stamping our feet in the cold it began to look like we were going to go thirsty. He just could not catch the eye of the bar staff. So Jim went to assist.
It is probably fair and rather shaming to say that I have spend several years of my life in or around licenced premises and in common with Steve when it comes to being served we seem to don the mantle of invisibility.
Having worked as a barman you would have thought I would have some idea as to how the psychology operated. Nope. Never cracked it. I have tried "catching the bar staffs eye". I have tried "proffering a banknote" I have tried "Smiling and waving". I have even tried rapping the counter with coinage. (Don't ever try that it is the worst and guarantees you never get served....the only thing which is perhaps a more heinous crime is to rap the counter and shout "Any danger of a drink in here?" The answer to that is always going to be a big fat NO!)
So Jim went into bat. Five minutes later he was back with the drinks. Is he 11 feet tall? Does he have a huge booming voice? Is he perhaps armed with a pump action shotgun? Nope. Jim is a perfectly normal looking middle aged man - with a secret gift, which he cannot explain or maybe he is an "annointed one". Whatever his secret he worked his magic several times that evening in a succession of crowded boozers.
He is for ever after known as "The Predator" after that invisible cove who kept eating people in the film with Sly Stallone.
If you are out for the evening believe me, everyone needs a Jim.
A few days in the Midlands which included having lunch with the Radio 2 "rump". Friends and colleagues we left behind at the BBC in Birmingham when the programme relocated to London in April 2008.
They are well and working on a variety of different projects from "The Archers" to the BBC Asian Network with the "Organist Entertains" thrown in. However there also seems to have been an outbreak of breeding as well. So round the table there were a lot of women and a couple of babies thrown in. This provoked a fair amount of cooing and dilated pupils among the assembled company. My opening conversational gambit to one infant: "How’s it going, kid?" seemed to provoke a negative response in the doting Mum. Perhaps I am not cut out to be a father.
Hastening back to Hastings in time to see my appearance on BBC 2's "Eggheads" (which we lost) and suddenly in the pub I am a Microcelebrity. Quite a few people had seen it and the woman behind the bar whispered; "next time you are on the TV tell us about it first". Well judging by the regularity with which my starring roles on the boob tube arrive, I am next due to trouble Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton or Simon Cowell in late 2019.
Well would you Adam and Eve it! Suddenly we are back on the "Best Time of the Day show".
It is always nice to have time off even if I do sometimes just fritter it away. However genuinely it is always nice to be back.
Thanks to Lynn Parsons and also to Tim Smith for holding the fort.
Here’s to next week then Christmas and the New Year.
Friday, 27 November 2009
I am still smarting at missing "Everyday I write the book", my favourite Elvis Costello song, by having to empty myself at Buxton Opera House a few years back. This was due to the fact he started an hour late so we all went back to the pub and me having no self control.
The support act was a Finnish Blues woman and guitar hero. She was OK but not really that startling a player. Then time for the main event....the lights went down the taped music was joined by the band singing along and suddenly it all went black...
A vast evil smelling woman plonked herself down in front of me. I spent the next two hours peering round her, with my fingers under my nose. She texted, ate sweets, rearranged her blouse, flicked her hair, wiggled and stank. All the while grimly holding on to her coat. I know I may sound like a grumpy old man, but surely if you are going to be in the company of others, it would be a good idea to pay a little attention to personal hygiene. I wonder if there is a bylaw against offensive odours, just as there is for anti social behaviour, caused by noise or littering? Wonder if this would lead to ‘Nose Police’ with special, and very unfortunate dogs, having to check everyone out before they entered. Still dogs like sniffing all kinds of stuff so they may enjoy it!
(A picture of Southside Johnny performing on stage should have been inserted here, but I couldn’t work out how to download it from my new mobile phone!)
Who had I gone to see? Bruce Springsteen's mate ‘Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’. Saw them last year and they were tremendous. On this occasion poor old Southside was a little below par. He hobbled to the microphone, sang an opening number, and hobbled around hopping up and down on his one good leg. Eventually someone in the crowd asked him what was the matter? He was suffering from that most rock n roll of complaints - Gout! It was obviously so painful that he had difficulty concentrating and forgot the lyrics on occasion and he had to swap places with the keyboard player at one point just so he could sit down. We all felt for him. He still managed to rack up nearly two hours on stage even though it must have been agony. Poor chap. Let’s hope he is fully restored by his next visit.
That time of the year has now arrived when the hats scarves and gloves are more in evidence, as the weather has been particularly poor of late. Although this is not a competition I hasten to point out, and in no way am I downplaying the terrible flooding in the Lake District. Saturday night on my way for my regular Chinese Takeaway there was a total downpour which resulted in me taking refuge in a pub (oh! that is an original excuse). As I walked in, the whole place went silent, and everyone stared. It was either my drowned rat status or sheer animal magnetism. Sadly I suspect the former. I think even the 50 something karaoke singer stumbled over the lyrics to his Rap song. It’s a bizarre boozer this one, with a fascinating mixture of songs performed, and people performing or enjoying them. Sixties one minute, NWA or similar the next. One night when I was in, a bloke sat down next to me pulled out a brass door knob and started sniffing it and talking to it. I didn't ask!
Walking across Regents Park in London earlier this week I spotted the first winter casualty:
I think I have probably mentioned this before in previous blogs, but TV appears to have run out of new ideas now that we only have one show to watch these days: "Strictly X Jungle Brother". You have doubtless been assaulted by it on a Saturday night. It was time we looked to other ways to be entertained. Satellite TV is leading the way with lots of US imports where they just use police camera footage or CCTV of criminals in car chases, people falling off things or hitting each other either outdoors or in gaols.
Some of these I think are supposed to impart a solemn message. So why not "GloveCheck" five minutes before the news on BBC1, whereby people could be reunited with lost items of clothing that end up on the railings of public parks or outside houses? There could be a follow up show hosted probably by Dermot or Davina where tearful people get their mittens back. This would also have the added benefit of rehabilitating the newsreaders who’ve lost all credibility as far as I am concerned, due to them tripping the light fantastic on BBC Children in Need, albeit for a worthwhile cause. I can't watch Fiona Bruce or Huw Edwards now without thinking at which point will they start tapping across the studio floor? We were having this conversation in the office the other day and someone said sagely: "I blame Angela Rippon". Without the Morecombe and Wise show none of this would have happened.
It is the time for phone upgrade. It used to be every year, but now it seems to be every 18 months, which means the phone that quite happily would last 12 months is beginning to show signs of age and battery failure. With this in mind and having put it off for a further 3 months, I wandered down to 'AcmeFone' to sign up for a new one. Technology has moved on and so I decided to go for a touch screen one this time. Normally when I get a new phone it takes a few days before I figure out how it works with the aid of the impressive instruction booklet that comes with it.
Not any more. Two sides of an A4 sheet is all I got and frankly the thing is a nightmare. It can't transfer all the phone directory and has lost some numbers seemingly jumbled others. It freezes on occasion and sometimes switches itself off. Also it is spectacularly slow when you input instructions. I hate it hate it hate it! (Channelling Violet Elizabeth Bott there sorry)
Janice Long told me about a friend of hers who loathed her new mobile so much that she filmed herself nailing it to a tree and posted the result on YouTube. Have I reached the point in my life when I should admit defeat and go back to simple mechanical and non-electronic things like a sit-up-and-beg bicycle and a diary?
You made many suggestions on the programme. Simon the studio producer this week had also had a phone upgrade and was having problems with the model he chose. One of you suggested we just swapped handsets. I consider him a friend as well as a colleague so would not wish this pile of junk on anyone.
As it was less than a week old, you suggested I return it to the shop. This I tried. I explained that it was rubbish and I had lost faith in it and wanted another phone. "Certainly sir", came the swift reply. "This is going well", I thought. Normally you have to go purple in the face before anyone in a shop takes the slightest bit of notice of your predicament. Then came the body blow. "We can only replace it with an identical handset.” I sat in the shop and, using my old handset, called ‘Customer Service’. They let me hang on and put me through to three different people who all said exactly the same thing.
I did explain that as an ‘Early Adopter, I bought my first mobile phone 20 years ago and have remained faithful to their network the whole time, they should actually cut me a little slack and in view of my loyalty bend the rules.......They didn't. They refused to tell me the name, or telephone number, of the Press Office. The Store manager supplied the number and I may well ring them. To politely explain that frankly they don't deserve to have any customers at all and, come the revolution, they will be first up against the wall to be targeted by the ‘Best Time of the Day show’s’ famed ‘Bazooka Full of Offal!
Before you even think of it I didn't.
Didn't utter those appalling words beloved of Z-list celebrities: "Don't you know who I am?" If you are on at 3am, you know what the answer is likely to be! It may be ten years ago but I am still smarting from a run in with a pub landlady who locked my car in her car park when I used to live on the canal boat the ‘Blue Pig’. I had to get a cab and very nearly missed the start of the show. In my defence there were no signs to warn customers. The local paper got hold of the story and ran it with the headline: ‘Early Moaning DJ’.
A lesson learned there I think.
Lovely Lynn Parsons is sitting in for the next two weeks, so I am going to go home and cool my heels, watch lots of rubbish TV and make great plans for world domination. I may even post a line or two before I return on Monday 14th December. Then we will be getting ready for Xmas as only we know how with regular visits from Noel the Christmas Badger. We will be checking on the state of the office party season in ‘Antlerwatch’ and new for 2009 there’ll be a game you can play called ‘Panto Lotto’. Plus, as I was reminded by you on Thursday morning, it may be time to think about putting a scarf round the neck of a local statue. We don't want them to catch their death.
Friday, 20 November 2009
So as I sit here in my pants typing this I can look back on seven days of terrific tunes.
Hmm, just checking that sentence I think I need to amend it in case the carefully contrived and honed image of a sophisticated national broadcaster at the top of his game is somehow tarnished. Try again.
As I lie here on my Faberge daybed, a Pekingese at my feet in my silk cosijamas dictating to one of my team of spectacularly beautiful nude secretaries whilst being fanned by eunuchs.
If you think this is extravagant - you should see how Chris Evans does his blog. His is written in Panda blood by specially trained Lipizzaner horses.
Still, back to the matter in hand. Tuesday evening was a bit of a rush to get everything in as I had been invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band "Nine Below Zero". I remember interviewing them back in 1982 and had never ever had the chance to see them. Strangely unlike me they didn't look quite as I remembered them back then but they were great and I have already played a track from their new album as part of "Lester's Library". It was good to see that they sported a range of goatees, soul patches and Paul Carrack hats. This combination enables middle aged men to look cool and tough at the same time.
The band wrapped up about 8pm so it was a 20 minute tube ride out to Hammersmith to see the London debut of Country superstar Toby Keith. He is massive in the U.S and I had first picked up on him when I drove cross-country for American Adventure 1 back in 2007.
He is perhaps best known over here for a fall out with the Dixie Chicks over their apology for having George Bush as president . He also had massive popular support for his post 9/11 song ‘Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American)’, which the Dixie chicks described as ‘making country music sound ignorant’.
However he does have a sense of humour and one of my favourites is a song about reaching middle age: "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was".
As with the visit from Martina McBride back in August there was a "meet and greet" beforehand. We were ushered into a side room, about 20 of us, and told what to do by a colossal roadie: "Do not ask him to sign autographs. You will each receive a signed picture as you leave. You will have your picture taken with him and they will be posted on his website within a few minutes". Some of the women in the queue and a couple of the men were giddy with excitement and I thought they were going to faint.
I know this is "added value" for the fans but the way it is done is so slick and soulless it is somehow slightly counterproductive.
Tension mounted in the small room when suddenly the door opened and the room suddenly got considerably smaller as all 6ft 4 of him stomped in, the trademark stetson in situ with a bandanna underneath. We duly lined up for small talk and a photo. I babbled my usual "country is becoming more popular in the UK these days" chat which given his size was more tiny than small talk. It’s all a question of scale. He put his arm round me and squeezed affectionately.
I looked like his lunch.
As Pina and me had managed to bag the last two tickets in the house she was beyond excitement "OMG OMG OMG I am on the front row. I'm on the front row." She was....on the balcony! I took my seat in row G of the stalls and Tobe (he put his arm round me - we are friends) hit the stage. He is a self confessed redneck and he was going to rock up a storm. The SRO audience went wild. They knew all the words. They were old they were young they were middle aged. They loved him and he loved them (and me) right back.
As I left to try and find the damp remains of Pina who had always dismissed this sort of music as "Country Muppets" preferring dance and rap but was now converted someone stopped me to say hello. They left a comment on last week’s blog. Sorry if I appeared distracted, I was trying to find my friend and had to get off back home to try and grab a couple of hours’ sleep before the show. This is the only way I can function. If I stay up all night then go to do the show I will fall asleep halfway through. Also I can't "hit the bar" as any booze after about 8pm is going to have an impact on the "shoe". Who wants to hear someone babbling nonsense and slurring first thing in the morning? I can do that sober!
Friday night and Nell Bryden was playing a small club in London and as I had never managed to catch her act before it seemed a good time to make that aquaintance.
Libido boy was keen to catch her show too. He had been a film extra for the previous three days: A remake of "Brighton Rock" with Helen Mirren and John Hurt. His back view is going to feature heavily in an hotel scene he assures me. The downside he explained was his hair had to be cut in period style. He said for me to look out for a "60's bank manager". He looked fine to me. He could have benefited from one of the Nine Below Zero hats I mentioned earlier but he still looked pretty cool.
Nell was great and had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. She not only looks and sounds fabulous she is very funny with it. Singer Jon Allen was in the audience as well - I think they are talking about working together which should be interesting. Nell had to finish at about 10.15 after a couple of encores due to the live music curfew, yet the club stayed open several more hours. Upshot of this was a lot of drinking and talking with various friends who were down. Jon Allen (or someone who looked remarkably like him) would reappear every so often, give me a big hug and disappear again.
Eventually it is was just Libido boy and me and the place was closing. So it was off to Soho and Chinatown for something to eat. 3am came and onto our second pot of tea and Libido boy trailed off in mid sentence as with an audible clang his eyes slammed shut and he fell asleep.
Outside it was raining and despite the hour there were still hundred of people milling about. Somehow we managed to grab a cab back to the flat and bed.
Saturday night it was time to catch up on some rock dinosaurs I had missed when I was 14. Deep Purple were in town. So I headed back to Hammersmith once more. As I have outlined in these blogs before short people and crowds don't get on. In this case my standing room ticket was slightly worse than useless due to the press of big leather clad blokes I was unable to even force my way into the auditorium. The doors to the stalls are narrow and aisles at the back of the theatre narrow to two pillars. I was unable to force myself past the pillars so was stuck at the back by the doors being jostled by fat blokes.
After two numbers from the support act my enthusiasm dissipated and I began to think "life is just too short for this". So I went to the pub instead!
Thursday, 12 November 2009
If you are new to the concept; "Nerd Nights" involve travelling to parts of the UK and eating and drinking too much with like minded people in our industry.
What actually happens is overtures are made often through an intermediary. There is a clamour as lots of people express interest and pledge support. A restaurant and hotels are booked and then on the day no one turns up but the original seven.
You may notice from the following photograph there are six. From left to right you have :
Simon Hirst, a top mate and genius DJ from Galaxy in Yorkshire.
John Foster, Breakfast host on BBC Tees in Middlesbrough. He was the subject of the wedding blog a few weeks back. Fresh from his honeymoon with the luscious Anna. He looked slightly worn and she was nowhere to be seen. She had invented relatives to visit we think. Or more probably was at home playing with that saucy wheelbarrow I gave them.
Matthew Rudd, top radio talent heard on many stations throughout the north.
Martin Emery - Breakfast jock for Tower FM (how many times do I have to tell you Alex it is based in Bolton NOT Blackpool)
My Godson Michael Hurley of whom I am immensely proud as he left University last summer and already has a thriving business providing sound services to theatre as well as making his way in broadcasting.
Last but certainly by no means least the legendary Charles Nove. Broadcaster. Deputy "Voice of the Balls" and host of the original (and still the best) "Come Dancing" . He came dressed appropriately as he had spent 12 years here out of season with "Prancing" as they used to call it apparently. The one glaring omission was me. As you have already correctly guessed I was the one taking the picture.
The excuses for non arrival are manifold and - call me cynical - frankly suspect.
From now on, we play hardball. A death certificate is not a sufficient excuse. We want to see a corpse!
I know how Captain Cook and Dr Livingstone must have felt. Or maybe a trader or two trying the Silk Route. So far none of the Magnerdficent Seven have disappeared only for someone to find their head on a pole outside "108 The Plate. Tasty Tunes 24/7 Sydenham’s favourite local".
Still it could have been worse, one of our emissaries may have vanished altogether and then decades after whilst watching 75 year old Fiona Bruce (no ageism here) unwrapping mummified remains "its been in our family years....we would never part with it....HOW MUCH DID YOU SAY IT WAS WORTH???" On the Antiques Roadshow.
One of us in the "Alan Freeman" wing of the DJ's retirement community staring rheumily at the flickering screen will remark: "You know that looks a bit like the Ruddster. Didn't he vanish trying to make contact with that community station in Arbroath back on 2010?"
We arranged to meet in Blackpool. I have never been. So was wanting to experience this jewel of the English North West.
We had decided to stay at the Travelodge by the North Pier which boasted Freddie Starr. Wonder if he is still doing that hilarious Hitler in wellingtons routine?
The first obstacle was car parking. I had spent three hours on the motorway in pouring rain and traffic jams so frankly was looking forward to some beer.
The car park like many town and city centre parks demanded a massive amount of cash for a 24 hour stay. 24 hours, horology fans, is actually any time over 12 hours. For this the machine demanded £13. A tidy sum. Also it demanded it in an untidy metal form: £1 coins, 50p or 20p.
Not sure about you but I don't usually carry that amount in coinage in case my trousers fall down with the weight. However for that money the facilities were pretty good. It boasted a lift, CCTV and a "Welcome office". (closed. Not sure if it meant we were unwelcome out of office hours.) Best of all and a note here to other municipalities. It didn't reek of piss! How do they do that? Well done Blackpool.
The Travelodge boasted in place of a mat a welcome puddle outside its front door which I gingerly stepped around and went to the reception which was on the first floor.
The other guys had already hit the bar and were discussing some rather disturbing noises emanating from one of their adjacent rooms. It apparently sounded like a woman gasping and a buzzing sound! My guess was it was probably one of Victor Kayams associates trying out a new razor. "I liked it so much I bought the company".
Although other more experienced (married) members of the group thought it may have been some "Dame Barbara Cartland" activity. To whit: "She gave a little cry...but not of fear".
A quick drink in the pub opposite (plastic glasses, I do so hate that) and then it was to the restaurant recommended by someone who didn't show. It was excellent and with the food followed the endless stories which make these events such fun. I had the steak with a "Jenga" of chips.
There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained when as described by Matthew "A grizzled veteran" such as myself. (Is it just me or does that term conjure up a picture of Walter Brennan to you?) can tell a tale and people laugh so hard that food comes down their nose.
It went so well that the waiting staff moved closer and closer and didn't want us to leave. However in the end we bade them goodnight and headed for a pub that had been recommended.
"Just next to the knocking shop", it was a curious place with no draught beer and had been done out inside to look like a village. In fact it was so shabby it more accurately resembled a plague village. As you would imagine if everyone is dead, not a lot gets painted.
It shut horribly early at about 1am so it was back to the hotel via a deafening club with sticky floors and the bar.
This is where I wonder if it is just me or them?
As we sat chatting one by one my compadres decided they had enough and it was bed time. "I was up at 4.30am. I was up at 6.00am" What is the matter with these people? I was up at 01.30 so had been up apart from a 2hr snooze for about 24 hours.
I defer to no one in my admiration for the British armed forces. However if my mates had been required to defend the nation we would be in a different place now I can assure you.
"I have been assured by the German Chancellor Herr Hitler that he won't invade after midnight on a Friday into Saturday as he knows we will be too tired after a hard week playing gramophone records on the wireless" Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, 1939.
I was first up at 8.30 and sprang out of bed ready for the full English. I never understand why I do that full English thing as an hour or so later it feels like I have eaten a boulder.
Michael and I went for a walk to the pier and revelled in the attractions and the "hook a duck" stalls. The prizes are always fabulous. "Dahling as a token of my wuv for you I have got you a four foot stuffed dragon". Blackpool boasts many fortune tellers and palmists. They all seem to be part of the same family and there is a theme that runs through all of them :
Photos of the Clairvoyant with "celebs"- and they had to be very old pictures. One person boasted a spectacular collection of stars of yesteryear which must be very disturbing for Sir Cliff Richard as he was the only one featured who was actually still alive.
Michael also pointed out the illuminations. This year they appear to be sponsored by a camera company with for some odd reason a picture of Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen above a road junction.
"If you speed this is what can happen. Your wrists grow frills and your face sets in a permanent oily grin. Slow down or stay smug! "
Mike had experienced some confusion when he arrived the previous evening as the fake cameras kept flashing and there were so many brightly lit bulbs that the poor bloke wasn't sure where the illuminations ended and the traffic lights began.
He also got increasingly paranoid as he drove up the seafront well within the speed limit, yet seemed to be being flashed every couple of yards.
Perhaps Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen was there as a road sign. Which would make things simpler perhaps.
"Turn left at Linda Barker, carry on until you see..........NO YOU IDIOT, I SAID TURN RIGHT AT RUSSELL GRANT NOT RUSSELL BRAND!!"
By the time Michael had headed off, Charles and Hirsty had finished breakfast and so we had another saunter along the front and visited a novelty rock shop where we all bought a few items.
It was closing for the winter and I asked the woman who ran it if the products had a sell by date. The answer apparently is no.
When I related this on the show this week you told me that the way to tell if it was out of date was by looking at the little picture label. If it showed Ted Ray or the Crazy Gang, it was probably past its best.
Blackpool was tawdry, wet, windblown and fab. I am already thinking of excuses to return.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
After the success of your suggestion of a wheelbarrow for Anna and John's wedding a few weeks back, the prospect of my Dad's 83rd birthday came up for discussion on the show and with it what do you give a man who has for the last few years been decluttering his house. "Ornaments? Pah- more to dust". We were beginning to wonder if eventually he would be sitting on an orange box in the lounge eating off a wooden platter with a spoon made from horn.
To begin with you suggested the typical things that you would associate with a person of mature years. A stairlift. A new hip. Teeth. Slippers. However bearing in mind this man walks at least ten miles at the weekends with usually a country walk of a similar duration during the week, luckily you were a bit premature with those gifts.
I remember when I was 40 I received a lot of those "from now on never pass a toilet, never waste an erection and never trust a fart" type cards. When I hit 50 the onslaught redoubled. "From now on it’s impotence and early onset Alzheimers" which frankly don't tend to lift the mood. Although in truth none of the milestone birthdays have bothered me unduly as like my Father I don't feel anything remotely like my age.
So it seemed at first glance according to you the obvious gift for his 83rd was a casket.
As we were meeting in a restaurant in Birmingham City centre on a busy lunchtime and it was upstairs, it seemed it would be a bit of a stretch to get the box off the train and across the street into the building. It would also probably upset some of the other elderly diners.
We chose the place as it specialised in good old fashioned solidly British food. So it was steak and kidney or chicken and mushroom pie with 3 veg and treacle tart and custard for afters. Then frothy coffee. Just that coffee. Not a mocha not a latte not a cappuccino. Frothy coffee served by a waitress, not a "Barrista".
Then after further gift suggestions in a similar vein we hit paydirt when I mentioned that as the clocks had gone back he struggles with resetting the clock in his car because often the press of a wrong button and the readout reverts to Turkish, making it a little hard to get it back to GMT.
You suggested a Turkish/English dictionary. This seemed a genius idea until it was trumped due to its extreme silliness by a mask and snorkel.
Whilst he reckoned he has not been swimming since about 1985, my Father thanks you.
A correction has to be made here as I have in the past referred to one of my friends Jacqui who is half Fillipino as "Pino" in previous blogs when we have been out. Eugene who regularly listens to the show and divides his time between the South seas and New Zealand pointed out with the world weary air of someone who knows that she should be "Pina" as that a Fillipino is a bloke and a Fillipina is a girl.
Anyways Pina and I linked up to go to see hair metal gods Bon Jovi in a special Radio 2 gig at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting house in London. Earlier in the day I had been out with Liz Kershaw for lunch and a combination of her having a dental appointment and the train being late meant that we didn't start to try out her newly improved teeth until nearly 2pm. Like a fool I had pasta which spawned a "dangerfood" thread later in the week as for some reason I am unable to eat many types of food without seemingly bathing in it. My shirt had telltale spots of sauce on by the time I had finished. Liz on the other hand - and it may be a women thing - was pristine. I once saw Delia do an entire cookery programme in a white pullover and she never got a mark on her. I think she must be a witch.
The upshot of the late start for lunch meant that by the time Pina arrived for the gig. "Are we going to eat? Eating is a hobby of mine" I had not really digested much of the lunch. So we crossed southern Europe from Italy to Spain for some tapas. Not substantial but frankly enough and rich enough to ensure the roar of the crowd at the gig was matched by the internal roaring. Scientists....cold fusion is possible - check out my lower intestine.
The Radio Theatre is a small intimate venue if you have ever visited or watched any of the concerts via the red button or on the Radio 2 website. So it was fascinating to see a group of stadium rockers life size. The audience featured a large percentage of women and it would appear at 47 Jon Bon Jovi has lost none of his appeal judging by the screams. I did wonder how successful the band would have been if he had been ugly.
They started strongly and did an acoustic version of "You Give Love a Bad Name" and there was as you would expect with a showcase like this a fair number of songs from the new album ‘The Circle’, which I didn't really recognise. However one thing was obvious- they were having a good time so played way over time and rewarded us with three encores.
Out into the night air and we realised that the Christmas lights had been switched on in Regent and Oxford Street and the new Japanese style crossing had been unveiled to help ease pedestrian congestion at Oxford Circus.
It was a chilly evening but I was sweating. I went home and didn't have any more to eat. Had I tried to bridge the gap between Italy and Spain with something from the French culinary lexicon, I fear I may have spontaneously combusted.
Friday, 30 October 2009
I pride myself on being open minded and, although not a huge fan, I thought it might be a good wheeze to pop along and have a look. It’s ideal for me as the venue is only a ten minute cab ride back and I can walk there from the rented flat. It started at 8pm and was all done an hour later which meant I was in bed by 9.15, giving me about 4 hours sleep before it was time to head to the studio for the ‘Best time of the day Show’.
Susan the finance, (don't hate her she's not a banker), came with me. She has broad tastes and recently has seen Gilbert O'Sullivan, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan, as well as some classical stuff. I still think Libido Boy and I can claim the most eclectic turnaround, one night seeing blues guitar hero Walter Trout and the next rap/dance artist Roots Manuva. However we did feel a little ancient sitting in the concert hall with our earplugs in, as the rest of the audience hopped up and down on the spot, with the crutch of their very baggy trousers dragging along the floor and their designer underpants on show above the waistband.
We had time for a bite to eat beforehand and found a small Italian restaurant not far from the BBC. Susan being assertive rejected the proffered table and pointed to one which was in a corner where we were less likely to get knocked by passers by. There is something comforting about sitting with your back to a wall. However the only downside of this was that we were next to a huge oil filled electric radiator. I switched it off at the mains but it didn't cool down much whilst we ate.
Michael Buble had his big band with him and was a consummate showman who was very entertaining and he engaged with the audience. I like a bit of banter between the floor and the artist. I’ve been to many gigs where the performer often appears to be doing you a favour by playing for you. Or in the case of Lucinda Williams (See earlier blogs), actually stopped and berated us.
He has a terrific voice which lends itself to standards. This is where the problem lies. I have railed against musical snobbery in the past on this blog and on my programme. "Purists" who only reference the acknowledged greats such as Sinatra, Bennett, Torme et al. tend to be rather dismissive of Michael Buble as a third rate copyist.
This was evidenced by the fact I received a roasting from a listener via email when I played his version of ‘Cry Me A River’on the show later that week as it was on the Radio 2 playlist.
Oddly though, the dissident voice pointed me in the direction of the Mari Wilson version. So I politely pointed out in my reply that this view was ‘cobblers’. Michael has won a Grammy and sold 20 million records so someone must like him. Also if I was going to get all sneery about his version of ‘Cry Me A River’ I would not hold up the Mari Wilson version as being the benchmark. That should go to Julie London. I know, I know it is the short man syndrome in me again.
On the way back something unusual happened. This has never ever happened to me before and probably never will again. I hailed a black cab. There are a lot of gags about London cab drivers never going south of the river, taking you the long way round, being spectacularly right wing and droning about immigration and paedophiles. However the 21st century is in evidence, so it is time to rethink that stereotype.
Since I’ve been back in London I have taken a lot of cabs back from gigs as it is the quickest way to get to bed before the show and often the Underground has stopped, so it is pretty much the only way without waiting ages for a Nightbus. On occasion I’ve hailed a cab and it has been driven by members of ethnic minorities, and on a couple of trips I’ve been driven home by women. So taxis are not the sole preserve of the reactionary white geezer.
We pulled up outside the block and the driver realised he’d forgotten to start the meter. "Aye aye" I thought, "what's this scam?" "Call it a fiver", he said, which frankly was cheaper than it would have been normally. I handed him a tenner. He looked at it for a moment and then said...."Nah forget it. Have it on me!" He drove away leaving me open mouthed. Doesn’t he know there’s a recession on?
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Although it was a fairly featureless week, as usual the show was fun with lots of input from you, including the tale of the man who had his leg stolen on the London Underground as he dozed. It did set us wondering, (In the best possible taste natch). It would appear that the limb was false so there isn’t a gang of crazed transplant terrorists, haunting public transport, ripping organs from dozing travellers.
However, it does sound the sort of thing that could be made into a Hollywood blockbuster. Set in the grim future when the world has run out of oil. Population growth is out of control and there is not enough food to go around. Hang on, I think that was on the news this week, so life could be imitating art. We just need a big action hero movie star to be in politics and we......Aaeeiiiiii run for the hills: we are doomed!
However the week was not entirely without event in that if you have been following the show you will know, that along with a couple of friends, I have been trying to work my way through every whiskey on sale in a certain pub in central London. I’m not really a big fan however, one per visit, and I could get used to it, and maybe even find one I really liked. The original plan was to sample one per week and be all done by Christmas. Erm about nine weeks to go and we have managed three. This place boasts 74!
I think we may be looking at next Christmas for possible completion. We have asked the landlady not to mix the bottles up. My fear is that we will lose our place and have to go back to the beginning.
Weekend was a bit of a wasteland with not a lot happening, but it did mean I was able to do a little CD filing, and catch up on some of the TV I had recorded. Maybe it’s a boy thing or just men of a certain age, but I love documentaries that involve old black and white footage, particularly those wonderful Ministry of Information films. So I am watching a series of those at the moment. That and a new US show called ‘Eastbound and Down’, about a former baseball star down on his luck. His best years behind him but his ego is still horribly intact. I know a few people like that.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Decided to split the journey so train from London and then from Birmingham to Darlington by car. As I’ve noted in a previous blog, there is the danger of falling asleep on the train and leaving stuff behind. This time I was extra vigilant for my little bag contained my washing kit, sundry underclothes, the wedding shirt and the invite. Plus a pair of sunglasses and an emergency smoothie!
Arrived at Birmingham Snow Hill station, collected my belongings and....er hang on no, I didn't collect my belongings. By the time I realised, the train had chuffed off back down in the general direction of London. A quick consultation with a staff member, a speedy phone call and SAVED-ISH! They would keep my bag at Lost Property in London for me to claim during the week.
Plan B; I had odds and ends lying around in the Midlands so with my belongings in a stylish carrier bag, I lit out for the North East. On the show I’d been asking for ideas as to what to give the happy couple. I wanted to go "off list". It had to be romantic: You suggested a wheelbarrow. Ever the fixer, a phone call had been made to YARM DIY the previous week, and “yes” they did wheelbarrows and could deliver. I had to go to the shop to pay however.
Result! A choice of two fine builders barrows in a shed outside. They even let me use their loo as it had been a 160 mile journey with no stops and a traffic jam near Derby.
Then I checked into the hotel where the reception was being held.
This is where the crazy rock 'n' roll part kicked in:
"There'll be a wheelbarrow arriving shortly, send it up to my room please"
"It’s nothing kinky" I said, by way of unhelpful explanation.
As it happened the shop had forgotten their van was somewhere else so it had to be sorted the following morning.
A nice evening in the bar with some of the other wedding guests and the nonchalant, and quietly terrified, groom. The parents and the blushing bride turned up as well.
A wheelbarrow was mentioned but I don't think they believed I would go through with it. Also looking at their faces they had something up their sleeve.
The morning dawned misty, but it soon cleared, and I wedged myself and the reserve shirt a sort of nasty nylon sub-Simon Cowell V neck into the "Sunday go to meeting" suit.
To the tiny church which was jam packed with well-wishers and a jolly female vicar. When it got to that bit where she asks: “Does anyone know of any reason why these two people should not be joined in holy matrimony?" someone in the audience had a prolonged coughing fit. I swear the colour drained from the grooms face.
When the bride’s father was asked who was giving her away, he sprang to his feet like a man being fired from a cannon and barked very enthusiastically: "I WILL"
We exited the church to the bells being rung by one guy who was obviously a one man band during the week, as he managed to negotiate 3 different ropes using his hands and one foot.
Back to the hotel for a slap up feed and the speeches. That is when the happy couple exacted their terrible revenge....
Pride of place under a very intricate table setting was the above, which was taken in 1983 when I worked at a radio station nearby. This is when, as a child, the groom got interested in the radio and met me at the age of 14 in a Middlesbrough department store, having badgered his long suffering parents to take him.
To me the flowers make it look like a picture of some Eastern European dictator whose picture has to be displayed everywhere on pain of torture, and possibly death by, a fiercely loyal and loving populous. Another guest; an impossibly attractive woman in a tiny dress who appeared far too young for me told me that the bride said I looked like Bob Carolgees! Hmm if she remembered Bob Carolgees perhaps she wasn't too young for me after all! I tiptoed to the top table and spat at the bride. (It was a puppet mime hygiene fans).
Then it was bar, nerd talk with other DJ's and the odd outburst of ‘Dad Dancing. Also, as with these events, it’s the law that there has to be a child dancing with his or her mother. The child has to have its feet on top of the mothers who is walking them both round the dance floor. It was a terrific day and everyone had an excellent time. It’s also the first time I have been to a wedding that boasted two best men one of whom was a woman. Also by the time the vows had been taken the bride had the same name as the bestman/woman. Confused? I will explain at the end with a handy equation.
I will treasure the memory and particularly the expression on the hotel staffs' faces, as I requested a damp cloth to wipe my wheelbarrow down. Also, one of the guests who passed me on the stairs as I was wheeling my barrow, who just said, "I won't ask".
The gift was a huge success as it also managed to fit all the other gifts in, making it easier to transport them after the reception. So thank you for your suggestion. I think hotels have been missing a trick all these years.
We now take heated trouser presses. TV's, tea and coffee making facilities, minibars, irons and hairdryers for granted. To steal a march on their competitors hotels they should boast:
"Wheelbarrow in every room"
So how did the groom end up with the bride and the best man/woman without being arrested for bigamy?
John Foster of BBC Tees marries Anna Lee of BBC Five Live
Best man/woman is Anna Foster of Metro FM
Anna Lee becomes Anna Foster and Anna Foster remains Anna Foster
Sadly though, I never even saw the bouquet.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Not seen him for a few weeks so Libido boy blew into town for the Eleanor McEvoy gig at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, London.
We were both very excited because we are big fans of her work. Also I got a hug last time and Libido Boy only managed a peck on the cheek!
Autumn is now upon us which is a shame in many ways as another very brief year draws to a close and the evenings get darker. Which for us night workers is not too jolly a prospect, waking and working in the gloom.
There is another slight problem which I had not addressed. More on that later.
He made it several hours before the concert so as usual we went for a walk, passing as we did a restaurant with possibly a name they will come to regret given the association with death and destruction.
"I'd like to start with the carnage. For the main course, massive destruction and disease and for pudding I think I will go for the mud slide" - thank you.
We headed off for Greenwich where the smouldering remains of the Cutty Sark lie surrounded by boarding. Hopefully it will be restored to its former glory soon. We used the foot tunnel under the Thames and enjoyed the spectacle of some skaters whizzing past us.
There was also a flea market. It had little to interest me plus I find it very tricky to buy stuff and lug it around all day in case I forget it. Once I walked about 8 miles in an afternoon with a boiled crab in a carrier bag, terrified in case I left it anywhere and it was quite heavy too!
Libido Boy homed in on a stall which was selling knives as he wanted a new pen knife, the last one having been confiscated as he tried to board the London Eye a couple of years back.
He then turned his attention to a toy gun!
"Erm, you are going to find that a little bit of a handicap if we are stopped and searched by the cops".
"Just going into the Irish Centre with a knife and gun officer, nay bother!"
It took a while but reason prevailed in the end.
We wandered around so more then in the gathering gloom headed for the Docklands Light Railway and the Underground to the venue.
Unbeknown to me in the dark I had picked up an unwelcome passenger.......
I thought something was distinctly odd when we were sitting on the tube. People were looking around and seemed troubled.
LB was unconcerned. Well he was slightly. "What if she thinks we are gay?"
"What does it matter? You have a hot new squeeze. Eleanor has a long time partner and I am 'between relationships' (God, I hope so!)
When we arrived we checked with the promoter and had a quick chat with Eleanor before the gig.
Then it hit me. Aaaarrrggghh - dog turd on the banana shoe.
So try and imagine the scene. The three (or four) of us. Deep in conversation:
For shorthand purposes the protagonists will from now on be described thusly:-
EM : Eleanor McEvoy
LB : Libido Boy
ME : Me
DT : Dog Turd.
As far as I recall the conversation went along these lines:
ME : So you have been travelling a lot since we last met.
EM : I went to Uganda as part of an initiative with Oxfam Unwrapped. Then I was in Poland for a while, and fairly shortly I’m off to Spain.
LB : I have two children you know.
DT : Niff
EM : I am touring the UK in the early part of next year.
ME : Excellent we will have to come and see you. You bringing the band this time?
EM : Maybe for some gigs, not decided yet.
LB: They live in the US though as my EX-WIFE was an American.
DT : pong
EM : Did you listen to any of the late night radio when you were in the US?
ME : I listened to a lot of country and drove along weeping.
DT : HORRIBLE SMELL
LB : One lives in LA and the other in Boston
EM : Difficult to get further apart!
LB : I take it in turns to visit them
DT : RANK RANK RANK HUM
ME : Think we had better be letting you get ready. See you later.
EM : Thanks for coming along tonight. I really appreciate it.
LB/ME/DT : We are fans!
The three of us headed out to find a pub and I made a feeble attempt to divest ourselves of the unwanted third wheel. (obvious gag "turd wheel" - thank you and goodnight)
This involved finding a patch of grass and scraping and scraping and scraping, to little effect in truth as the ground was bone dry and there were no puddles. The banana shoes also have a very complicated tread pattern so everything was horribly wedged.
You may be wondering why Libido Boy was unconcerned about my discomfiture and in fact found it hilarious. Not sure I have seen him laugh so much in ages. Still, having me as a friend is probably no laughing matter. I will tell you at the end. No peeking.
When we got back to the gig Eleanor was just about to go on.
The three of us bought a drink although it may only have been 2 and half of us by then. I resolved to keep my foot firmly on the ground to try and keep the smell squashed between the banana shoe and the floorboards.
Eleanor started with a sublime version of "You've Heard Better Songs Than This" which I had played on the show that morning, marred by some idiot who, realising he hadn't switched his phone off was trying to silence the text tone so that a loud "peep" echoed round the rear of the room.
After an all-too short set and only a couple of encores we sidled up to her as she was selling CD's and talking to other fans in the foyer.
ME : (Shamefaced) "Sorry about my text tone going off during the first song".
EM : "You were fine, I didn't hear it"
LB : "My girlfriend......
DT : (Interrupting) STENCH!
When we got off at the tube station near the rented flat, Libido Boy pointed out a shop sign which said it all as far as my life/predicament was concerned.
"So Mr Holmes how did you deduce that the butler did it????"
Libido Boy has no sense of smell.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Fevered message board speculation and conspiracy theories as ever by people who need to get out more.
As far as I can ascertain from a quick trawl: Chris Evans did not land on the moon after all with his Dixieland jazz band, although he may have been responsible for 9/11 by not playing enough Ella Fitzgerald. However in compensation she’s been offered Drivetime despite being dead. Although he must definitely take the blame for the recession. Oh and did you know "Dog" is "God" backwards?
Suddenly realised that I was getting live music withdrawal symptoms not having been to see anyone for seemingly ages. So it was with relief that I linked up with my friend Susan "the finance" (remember- don't hate her, she is not a banker).
Susan likes food so we always go and have something to eat beforehand. This time she met me at the tube station with that slightly haunted look women have waiting on their own hoping they are not going to be chatted up by some drunken bloke who fancies his chances. These lairy blokes are known as the "2 pint Clooney".
She had done her research and we ended up in a Lebanese place. Luckily they did things other than lamb. I am not a fan. Not because of the woolly gambolling but the taste. A whiff of mint sauce and I can start dry heaving. Still, poor old Paul Gambaccini suffers from a cheese allergy so there is something to catch us all out. In my Mum's case it was crab.
So I (stand by for restaurant review phrase:) "plumped for the chicken".
There was several tons of it and an accompanying salad that seemed to be the contents of a fruit and veg stall.
As I ate I thought of the BBC news blooper from many a long year ago: "Lesbian forces invade Israel....ahem.. I'm sorry that should be Lebanese".
After the meal we grabbed an armful of the Hammersmith and City line and headed for Shepherds Bush. Not sure if it is the status of the artists that I enjoy or just coincidence but many of the gigs I go to are at either the Empire or the Bush Hall.
Last time I was at the Bush Hall it was with the fiery Scot to see Booker T where we nearly melted in the heat.
This time it was still sweltering but bearable.
This was a low key one-off with Chris Rea. This was ideal for me as a midweek gig. No support act. He hit the stage at 8pm sharp was totally magnificent with a selection of blues, worksongs and his hits. Played for 90 minutes and was gone.
You can usually tell what you are going to get with Chris as his guitar work and his voice are so recognisable. I had never seen him before and it was an ear opener as he slightly altered some songs, extended them or changed the tempo, without spoiling the familiarity.
For the first time despite playing him a gazillion times on the radio over the years I was able to concentrate on the lyrics as well. He didn't say much but the music said it all as he swapped guitars with abandon and the sweat dripped off the end of his nose. Not just us who were hot.
Susan the finance had seen him at the Royal Albert Hall and pronounced this performance to be far superior, even adding: "If he wasn't ugly he would be the perfect man!". Err praise indeed?!
Time for a quick drink before we went our separate ways. We found a pub that I had been too before but had been refurbished since my last visit. Needed to use the facilities and hurried to the Gents. They had been refurbished too. Nice mirror and basin although something didn't seem quite right. When I exited a red faced howling finance person just pointed at the sign on the door unable to speak.
Why had they swapped the Ladies and the Gents? Just as well she guarded the door. Due to my "certainty", I would doubtless have been in harrumphing pomposity overdrive pointing the error of their ways to any woman who entered as I was in mid ablute.
If you have been listening to the "shoe" as it is now called over the last few days you will have heard the problem I encountered recently with my "yaffles" or "readers". Originally I had two pairs of prescription glasses. However as I have had the same strength for 5 years I have not needed to upgrade. Trouble is, the two pairs have gone.
The first I left in a bar in Yuma on American Adventure 2 last year. The second I left on the train having suddenly woken at my stop and hurried off leaving not only the glasses but a book of my scribblings to boot.
Rather than fork out for more when I may need new ones next time I have my eyes tested, I bought cheap ones off the peg in the chemists, then went off to see some friends in the Midlands the other weekend and left the replacements in the studio.
When I realised my error I was on the train and it was too late to go back. So hitting the local supermarket I scored a £3 pair and I was good to go - until I left them at a mate’s house on the Friday night. Back to the supermarket and another £3 was forked out.
They are now all safely gathered in. This means I am once again able to read the small print on the back of CD covers as part of "Lesters Library".
You have been advising me what to do at my next big social event. In a couple of weekends’ time I am off to the North East to the wedding of two friends of mine. Where will I be seated, I wonder:
"Bride or groom?" "BOTH!" However as I now seem unable to tell the difference between ladies and gents I could be sitting anywhere.
The big question is what to get them for a gift? I am all toastered and fondue set-ted out after years of other peoples weddings. A myriad of suggestions from you - often brutally but amusingly cynical.
However the suggestion I liked the most was one that was not only romantic but practical: A wheelbarrow!
This may be just the thing although it won't fit in my car. You even suggested that I had it delivered to the church so that the groom would at the critical point be asked "Who wants this wheelbarrow?" to which he can reply "I Do".
I will report on that after the event.
Off to see one of my all time favourite artists Eleanor McEvoy tonight with Libido Boy who is also a huge fan. Poor woman, everytime she sees us she must think "here come those star struck eejits who go all giggly and unnecessary when I say hello."
Don't forget our weekly Oddcast and the new Cartoon that is now on the website courtesy of the excellent Clive Goddard.
Thank you for your continued support. Daftness will warm us this winter.
Have a good week.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
I have been pondering this lack of coordination over the past few days and feel that it is not too shaming an admission. After all B.B King says he is unable to sing and play guitar at the same time. I have sat in the audience on several occasions over the years and have been thoroughly entertained seeing him just, er, not do that!
There are probably lots of other examples of musicians, sportsmen and artists unable to multitask.
Trouble is I am unable to think of any other ones just at the moment. I can make some up if you like:
Hmmm: Premier league footballers unable to run and spit at the same time?
Minor Royals unable to be Royal and hold down a worthwhile job?
Politicians incapable of appearing in or on any media outlet and tell the unvarnished truth?
Texans find it difficult to walk and talk at the same time? "Ah said 'howdy neighbour' and my legs jes kinda collapsed" said Barton K Finkelhiemer III from a sitting position outside his home in Dallas.
So the big news this week music fans was that I was back in the studio once more laying down a track for my "hit" album. Well in truth the TOGS have kindly invited me to contribute another hot ditty for this year’s "Bandaged" album which is going to be a 2 CD set, I have been informed.
A list of tunes for tiny tots was sent and after some consideration I plumped for "The Runaway Train".
The question: Was it going to be more difficult than last year’s "triumph" when I murdered "My Bruvver"?
As last time, a backing track and the lyrics were provided and I spent some minutes purple faced with embarrassment in the rented flat of a morning rehearsing and hoping that my singing would be inaudible to my neighbours.
No one has been giving me funny looks as I emerged from the lift at 01.45am each morning so I may have gotten away with it.
Sorry about that. An Americanism just crept into that last sentence causing my legs to collapse from under me for some reason.
The big day came and not Abbey Road this time nor any of the famous and iconic studios around the globe.
I quite fancy the idea of laying down some tracks at Tuff Gong with Bob Marley in Jamaica – or Hitsville in Detroit or even Chateau d’Herouville in France. Instead the rather mundane surroundings of the Radio 2 building not far from Broadcasting House beckoned.
Phil Hughes who is a senior executive, CIN go-between and all round fixer was the engineer on the session. Now there is a man who can multitask!
He balanced the mic, played the backing track and the runaway train came down the track and I crooned and I crooned.
I have known Phil for such a long time now that I know as far as my singing efforts and my radio presenting efforts are concerned he is beyond shock.
He can also keep a diplomatically straight face - something teachers and parents presumably must master as their little charges attempt their first faltering attempts at musicianship and comedy.
Now a seasoned pro having done two songs for Children in Need I know what side of the recording spectrum I am on.
Forget spending a year in the studio putting down tracks and blowing the advance from the record company. I am more the early days of recording type.
In the studio, two run throughs and cut the third straight onto the disc. I could have been a rock n roller or in a 60's beat group (No offence to Phil but George Martin could have produced). Or maybe I could have been a 30's blues man recording 6 sides in an afternoon in a hotel room in Knoxville. So speedy were we this time.
However despite the rather retro feel to the recording there is one thing for which I am eternally grateful: The "acetate" is then sent off to another studio where it is "auto tuned" and generally fiddled with in a 21st century stylee by the record’s overall producer so that when it eventually reaches this year’s album it won't sound like the thin reedy out of tune and out of time voice on the original.
Apparently this happens quite a lot. Without naming names it is all down to multi tasking. It is very difficult to sing, dance and look good in the video all at the same time.
Another thing I love about being a "musician" (see how I am getting ideas already) is the rock and roll lifestyle.....
Thursday, 17 September 2009
(I reckon with two a year she must be clocking in at about 160 something by now. Why have we not seen her getting yet another telegram from herself and blowing out some candles on the TV news? She must easily be the world’s oldest person by now.)
Maybe I am missing something here. Still, won't be the first time that has happened.
Yes time for the annual Children in Need song fest, with a new album "Bandaged" being recorded. Shortly after writing this I am off into the studio to attempt my offering this year. Hot on the heels of the success that was "My Bruvver", I shall be slaughtering "The Runaway Train" - as if the children hadn't suffered enough!
However, Hellen Bach and Norman who are just two of Terry Wogan’s TOG army invited me to take part in the recording of this year’s anthem at Abbey Road studios in London.
I have been boasting to the Beatle fans that I have been recording at Abbey Road with MY band that this year featured among others Ex Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, Pink Floyd Drummer Nick Mason, Ade Edmondson, Pixie Lott, Paloma Faith, Cara Dillon and the fabulous Claire Teal who you can see to great effect later this year when we are both part of the Radio 2 team for an edition of "Eggheads". (She demonstrated far greater intelligence than the rest of us old duffers despite having megabrains like Paul Gambaccini as the team captain.) There were a whole lot of other great musicians there as well as the London Gospel Choir and an orchestra of schoolchildren. As you know I have deep reservations about young people and musical instruments. It may be over 40 years ago but I can still remember the horror that was kindergarten band lessons. Mrs Hillbron would patiently explain what the notes on the blackboard were for and tell us that we were to blow, shake, clack and rattle when and only when she pointed at us. "one two three..." and all us kids just shook, blew, clacked and rattled indiscriminately.
Then of course there are recorders and violins which should not be allowed within a hundred miles of anyone under the age of 20. Although there are of course notable exceptions such as Nigel Kennedy, who if you compare the little chap on the archive footage from his time at the Yehudi Menuhin school and the virtuoso that he is now is perhaps a salutary lesson to us all : Playing a musical instrument turns you into a "Mockney". His accent changed dramatically - maybe something to do with having a bit of wood shoved under your chin for 13 hours a day for 30 years. I am not sure.
"Laydeez and gentleman will you please welcome Mr Eric Clapton: "Lawks lovaduck!"
Mr B.B King! "Lucille and I'll go to the foot of our stairs."
And who is this mystery axeman? "Hi I'm Brian May from Pearly Queen and here's a track from our new album : “Boiled beef and carrots"
Arriving at the studios, I always marvel at the graffiti on the gateposts, pledging undying allegiance to the Fab Four and others. I am hoping someone has daubed "Pudsey you rawk" on there since my trip.
There are always tourists having their photograph taken on the zebra crossing outside. However, often they are standing on the wrong one as there are two fairly close to one another.
Once in the studios it was quite a wait until the recording started so time to get to know my fellow "singers" - as you may notice from the film when the song comes out if I have not ended up on the cutting room floor like I did as "Mad Patient" in one of the first episodes of "Doctors" a few years back Grrrrr. I am down at the ‘nonsingers and not very well known yet singers’ end of the line. Despite rocking back and forth on my banana shoes which also added extra height I was on the front row with the small people like Sarah Greene and Emma Pay, who gave me a copy of her cd which I played on the show as part of Lester’s Library. She is teeny tiny and a musician, singer songwriter and corporate lawyer. This means I think that she can and probably will have to sue herself at some point in the future as her career takes off.
There were also people I vaguely recognised from the teevee and a lot who I didn't. However this is not me being snooty. I was standing next to a very attractive actress from a soap - no idea who but then again she only had eyes for Lee Mead who was in the singers’ section. Behind me was Joe Pasquale yet with a voice as distinctive as his, heard not a peep.
We did several takes until the producer Adey - who looked the spit of Ade Edmonson so I found this a mite confusing - pronounced himself satisfied. The hardest part I found was that lacking coordination and not having "soul hips" as Emma Payn told me, I was unable to sing and clap in time. I felt like the monster in the film "Young Frankenstein" where he is called upon to show he is normal and not dangerous by singing and dancing with Gene Wilder in a tuxedo performing "Putting on the Ritz".
Pudsey turned up to wave along. I have met the famous bear on several occasions over the years and I swear this time he has had a little "surgery". If you were lucky enough to get to the gig in Hyde Park the other weekend where Barry Manilow among others performed for us, you may have noticed that Baz appears to have had some work done. I am not going to do any hooter related gags. Although as a member of the Manilow fan club (do they still sign all their correspondence "Manilove"?) once told me : "He has not got a big nose, he has a small face". The picture of Baz on song on our website gave him the skin tone and appearance of one of the Muppet Babies.
I am honoured to be an ambassador for the Hospital Radio Association so last Friday it was a flying visit to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings (This being my adopted home town, everything has to have a Harold/William/1066 spin to it.)
The volunteers had been busy doing their programmes and comforting patients with requests as well as raising the necessary funds. My job was to pick the raffle winners. Still it was a chance to meet with some nice people and I got a free cup of tea.
Also I pointed out to them that perhaps it would be a good idea to carry my show between 3 and 6 in the morning instead of their own pre-recorded voice tracked show. I like a captive audience! They promised to mention it at their next AGM. Fingers crossed.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
However a late start and new shoes slowed progress. I have been suckered into buying a pair of shoes which health nuts swear by. They are supposed to ape the gait of Masai Warriors. If you have ever seen pictures of Masai Warriors they are tall slim and graceful. They exude an aura of calm dignity.
So how different to this "warrior" who managed to find a pair on special offer and had to hold onto the shop assistant as he tried them on in case he fell over. The idea is that they are supposed to exercise a lot of forgotten muscles without you realising. The reality is that you are constantly moving slightly in order to maintain your balance. I remembered the sensation vaguely from a pair of stilts that I had as a child that my Dad had made. The simple description of this footwear is "banana shoes".
So off I set "sproing sproing sproing" to the tube station. Gingerly down the escalator "sproing sproing ker-sproing".
Queensbury tube. Up the escalator and out into the street "sproing sproing wobble sproing". It was only a couple of miles max to the museum and as it was about 6 back to the flat. I knew that I needed to leave about two hours for the return. However unfortunately this only left about 40 minutes in the exhibition.
There was a whole lot more packed into the hall than I realised and so a third visit is going to be necessary. I need to be more organised.
With these banana shoes progress isn't as fast. Maybe this is why the noble Masai excude that air of calm. They are going nowhere in a hurry but realise it. The museum was interesting and in the bomber section there was an elderly man explaining the finer points of one of the planes to passers by. Turns out he had flown them during the war. No time to engage him in conversation. I had warrior walking to do…"sproing sproing sproingety sproing" I am going to have go back a third time.
On the long march back, my mind buzzing with aeroplanes, I happened to look up at a block of flats not far from Brent Cross on the North Circular road and spotted this plaque : Amy Johnson. Aviators everywhere! Although I gather she should be referred to as an "aviatrix".
If you are not familiar with her work: She set numerous long distance flight records then unfortunately drowned in the Thames Estuary whilst on a ferrying flight for the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1941. Worthy of a blue plaque I think.
All this exercise fitted neatly together with a selection of bizarre threads on the show on Friday when the news reported that 60cm thighs were healthy. At first as usual we got the wrong end of the stick confusing circumference with diameter.
60cms is the width of the average washing machine. That is big leggy!
We were also musing on irrational fears and Simon "Iron man" Tester - my producer who is getting into cycling in a big way after trying rugby and failing…(and only as a spectator) - had noticed that in the gloom of the night-time office there lurked in the corner the rather sinister sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger in cardboard cut out form.
For some strange reason he found this rather unnerving. Dumbly putting two and two together we wondered as do you how big Arnie's thighs were. So we hauled him up to the studio then discovered that we had no tape measure. The BBC can boast so many studios around the world. TV and radio channels the envy of the world. Online services that rivals loathe and yet we can't manage a tape measure!
You noted that one sheet of A4 paper was nearly 28cms to a couple of those round the leg should give us an idea. Arnie was a bit more difficult as he was cardboard and like Stanley…flat! Also we weren't entirely sure if the Terminator replica was life size or not. Although we were impressed with his flat stomach. He must have been using one of those "ab masters" that are advertised on daytime TV.
In order to make him look a little more friendly and less forbidding it was decided a smiley face was what was needed.
You also pointed out that to create a level playing field and make us feel better about our body image, if you took a photo of a gorgeous person and turned their mouth upside down it made them look hideous which was a great comfort. You also pointed out - and like all good science - the control was that the cast of Eastenders looked like that anyway so no amount of cut and paste with their mugs made a ha'pporth of difference.
Obviously the big news of the week was the bombshell that hit when Terry announced his retirement from the breakfast show and the news that Chris would be taking over in the New Year.
I have had the privilege of knowing Terry ever since he returned in the early 90's when his TV chat show ended. He has never been anything other than positive, kind & courteous to me and complimentary about the show. I have been in this industry for more than 30 years now and I have met a lot of people and some of them have been vile. Terry is a gem who will be sadly missed. However (and I have no vested interest here as one thing was certain when Terry decided to retire - it would not be me taking over!).
I know Chris vaguely, we are colleagues not mates and never see each other outside work. Yet he has always been positive, kind, courteous and complimentary about the show.
I am looking forward to hearing how his new programme sounds and am not prejudging it like many people on internet message boards.
Chris must have developed a rhino hide by now. I know it would get me down if I was in his shoes. Looking at some of the posts describing him for example in one instance as "scum", I wonder what goes through someone's mind as they sit at their keyboard berserkly tapping out this poison. He is a DJ and TV presenter, not a paedophile for goodness sake!