Tuesday 23 December 2008


Been a busy couple of weeks, although there’s still been time for fun. Last ‘Nerd Night of 2008’ saw the usual gang in Leeds, although we did pick up a few stragglers on the way.

We’re thinking of concocting a cruel and unusual punishment for people who swear that they will be at these do's. "Count me in”. “I’m THERE". Then they phone up on the day with the usual lame excuses. I’m not sure, but I think someone tried to claim that the dog had eaten their homework, so they would be unable to make it after all. I expect they had a better offer. We should have confronted and shamed them in the local branch of ‘Spearmint Rhino’ later in the evening. You know who you are!

I think the best idea would be if we all suggested they had a big birthday party, or maybe we were going to honour their contribution to the world of ‘TV and Radio’, and then none of us turn up. That'll larn 'em! A friend of mine had a similar view on his 21st birthday a long time ago. We all arranged to meet in the pub and he never showed. "Didn't feel like it" was his rather feeble excuse.

It also gave me the opportunity to catch up with an old colleague. When I say ‘old’ I’m not sure what she is on but I want some of it. Christa Ackroyd is a legendary figure in Yorkshire having anchored the regional TV current affairs magazine show ‘Look North’ for many years and before that YTV's ‘Calendar’, as I recall. We worked together briefly on a doomed commercial radio station in the early 80's. I was "let go" after 18 months as were most of the management and she assumed command. I’d not set eyes on her for 25 years and yet she looked exactly the same. She must have a picture in the attic a la Dorian Grey.

The evening started in the pub and ended in a hotel bar, which was not the one we were staying in. Ours was a budget jobbie with no such facilities. It was quarter to three in the morning when I turned the light out after another top evening.

Apart from this highlight, much of the last few days has been spent doing Christmas chores. In other words getting gifts and sending cards. I was ahead of myself this year posting the cards, so was able to send them second class, which in these recession hit times saved a few pence.

We’ve abandoned any pretence at ‘surprise’ in our now rather reduced immediate family as we have decided that life is too busy and too short. Everyone says what they would like and we go out and get it. I managed to get everything fairly easily, although the only gift that was proving tricky was mine. A pair of shoes. This is a pull together of birthday and Christmas as I didn't get round to thinking what I wanted last May. So it has been a present ‘rollover’. In the end, my sister sent me a festive bag to pop ‘em in. All I have to do now is to ferry them to her house on the big day and feign surprise and delight when I unwrap them!

My Aunt and I have sent each other identical gift tokens. Now I think I may have made a killing this year as I sent hers second class post and she sent mine first class! It’s the little things you understand.

I am also ‘cheese monitor’. It’s my job to turn up on Christmas morning armed with cheese biscuits and a selection of appropriate dairy goods. As you may remember I was in France a couple of weeks ago. Bought a nice Camembert with a consume by date of 28th December. It is going to be molten in the middle and so ripe that it will have to be left out in the garden.
It has been in the boot of my car since Sunday 21st so on the 24th, as I head up to the Midlands, I will have to be like a dog in a vehicle. Head out of the window tongue flapping in the breeze due to the awful stench.

It has been an interesting and in some ways unusual year which I will refer to in greater detail in my next blog.
It only remains to thank you for all your kind comments and cards and wish you a very Happy Christmas and a solvent New Year

Thursday 11 December 2008


Been away for a week so sorry, I have not posted. Spent a really nice week not doing an awful lot and catching up with friends, food and drink which, I think, is a good way to spend a holiday. Went to France for a few days which meant I was suddenly very popular with other friends and work colleagues. A fair number of texts arrived starting with the words: "As you are in France, I just wondered if you could...."

As such, I came back with the car laden with champagne, red wine, cheese and chocolate. None of which was destined for my stomach. Still happy to oblige in these credit crunch times.
It also rained a lot which didn't matter just spent a lot of time indoors watching DVD's.

‘Spiderman 3’

Series 7 of ‘Family Guy’

Series 2 of ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’


‘The Iron Giant’

All of which I enjoyed and....

‘Happy Feet@.... which I didn't!

Also, I only had time to re-acquaint myself with the beginning of ‘Bagdad Café’, which I saw twenty years ago at the cinema, and had forgotten the wonderful haunting opening sequence with the song "Calling you" by Javetta Steele being played over it. So terrific was the tune that when I got back, I dug it out and played it on the show as part of ‘Lester's library’.

Before I went away, I had a chance to visit a venue that I’d not been too before – The Forum in London's Kentish Town, with a friend to see Todd Rundgren.

He is 60 and looks ace. He was very energetic and played a lot of terrific guitar, far more than I expected. It was a cold night, but warmed by a good boozer next door to the theatre. The place was packed with hard core Rundgren fans, including a selection of shaven headed middle aged fat blokes who had started the Xmas celebrations early.

They were uber fans who knew all the tunes. Or maybe they were just overexcited and refreshed? Every time he started a song, they would leap to their feet and scream and shout and applaud wildly. So, the view for us short types sitting down, was always blocked for the opening verse of each track. I did wonder at one point if I should say something but then thought: "a small man and an even tinier woman remonstrating with drunken lairy big blokes?” It seemed a bit of an unequal match, so I decided that seething silence was the best course of action. I did find myself wondering if it was possible to buy a Taser from a nearby hardware shop to ‘zaap’ them into a less exuberant state.

It being a Sunday night meant that I only managed a couple of hours sleep before the show the next morning, so I started with the week a mite bleary eyed. I find that providing I don’t attend too many weekday gigs, ‘Doctor Footlights’ will see me through the next days show, and luckily I can usually go back to bed again by about 7 in the morning to catch up.

I’d forgotten that Monday was ‘going to see the family day’. After the show, I hopped onto a train to the Midlands and, 2 hours later this crazed, wired, jetlagged figure tottered into my dad’s house, babbling nonsense to him, my sister and brother in law, before staggering back to the railway station again. I went to bed earlier than usual and, unsurprisingly, slept very well.

It must be an age thing as I can still remember that as a student I was terrible with late nights so was worn out by about 11pm and then would find it more or less impossible to get out of bed before noon the following day. How things have changed. If I manage 5 hours without waking I am doing well.

Sometimes sleep (and perhaps you find this too), is difficult if you have something on your mind. I had:

The Friday before my holiday, I’d been very kindly invited to present the legendary Radio 2 show, ‘Friday Night it Music Night’, live from the Watford Coliseum by the producer Terry Carter - my old mate from Birmingham. A man with ‘reckless’ obviously written through him, like a stick of Blackpool rock! A man who is ‘Mr Music’, and whom I can wind up very easily by calling him ‘Dr Jazz’, as he’s a walking musical encyclopaedia and long time producer of the much missed Humphrey Lyttleton show.

During the late 80's and early 90s I did quite a lot of concerts for Radio 2. So many in fact that I realised it was a false economy to keep hiring a tuxedo from Moss Bros. So, at the end of one series of shows, I bought an ex-rental evening suit for £30. It was passable and the only blemish was a cigarette burn in the back of the trousers. After proudly hanging it up in my wardrobe I never did another concert. Until now that is. It still fitted although the fag burn hadn't healed.

The show with the BBC Concert Orchestra featured the music of George Fenton who was a name I knew in connection with film scores. It was only when I arrived at the venue and we did a run-through in rehearsal, that I realised what a superstar the man is. ‘Ghandi’, ‘Cry Freedom’, ‘Shadowlands’, ‘Groundhog Day’. The list went on and on. And he’s written a load of TV stuff including ‘Bergerac’. The guy isn't even 60 - how he’s had time to even eat I have no idea as so much music has been pouring out of him. He’s a fine musician as well and he had his own band with him to perform some of the tunes.

The presenters job is to babble in between the pieces, telling the audience in the theatre and at home a bit about the music, and also to give everyone in the band time to turn their music over. Or in George's case, to leg it from the front of the orchestra to the back where he sat with his own group. This is a whole different ball game to what I am used to which is sitting in my comfort zone in the studio in the middle of the night.

First off I had to stand at the front of the 60 piece Concert Orchestra. People could see me. They were within missile hurling distance.

When the music was on I would sit at the side of the auditorium studying my finely honed script very carefully. It’s a far more formal way of doing things than just fooling around as we do with the ‘Best Time of the Day Show’. It reminded me a bit of my time as a TV announcer. Again a different discipline. You had 20 seconds to speak. If you cocked it up you then had 2 hours to sit and seethe at your own inadequacies whilst the film was on.

Surprise, surprise! Somehow it passed of without a hitch. The music was wonderful and a few members of the audience came up to say “Hello” and how much they had enjoyed it. This was far better than the last concert I did, which was from the Golders Green Hippodrome. As I recall, after the show a couple of elderly gentleman collared me. I assumed they wanted to chat to me and to tell me how fantastic I’d been. Possibly they wanted an autograph as well.

"Excuse me mate", said one of them. "Where are the toilets?"

Monday 24 November 2008


OK so it’s four weeks before Christmas or "Winterval" if you prefer. Already we can see the signs. Ignore all the music in the shops and those horribly smug ads on the TV with members of Take That,Twiggy and that woman with the corkscrew hair that doesn't appear to possess anything to wear other than underwear. We are beginning to reap the rich rewards of people getting festive. This is usually expressed by the adoption of fancy dress.

This is just a way of getting a picture of top producer Andy who along with Simon has to suffer the seemingly endless torment of working with me first thing in the morning. It is a rota thing so whilst one is in the studio staring at me and willing me to burst, the other is in the office rocking slowly back and forth …being counselled by their co-workers.

Whilst I was temporarily filling in the Saturday evening 9-11pm slot for the last three weeks (and thank you for all your kind comments, by the way) Andy was on a credit crunch night out exploring a new "theme" restaurant. His friends had invited him to the opening night of a new Mexican place….it turns out was their place! When Andy and his wife turned up they were handed a hat and a moustache each. For some reason Andy's' wife decided not to be photographed in her sombrero and 'tache.

This prompted a thread on the show as so many things tend to. From what I remember we ended up designing the perfect low budget evening in. Which may or not involve some dressing up. Lets face it - it is what we Brits do best. Panto season will soon be upon us. Up and down the country people who once appeared in "Home and Away" or "TV's Love thy Neighbour" are gearing up for their biggest earner of the last 12 months as "Baron Hardup", "Widow Twanky" or "Wishee Washee".

Having given you a convoluted reason for a rather fine picture, here are two more. Once a year for the last we reckoned five years, the Reverend Andy who you can hear doing "Pause for Thought" on the Sarah Kennedy show and the wonderfully committed volunteers invite me to open the St John’s Church Arts and Crafts Fair. There are a multitude of reasons for this. From my point of view it is a chance to meet some excellent folk and ingest some of the finest sandwiches and cake you will find anywhere. From the good Reverend's perspective it increases the size of his flock by one. He is of a mind that if you turn up to church regularly you are part of his congregation. I turn up once a year so that makes me regular enough for him. That is top thinking!

Whilst I was looking at the stalls I noticed the first sighting of "Antlerwatch" for the 2008 season. Fran Courtney who is a potter, and makes some amazing stuff using leaves as templates, decided to brighten proceedings by donning a pair of fake antlers. It must be stressed here that in reality she would not qualify for "Antlerwatch". We will be posting the rules on the website round about December 8th when the campaign starts in earnest. In a nutshell it is the fallout from office parties which involve drunks wearing flashing antlers weeping or arguing into their mobiles whilst clutching a shoe with a broken heel with the other hand. Although I didn't check her shoes, she had no visible cell phone and was stone cold sober.

Whilst chatting with a number of people I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. "You may not remember me" he said. It is difficult to place some people out of context. "I am your Doctor". Luckily I don't see him very often. The last time being five years ago. We are of similar age so whilst people were glugging coffee and sticky cakes and rich sandwiches, we started chatting about statins and prostate checks. He admitted that he wasn't on statins but perhaps he should be. I wondered how he checked his prostate. Was he a contortionist with maybe a mirror AND a glove? "I get my Doctor to do it" Ah …yes of course! So I may pop by his surgery for a once over at some point. I can assure you of one thing: That is a picture that isn't going to turn up on any website!

Whilst on the subject of campaigns, the 2008/2009 truck-writing season is going very well. I think it is going to be our most successful year to date. In previous years we have, when the dirt on vehicles has softened, encouraged people to write our nonsense slogans to spread the word about the show. In the past we have had "Slap My Top" and "Boloxnia or Bust" which have spawned successful websites. (The links to them are available from my page on the R2 site)

This year we have gone for two. Since a furious listener described me on the Ken Bruce show as a "Swirling cesspool of filth" after a couple of mild remarks about commercially available cocktails (of the type that lead to Antlerwatch so Drinkaware - wow this blog fits together like a jigsaw) it was decided the acronym S.C.O.F would look good on the back of trucks along with "Seek the Dark", we are getting dozens of reports from all over the country. This is most heart-warming so thank you and keep up the good work. We hope to start adding pictures to the Radio 2 website on this theme fairly shortly.

Monday 17 November 2008

BANG! (Up To Date)

Where was I now....ah yes a couple of weeks behind - sorry about that! Here’s the reason: Too much going on. As you can imagine it’s been an ‘interesting’ few weeks here at Radio 2 which has meant I have had some extra work on with our ‘Best Time Of The Day Show Omnibus’, which has been going out on a Saturday evening. A casualty of this extra show has been the weekend and, on the first Saturday, a Steve Winwood gig which was a shame. However you came out in droves to support the new time slot, so that was a comfort.

Still, I have managed to see the ‘Easy Star All Stars’ at a small club. They were top fun doing their ‘Dub Side of the Moon’ album and tracks from ‘Radiodread’. I think you can tell by the titles what they were up to. They have featured on ‘Lester’s Library’ a few times over the years so it was good to see them live.

The following weekend, Libido Boy made another appearance in London on his way to a hot date, and we found time to go to the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith to catch up with Eleanor McEvoy. She’s an artist who I’ve added to the file ‘Can Do No Wrong’, which is a thread we’re going to try on the show in a future edition. It was just her with her electric and acoustic guitars, her Mandolin and her fiddle and the most wonderful voice. She can raise the hair on the back of your neck. It had all you needed for the perfect venue as well. Stackabye chairs, Formica tables and a bar.

As we left she was signing CD's for her fans in the foyer. She gave L Boy a peck on the cheek and I thought he was going to faint with pleasure.....I got a peck on the cheek and a hug!

A midweek visit to the Royal Albert Hall for a terrific evening watching, or should it be ‘witnessing’, the good Reverend Al Green. The audience lapped it up and he just had to sing the first line of a song and the rest of us filled in the next lines - such is the power of his catalogue. First act I’ve ever seen who had a Red Roses Roadie. He sang and dispensed flowers to the Laydeez, who hugged and kissed him. Now I know why people get into music; it’s for the sex.

Went off to see a friend of mine who, like so many, is suffering from the downturn in the economy. We met in a curious tea shop which she recommended, not only for the quality of the produce, but for its idiosyncratic toilets. Yes, those pods are individual khazi's complete with a mirror mood lighting and music. I had to go. Felt like a kid. Not sure if the music was the same in each one - perhaps they could have changed it depending on the need? Ambient music for prostate trouble and death metal to drown the screams caused by the rigours of constipation!

As we had tea and buns, she told me that because a lot of her freelance work had dried up due to the recession (Which I gather is now official), she had to accept a job which normally she would have run from at great speed. She’s terrified of flying and hasn't been on a plane in 25 years. She is teetotal. She is also very fair skinned, so isn’t a fan of sunlight. However needs must, and so she had to accept the offer to go and do a bit of journalism, writing about a Vineyard in Australia!

Went out for a couple of drinks with friends after work and bumped into New York musician Nell Bryden who had just done a session for Bob Harris. She is top fun and she brought her band with her. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but she had the call to play for the troops in Iraq. I’d sent her a text message whilst she was away and she said it was the weirdest feeling getting a text from the UK, while sitting in a Blackhawk helicopter "Somewhere in the Middle East".

Apparently the gigs went well and the guys in her band were saying that they felt incredibly safe surrounded by soldiers and artillery. One weird quirk which was the opposite of the sign I saw in a bar during the last American Adventure which read no guns in the bar. Out there in the canteen, the sign reads ‘No Gun No Food’, so everyone keeps their weaponry with them at all times. They actually admitted that they felt safer there than they did in Brooklyn.

Friday morning, as the opener to Children in Need Music Marathon, for my final library track I played my contribution to the ‘Bandaged’ CD that the TOGS had organised. It’s a rendition of the Terry Scott classic ‘My Bruvver’. I’d not heard the finished version so listened to it with my ears peeking between my fingers. My Aunt, who is a music teacher, emailed to say that a new career beckons - she always did have a black sense of humour. Although it may be that some studio time needs to be booked so I can ‘re-imagine’ my copy of Decca's ‘The World of Charlie Drake’ (Blue spot for the stereo version. Red spot for the Mono you may recall). I can just hear myself murdering ‘My Boomerang Won't comeback’, ‘Mr Custer’, or maybe even ‘Naughty’ YEST!

Needless to say all this socialising and fun has meant that Blubberwatch has collapsed. Willpower is needed....but it is getting so close to Christmas now.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

A Nerdy Night In Manchester

I had warned people when I sat in for Ken Bruce the other week that there was going to be another ‘DJ Fun Nite’. This is where various mates from the radio industry get together, eat and drink far too much and bore for Britain on a wide variety of subjects. They also talk about jingles and try and remember obscure "b" sides from equally obscure singles. One guy is such an idiot savant he can even tell you the colour of the label. Think ‘Rain Man’ with probably more farting. If you ever find yourself in the proximity of us on one of these evenings, flee before the life-force is sucked from you.

I am running approximately two weeks behind on the blog at the moment. This is due to there being a lot going on, so this night out took place on Friday 24th October.

The way it works is that somebody ‘curates’ the evening. Invites go out. A lot of people say they will definitely come. Then the day before - or on the day itself, there’s a stream of phone calls and emails from people saying that they can’t make it!

This one was going to be in Manchester. I’d not been there for years so I decided to drive up from London - stopping in the Midlands on the way to see my Dad, before heading up the M6. Bad mistake on a Friday afternoon. There were no accidents, but the traffic was terrible and it took more than 4 hours to travel 80 odd miles.

Thanks to the masterful Sat-Nav, I found the hotel easily enough but that was where the problems started. It was a modest city centre place with car parking underneath. The building was on stilts, so the spaces were tiny and a nightmare to access. Everyone who turned up that night had a horribly frustrating time inching back and forth until they gave up and left their vehicle half-in and half-out of a space.

By this time I had donned the mantle of my alter ego: ‘The Sweating Curmudgeon’. This is a bit like the Incredible Hulk, but with a worse temper and also probably slightly more odiferous. I stomped into the hotel in order to get some change for the car park as the ticket machine didn't give change. As I recall, an overnight ticket was £7.50. I handed over a tenner took my change and stomped back down the three flights of stairs I think it was a below-ground car park. I then discovered they’d given me ten £1 coins!!! "Boom"!!! Luckily, I found a 50p in my back pocket, which meant that a return trip wasn't necessary.

I checked-in, was given my room key and then discovered that the whole world was staying at this place: seven stories and two lifts of which only one was working – ‘Double Boom’.

Saw everyone gathered in the bar waiting. "Just have a quick shower as I am really feeling grubby.” Got to the room, (Look away now if you are of nervous disposition), clothes off…into the shower. No soap, nor shampoo and just one small towel. ‘Triple Boom’.

The room had obviously been a former crime scene. The door frame was splintered and had been hastily repaired. There was a sofa against one wall without a cushion and on the base there was an ominous stain. I checked the carpet so see if I could see any tracks where the body had been removed. One quick rinse later I was steaming in the bar. (Clothes on).

We had a drink and waited for everyone to arrive before heading out to the restaurant. As we left I noticed a slightly tipsy bloke texting frantically. The restaurant was very good and the mood improved as the drink flowed and the food arrived. I had corned beef hash.

After that we went to a swanky nightclub on the 23rd floor of a hotel and accommodation block in the centre of the city. Our hosts had fixed it so that we had a VIP entry. This meant we swished past a long queue of ‘Lairy blokes’ and ‘WAG wannabees’. Into the express lift and up we went. Lynda Bellingham of ‘Loose Women’ fame was there, although she seemed very well behaved. I’m not a nightclub person but it was very upscale and there were great views of Manchester at night. They also had a clever trick in that the tables were lit from underneath. This meant your cocktail, (Freddie Fudpucker anybody?), looked terrific and so did you.

Friday night, as it was pointed out, was not the night for the ‘WAG wannabees’ as all the footballers were tucked up in bed ready for the match on the morrow. So maybe the ‘Lairy blokes’ we saw earlier were reserve players chatting up the WAG second team. It’s a stereotype, but one that I found funny. When I was in Newcastle before Xmas last year, we noticed that even at 2 o'clock in the morning, a lot of the young women were spectacularly underdressed. The same was true of a lot of the girls we saw in Manchester, with one main difference. They were wearing layers and layers of fake tan and makeup to keep them warm.

At about 1 o'clock we headed back to the hotel where the bar had filled up with a spectacular selection of drunks. One of the bar staff was despatched from time to time to ensure that they were all sitting upright and hadn't given in to the temptation by having a lie down on the banquettes.

The tipsy texting guy was still there but he was now the fantastically drunk haphazardly texting guy. "What is the problem?" Debs, the only woman stupid enough to want to go out with us, asked the bloke with genuine concern in her voice. "My gurfrensh dummmmmmmpt mi" he hicced. "What happened?" "I schleptt wiv hur besht frenn". At this point you could hear any slight sympathy drain from the room like water gurgling down the plug hole!

Ended up in bed about 4am having put the world to rights as far as anyone can recall.

Wednesday 29 October 2008


In the throws of an enormous gig going at the moment, with a couple more to report on. I’m writing this blog more than a week after the event as so much has been happening that it’s difficult to keep up.

Friday 17th and it was off to see Walter Trout, whose a terrific blues/rock guitar player having been with John Mayall's 'Bluesbreakers’ and John Lee Hooker in his time, before embarking on a solo career.

You know what you’re going to get with a ‘Trout Gig’. A lot - and I mean a LOT, of guitar. If you don't like solo's don't go. His tour t-shirts read on the back "Too many notes…too loud!" Because the whole event is based around his guitar playing you get the distinct impression that the whole set-list is made up on the hoof. We were sitting up to the left of the stage on the balcony so had a great view. However perhaps it’s an age thing, but we were a bit close to the PA so my left ear was whistling after the event, which needed some firm action before the following night. I shall detail this in a moment. Walter is so at home with his instrument he is able to make it "talk". So, for the first time in my life as far as I can recall, a musical instrument has told me to "F%*&" off!"

Betcha can't guess where we went after the show….yup up to Camden and into the pub. Libido boy is on a health kick so he decided he was concerned about his drinking and particularly about the amount of crisps he was eating. He’s never been a smoker so his vice has always been salty snacks. So how was his willpower? "I'll just have a half" he announced when we arrived. Upon seeing the crowd at the bar he changed his order; "better make it a pint as it may take time to get another"………."oh and I think I'd better have a packet of crisps". So much for that iron will.

We found a seat and shortly after a couple of Spanish women and their boyfriends sat down next to us. I could see he was torn. It’s a compulsion.I could see him glancing and knew it was only a matter of time.

It’s not that he wanted to take them home or anything particularly, as they were obviously attached. He just likes talking to woman. Nor, should I add, in any particularly lascivious way. I think it’s similar to his desire for crisps – it’s a habit he’s got into.

Suddenly he snapped and launched into a tirade of slightly halting, but still pretty impressive to my ears…Spanish. They looked marginally taken aback and then they started chatting back. The guys also began taking part, smiling and laughing. There was the odd knitted brow and, by the time they finished their drinks and left, he’d obviously charmed them. I just sat sort of open mouthed. For his job ‘L Boy’ has travelled a lot so he has a smattering of different languages including some Chinese and the odd word in… (this is where as a true Brit I show my ignorance of other countries languages), er the language that they talk in Ethiopia.

Wow! I was impressed and asked him what he had been talking about. "Usual stuff where they came from and what they did” he replied. “They live in London and have been here for a few years. Trouble is they’re from Seville and, as I tend to travel to Barcelona for work, I kept confusing my Spanish with the Catalan…oh and I ruined the whole effect at the end when they left…." "What did you say to them, they did look a bit puzzled?" "Even though they’ve lived here for a while, I wished them a 'Happy Holiday!’”

The next day as the sun was shining, we decided to have a good walk round London which is always fun. So it was off through the park and down to the South Bank of the Thames, then we turned right and headed on past the London Eye with its huge queue. On along the Embankment and past a plaque that I’d never seen before which was a memorial to the victims of CJD and on towards Vauxhall past some impossibly expensive flats.

We wandered in to see how much they cost purely out of idle curiosity and immediately we were pounced on by ravenous sales staff. Anyone would think there was a property downturn. We escaped with our lives…just.

Then it was lunchtime. "I think I would like something light like a salad" said LibidoBoy. We found a café/restaurant. It was Portuguese although he decided that he didn't know enough of the language to attempt a conversation with the people serving. I’m not entirely sure they were Portuguese anyway. We looked at the list up behind the counter scanning for a salad. Then his eyes fell upon a buffet in the corner. Paella. Chicken. Pasta. Various Veg and bits of fish. "I think I'll have the all you can eat buffet", he said. So bang went the salad!

In the evening it was back to the same venue as the previous evening. I’d made preparations. Due to the volume of the previous nights gig, I’d gone and bought us both a pair of earplugs.
So after the largely middle aged male audience for Walter Trout it was a far younger energetic and bigger crowd for Rap artist Roots Manuva.

It was a near sell-out by the looks of it, which meant the top balcony was open. The upshot of this was that it appeared to be raining as beer sloshed from the crowd above as they danced. Being a pompous old git I often opine that it good to experience new forms of music. There are ones that perhaps we glibly write off as "rubbish". Rap is one such example The number of times I’ve heard people trot out wearily, "the c is silent as in rap" ho ho ho! People may not like a musical style but it’s pretty clever what with the samples and the rapid poetry and live it was a lot of fun. It was a home crowd, who were going wild. There is a lot of prejudice surrounding this music.

The audience in my unscientific sample appeared to be fairly evenly split male/female and black/white. So it can be a force for good. Maybe because of the reputation that it has, or perhaps because of the average age of the crowd, before we went in we were frisked fairly comprehensively by security. Searching I assume for weapons. Something that didn't happen the previous night for Walter Trout.

We sat there drenched in beer, smiling beatifically as the kids danced and we listened and tapped our feet to a terrific artist at the top of his game and, thanks to the earplugs, at an acceptable volume.

Stop press: Blubberwatch update: No change. However I have visited a gym just round the corner from the BBC which opens at 06.30 each morning. May sign up, "Think thin for Xmas".

Monday 20 October 2008


After a frankly disappointing ‘Blubberwatch Wacky Weigh-In’ on Thursday morning at 10.30 am, (This is when I appear to be at my lightest), I have only lost a few more ounces. I think drastic action is called for as this plateau is getting annoying. I’m going to have to check out the gym to ‘up’ my calorie burn-rate to see if that helps.

Friday evening, I went down to the Mermaid Theatre in London to catch Glen Campbell who was doing a special gig for Radio 2 as part of "Friday Night is Music Night". His voice was a mite shaky at the start, but his guitar playing was spot on and he soon warmed up. Although after the first few songs he said the same thing each time: "Glad to be here but at my age it is good to be anywhere.” This gag outstayed its welcome after a while.

It reminded me of a terrible train journey from Hastings to London a few years back, which suffered terrible delays, and at each stop the conductor/guard preceded each announcement with the sound of the toilet flushing and said: "Sorry to announce that this service has really gone down the pan". By the time we reached Waterloo East we were ready to flush him headfirst.

Once Glen had got onto more familiar ground with a selection of his hits such as “By the time I get to Phoenix”, "Wichita Lineman", and a wonderful version of my favourite Glen Campbell tune although originally written by Alan Toussaint, "Southern Nights", he was really on the money..superb.

I tried to count the number of musicians on the stage but, by the time I had nearly finished counting, some more would arrive or some would leave. I checked with the producer - Al Booth, after the show and she said the BBC Concert orchestra, along with Glen's band, fielded 56 instrumentalists and singers. I didn't ask her if, as producer, she had to buy the drinks after. If so, that was going to be one expensive round. I did buy her a pint which she thoroughly deserved. From my limited experience with orchestras and musicians you need a whip and a chair to keep them all in the same place, let alone playing the same tune. The results you can judge for yourself on BBC Radio 2, Friday 14th November at 7.30pm

Paul Gambaccini did the introductions. Whenever I meet him I always feel like he has my brain in a vice and is squeezing it like a sponge. He just knows so much. He did a faultless, seemingly off-the-cuff introduction, entirely from memory which was packed with facts and trivia about Glen, the BBC Concert Orchestra and he still even remembered to tell the audience to switch their mobiles off. He’s a nice guy as well. I think I’m suffering from ‘IQ envy’.

Saturday up early and on the train to Hastings to take part in ‘Hastings Week’. This is a lot of fun with loads of events and my small contribution was to judge the ‘Classic Car Show’ in the Old Town. As usual a dazzling array of old cars polished to a higher standard than when they were new. Proud owners stood and beamed, presumably worried about sticky fingered members of the public like me. One sadness was that, rather like the toys you had as a kid, the shifting timeline of "My Dad has a car like that", is now turning into "I had a car like that". No wonder my Teddy Bear looks like it belongs in a museum. Hardly any fur and blind. Although for reasons I am not entirely sure - as they are lost in the mists of time….wearing a dress!

The award went to Pauline Preston and her 1930 Chevrolet. She was living the part dressed in period clothes including a dead fox stole. On the back seat was an old U.S Newspaper reporting the ‘Wall Street Crash’, which seemed remarkably prescient.

Then back on the train in time to meet Libido Boy, who was on his way down from the Midlands, for a Saturday night gig at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank of the Thames. This was going to be a tribute to Nico the German singer and songwriter who died twenty years ago. She’d been part of The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol’s clique of "Superstars" – all of whom were famous for fifteen minutes. However, her fame, lasted a good deal longer. The tribute was curated by fellow ‘Velvet’ member John Cale.

It was an intense, dark and brooding evening. A host of singers and musicians appeared -some I recognised, most I didn't. John Cale tick, Peter Murphy - former lead singer with Bauhaus tick, James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers tick - erm is that a Guillemot? A lot more came and went. LB nudged me in the ribs and said: "I don't recognise any of these songs". He was the big Nico fan. It was strange and thrilling all at the same time. I’ve never been to a concert like it. Everything had a dark motif as befits the music but no-one was introduced.

After the interval when the drinks had kicked in, the same artists came out for ‘round two’. This time the audience started shouting; "Who are you?" when performers took the stage. Suddenly it was over, and they were gone. We both enjoyed it as it was unlike anything we had witnessed before and it’s nice to go and hear things that you’re not familiar with as it broadens the mind.

It was then time to hit the town. We ended up in Camden once again, where the bars stay open late. It’s always exciting with scores of people milling around obviously having a good time and there’s a strong ‘police presence’ so we never feel threatened by the throng. We had a drink in one pub where we noticed that we were the oldest people there and we then saw a rather nice look place that wasn't too crowded. The doorman stopped us and said: "Its £4 to come in". "What do we get for that?" we asked. "We stay open ‘til 3am and we are a gay bar" he offered. Two smallish slightly camp middle aged men looked at each other, (us), and decided against, just as two spectacularly beautiful women waltzed in. "But but…..the er….oh erm its not exclusively er.. blokes is it the notion of er… gay". We slunk off into the night two straw-chewing, unsophisticated, provincial hicks.

Tuesday 14 October 2008


Spectacularly busy week (by my standards anyway). After the show on Monday morning I hopped on the train up to Birmingham to visit relatives and was unable to sleep in the "Quiet carriage" due to an influx of noisy schoolchildren and then the conductor/guard yelling "Tickets..passes" above the hubbub.

Am I becoming a grumpy old man? When it says "quiet carriage" does it mean just that? Or is it just the name given to the rolling stock so the coach may as well be called "Jennifer". However I like to think I am still liberal enough to be in favour of gun control and unlike the pub bore I am still not likely to respond to any question with the lightning riposte: "Bring back hanging…the birch….spell in the army will do 'em a power of good…scrounging off the dole….coming over here taking all our jobs….would you let your daughter marry one?"

However a few more journeys like that and just give it time…

Came back early afternoon, had a shower and went to meet a friend outside a small club in the West End of London for a low-key gig by a fabulous singer/songwriter called Beth Hart. She is very earthy and has been lumbered with comparisons with Janis Joplin. As she is a former alcoholic who has had substance abuse problems which she freely admits. I hope she doesn't go the same way. Maybe she could have a quiet word with Amy Winehouse while she is about it.

It was a standing-up type gig so me and my even smaller friend didn't see a lot, which sparked a thread on the show about there needing to be some sort of small person legislation at these events to ensure everyone gets a good view. One thought was to drape string across the venue with it lower nearer the stage and higher at the back. So you would take your place in the hall where the string just brushed your head. Bumped into Johnnie Walker who was enjoying the gig and being tall he could see too! Jeff Beck was slated to turn up for an encore of "Whole Lotta Love" but didn't make it. However it was a good show and eventually I got to bed at about 10.30pm just in time for a three hour sleep.

Looking back at what I have written so far it seems there is only one thing for it and that would be for me to be a benign dictator. Perhaps it is just an outbreak of "Small man" syndrome.

Thursday and it was out to Oxfordshire for the week’s main event. Nick Marley listens to the show and for years has been telling me what I really need is a hobby. The hobby being flying. He is a partner in the Yeoman Light Aircraft Company who import a rather fancy microlight aircraft called a 'Dynamic' which is made in Slovakia. I have resisted going until now as frankly I am not sure that I have the mental capacity or the temperament to be a pilot. So I didn't want to waste his time.

However curiosity prevailed and so I accepted.

If you say "Microlight" to laymen like me you think of those fabric things with a handlebar and a person or maybe even two people freezing in helmets and thermal underwear as they bounce around the skies looking uncannily like a pair of gonads from beneath.

Technology has moved on and now they can look and act like "real" aircraft. This one had a radio and GPS, a heater and all sorts of dials and switches. I was introduced to Sean who oozed confidence which is good for me as a rather timid individual. Richard North had just flown in from Cambridge in his and said that pilots often were keen motorcylists as well. Oh rats. I thought I have never been temperamentally suited to motorbikes either! A short time later Mike Gregory, a retired traffic policeman, arrived in his. He was obviously born to fly after a lifetime stuck in traffic for his job.

The landing strip was a field. After all the checks we set off and up we went. It was terrific and a lovely sunny morning as we flew over Silverstone and near Didcot Power station. When we were at 2,000 feet and doing about 100- and- something m.p.h. as I don't understand "knots", Sean said: "I gather you have safety concerns". Which was his polite way of saying "wuss". "Well I do worry about things like the engine stopping". Having spent too much time watching Air Crash investigation on satellite tv. "Lets see what happens" he said and promptly switched it off.


"What do we need to do if the engine stops?" Me: "Pray?...be the ones that nobody remembers in the plane with Buddy Holly or Patsy Cline?"

A: The Big Bopper. Richie Valens and Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.

"No (patiently. Realising he has a potentially hysterical idiot in the cockpit with him). Look for somewhere to land. If we look around us we can see some good flat fields and a disused airfield over there. There are also a couple of farmers field / landing strips over to our right which are in easy reach. Now whilst we have been looking for potential landing sites four minutes have elapsed since I turned the engine off. In that time was have lost 250 feet of height. That is not the same as plummeting to the ground and leaving a smoking hole now is it?" (These conversations are taken from memory which was trying to cope with a lot of different brain signals at the time so they may not be wholly accurate).

So if we start the engine again up we go." Up we went and then Sean said. "Let’s see what happens when we go so slowly that the plane stalls……..." "Good wheeze" I whimpered. It shuddered a bit and the nose dropped. "Here you have a go". Ulp!

I took the stick and was amazed at how sensitive the aircraft was. I was not going to trouble the rudder pedals on this occasion as it was all I could do to concentrate sufficiently to turn the aircraft and climb and descend without laughing hysterically and clapping my hands with glee. Then it was time to see what the microlight could actually do performance-wise. Sean has well over 20 years flying experience in all types of planes and he flies these for fun because it was "real flying". We turned sharply and it felt that the aircraft was actually in water due to the amount of air flowing over the wings. I felt rather dizzy. "We are pulling one and a half G so squeeze your body as if you are straining at the stool" he advised. "this will help push the blood back to your brain so you don't suffer a grey-out". Luckily I had just been. I hate to think of the state of the Red Arrows Cockpits after a particularly energetic display - and you thought that was smoke coming out of the back of those jets!

We flew around for a few more minutes and then floated gently back to earth. What an amazing experience and a far cry from my previous encounter with light aircraft more than forty years previously. Nice People. Nice plane. Nice time. I will have to think hard about my suitability to join the world of aviation. Maybe I should just have a trial lesson or two….

I teased you on the show before I went telling you I was going to do something for the first time in a long time. You naturally responded with choice remarks such as "Buy a round. Get a haircut. Have a bath" and also "get kissed" which is horribly closer to the truth than you realise!

My first flight as a very small boy was spent sitting in the tail of a light aircraft with my Father and Uncle Ted who was the pilot. I was terrified and my poor old Dad had to hold my leg all the time to make me feel safe. At one point he let go and I asked him to hold it once more. I was very aware of this when I went up in the Dynamic. It is a probably an etiquette thing. Nothing I have read about the cameraderie that exists in the aviation world has ever said it was acceptable or even desirable to reassure nervous passengers by holding them.

Pre flight check:

Documentation complete

Doors closed and latched

Harnesses secure

Park Brake On

Flaps retracted

Avionics off

Leg held

Wednesday 8 October 2008


As expected, the weekend in France has reversed the ‘Blubberwatch’ process, but fortunately not by much. So an extra pound has been added as a result of Norman dairy products. However I survived the out of date fish soup. Salty but nice!

It’s been a busy and extremely fun week. Went out with a few friends and colleagues from work with singer/songwriter Nell Brydon who I’ve featured on the show a couple of times as part of ‘Lester’s library’. Lunch lasted quite a long time, not due to enormous amounts of food and wine but the conversation was just flowing easily. We also discovered a lot of things about each other. One was that everybody had a cracking story to tell. There are few things I like better than to sit and ‘yarn’. We also realised that as a young New Yorker who is due to tour here fairly extensively, Nell didn't have enough vocabulary to deal with potential hecklers. By the time we finished with the poor woman she had an arsenal of profanity that would shock Russell Brand! Nell’s currently in Iraq entertaining the troops with a new band as her old one were too timid to go! So time was spent trying to think of a name for her new group as well as names for the old one. She seemed such a nice young gel before we corrupted her.

After the meal we were having such a good time that we drifted off to a pub in London's Soho where we continued with the talking. Odd place I thought with a ‘unisex’ loo. I followed a woman into a cubicle to discover she had, er left the seat up. “Thanks", she said to me in a gravelly voice, as I let her pass.

Due to ‘hit album’, I’ve been asked by the ‘TOGS’ to provide a picture for the sleeve. So Andy the producer and myself, racked our brains as to what we could do that would be fun and distinctive. We then thought if we recreated a 60's type cover that would be fun, as ‘My Brother’ came from that era. We obviously had to have one of those ‘happy wacky zany madcap jumping in the air’ shots that were so popular at the time. With the aid of my digital camera and an empty office at about 06.15 we had a go. However, we failed miserably. I wasn't able to launch myself into the air sufficiently high enough and, due to hand/eye coordination problems as well as shutter lag, I was either a blur, still on the ground, or my head was missing! So to ‘Plan B’: The other ‘happy wacky zany madcap LP cover photo' - the ‘crazy up a lamppost’ shot.

On Friday night, Libido Boy came to stay once again as he had a hot date on Sunday night, plus he wanted to plunder my record collection. We went off to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes who were excellent. They hit the stage running with minimal chat and they played for two and a half hours. They’re a great band not only showcasing some tunes off the new album that Johnny had made of Tom Waits covers but they also played some of their own stuff. As they were in the UK they also played some Beatles song as well.

I have to say they were the shabbiest looking band that I’ve seen for a long time. It looked to me like they’d collectively stripped a charity shop and had been clothes sharing every since. It didn't detract from a terrific gig however.

After they finished we went to Camden to that pub I mentioned in a previous blog where they have a man on his wheels of steel. It was busier than our previous visit and there seemed to be more young women done up to the nines in achingly fashionable retro outfits. I had to keep reminding ‘L’ boy that we were their Dad's. We walked back to the flat and in the morning we set off to Hastings and my record collection. This was a rather protracted exercise as we decided to go by car. Due to an accident we undertook a lengthy detour of the backstreets of Catford until we eventually found ourselves back on the route…..and behind the same car that was in front of us before we set of on our Sat-Nav led excursion.

We spent the afternoon in the spare bedroom playing scores of CD's and then went off to the pub to meet some other friends and watch a covers band. I’ve been accused of being dismissive, with some justification, about pub bands. They are pub bands and it’s free to get in. So if you get a leaden version of ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ time and again, does it matter? Probably not. However, in a small venue, equipment can't replace ability. As musical gear has become more sophisticated and cheaper over the years, amateur bands feel the need to add lights and larger than necessary PA systems. Guys it is a pub you don't need to mic the drums! We stood on the beach in the howling wind and watched the waves for a while before eventually going to bed at about 2am.

In the morning I took a cup of tea up to ‘L’ Boy to find him in his underwear in the spare room surrounded by yet more CD's. Seemed he’d been there for much of the night. Not spoken to him since, so I don't know how well his date went. I expect badly. He probably fell asleep midway through the meal, having had about eight hours sleep over two days. Still, knowing him he will bounce back!

Wednesday 1 October 2008


Not sure where the time goes these days. It’s often said that as you get older the time appears to speed up. At the current rate of progress I will be retired by next week. The week after I will be examining walk-in bath commercials with interest, and a couple of days later will be seen smiling gummily in my bath chair, as the telegram from King Charles is read. Not wild about the following week however.

Last week sped by in a whirl of cups of coffee with friends and relatives. I went up to Birmingham on Monday after the show to see my Dad. He’s a man obsessed with getting the most out of life, which is terrific. However, it does mean that you have to book an appointment to see him as he may be out walking the hills, researching something in the library or looking through his microscope at "slime mould". Failing that he’s usually making something in the garage.

My sister and brother-in-law were there too and they kindly gave me a lift back to the railway station. We passed the ‘Mailbox’ where I used to be based until the show returned to London in April, and I noticed a small crowd. As they dropped me off, I had a couple of minutes before my train, so sauntered over to have a look.

September - and there was ‘Santa’; his sleigh, fake snow and some "little helpers". No idea what they were there for although for some reason it plunged me into slight sense of gloom as I am not a big fan of Xmas. By the time the 25th of December arrives, everyone is fed up with it because it starts earlier each year. I mentioned this to one of the onlookers and said, "Does this annoy you slightly?" He agreed. I mentioned it on the show the following day and you pointed out it was a publicity push for a Children’s Hospice. Oops!

Later in the week it was time to record a track for "My" hit album. I’ve been viewing this moment with some trepidation, rather like a condemned man the night before trying to enjoy his final meal and hoping there would be a visit from the Warden. I had rashly agreed to do this several months earlier and had hoped it had been forgotten. No such luck. A backing track had been sent to me and the lyrics. As such, I didn't get much sleep after the show as I was up with the lark, rehearsing and hoping the neighbours wouldn't hear. It took several go's until I nailed it, then I wasn't able to do it at all after that.

Lunchtime Wednesday and it was into the studio to er "lay down some tracks". Half an hour later and I was with one bound - free! The whirring sound I heard was undoubtedly poor old Terry Scott spinning in his grave. So stand by for a rousing rendition of "My Brother" on the new Children in Need charity CD that Terry Wogan’s ‘TOGS’ have put together. I gather there are some proper singers on the CD such as Aled Jones and Clare Teal, so your money won't be wasted.

Friday morning after the show I zipped down to Portsmouth and headed off to France for the weekend. This was a wise move in many ways, but not in others. I go there regularly despite the fact that my French is still pretty poor. I have friends over there, and it’s always good to see them. Edith I’ve known for nearly 20 years and she speaks no English and, with my halting schoolboy French, it can be slow going, if not downright baffling at times. If we’re having a meal, she leaves the telly on so that dubbed versions of ‘Murder She Wrote’ and ‘Diagnosis Murder’ can help fill any awkward gaps as I try and digest the last breakneck flurry of ‘foreign’. Meanwhile Edith mulls over what it was that I said, and then tries to figure out what I actually meant.

The downside is the hospitality. Well it would be churlish to refuse. Edith makes food out of anything that moves, some things that don't move quickly enough, and stuff that doesn't move at all. I often find her with a bucket picking large snails off the back of shed doors. As it is Normandy there’s a lot of apple and dairy based foods.

‘Blubberwatch’ regulars can see this as an elaborate excuse in the making. Every Thursday it’s wacky weigh-in day around about 10.30 in the morning as I find that this is the optimum moment when, for some reason, I appear at my lightest. Last week by a certain amount of moving around on the scales, I managed at last to find "the sweet spot" where I was least heavy, and I noted another pound had disappeared from my girth. I’m typing this on a Wednesday and I have a sneaking suspicion that the pound may have returned. The depressing evidence will present itself on 2nd October. However I consider myself ‘work in progress’ and I refuse to be disheartened. I’ll have to redouble my efforts and maybe join a gym to ‘up the amount’ of calories burned and not get complacent with my food and beverage intake after an easy first stone of loss.

I took the ferry back on Sunday afternoon and arrived in Portsmouth at 10.15pm. This gave me plenty of time for a drive up to London, an hour lying on the bed before going in to the BBC to do the show. I usually get a cabin so I can have a snooze during the crossing. However, on this occasion, someone had decided to play a computer game in an adjacent cabin. This meant that for 6 hours all I could hear through the wall was: ‘beep bop…bop beep beep beepety bop beep’. Not a lot of snoozing was done hence I felt a bit weird when I arrived at the studio.

Richard Allinson who’s sitting in for Sarah Kennedy, exacted a terrible revenge when I remarked on his shirt - saying that the show sounded the same as ever despite me having no sleep. And as for the "sweet spot" on the scales, didn't I mean the floor? Curse that man. He’s not overweight either. Don't you come flaunting your thinness at me, slender-boy!!

It will soon be the weekend and, well, swipe me if there isn't another gig to go to. This will doubtless get a mention along with the fish soup which suddenly came to my notice on the 29th of September, as that was its consume- by date. That’s if I am spared. Out of date fish soup can be a killer!

Thursday 25 September 2008


Not been to anything for seemingly ages so decided to rectify that on Friday night with a trip to a small venue in West London not too far from the BBC TV centre in Shepherds Bush called "Bush Hall". This is another of those standing only type venues which is actually tiny so holds a couple of hundred. It is a nice old theatre with enormous character. Me and my mate "Libidoboy" were off to see the "Swamp Fox" Tony Joe White.

The Boy wasn't too sure if he was coming down from the Midlands by car or by train as he didn't know if he was going off to meet a new woman in Guildford the following day. If he was. He would bring the car. If he wasn't he would hop on the train. He was havering...... "There are trains to Guildford too you know". "Oh I'll get on the train then". He was an hour late.

We went and had something to eat in a cheapish Italian restaurant before we went to the gig. Then got on the tube out to Shepherds Bush. Arriving before the concert it seemed a good idea to find a pub to while away an hour before the doors opened. We found a place and went in. Libidoboy's eyes swivelled round looking for likely victims. As he spotted a single woman at the bar I was there before him standing next to her and ordered the drinks. They had run out of lager! "What crisps have you got?" "None" "How about a Guinness and a pint of bitter? They had the former but ran out of the latter by the time they had pulled 7/8ths of a pint. "This place is changing hands on Monday so we are running the stocks down" said the barkeep. I gave a spirited rendition of one line from "The pub with no beer" and asked if they were going to charge me 7/8ths of the price of a pint. The woman smiled and said "Quite the comedian aren't you - is this your local?". "Er not if they don't have anything to drink it won't be" I quipped. I was losing her...she went outside and entwined herself round a very large tough looking bloke. We leaned against the wall and watched the world go by.

When the venue opened we went in and queued at the bar. A bloke in front of me was complaining about everything. He said he had seen Tony Joe White in Nashville while sitting at a table drink in hand in a glass. Now he was going to have to stand up and watch him with his drink in a plastic cup. I think his friends wished they had left him at home.

To say it was a low key gig was an understatement. Support act Emily Barker came on with her guitar in a case direct from the Tube tuned up and started up. Libidoboy was entranced. She had a nice voice although I thought her material was rather weak and she lacked presence. She needed to be more assertive I think as a selection of people talked loudly through her set.

After about half an hour she finished and our legs had gone sufficiently numb not to worry about standing any longer.

On sauntered TJW and his "band" well a keyboard player and a drummer. He has enormous charisma despite hardly uttering a word. Sitting down. Stratocaster plugged in. Hat and shades on and they were off. It seemed to me and I can't say I am an expert in the field. He loves his extended jams. Tony Joe White is a distinctive guitarist and every so often would mumble half a lyric. This seemed to be mainly about "rivers" or"boulders" from what I could tell. This is not a criticism I hasten to point out as the overall effect was mesmeric. I peeked at my watch and 45 minutes had flown by. Biggest cheers of the night were obviously for his "hits" Polk Salad Annie. Steamy windows and for me the highlight of the evening and worth the price of the ticket alone; Rainy night in Georgia. When he finished they left the stage. We shouted for more and nothing happened. House lights didn't come on and so we waited. Suddenly Emily Barker came back and asked for Security backstage. Not entirely sure what was going on but the drummer came out to tell us that it was "Like Saturday Night Live back there" and that they would be out when it was all sorted. We reckoned there had been a dressing room invasion possibly by a dancing fool up the front who kept trying to give Tony his hat.

After about 20 minutes they were back did another extended jam and left. As we exited we saw several police vehicles and attendant coppers.

It was 11 pm. What to do now as the night was yet young. Camden seemed a good ruse so waiting for the Tube we noticed Emily Barker guitar in her back getting on. Now that was unstarry! Due to the press of people there was only one spare seat so seeing as how Libidoboy is 6 months my senior I gave him the seat.

Went into a pub that was playing dance music and had a pint and a bag of crisps. This is where Simon and I differ. He is constantly on the move. I like to get comfortable. "Lets try that place over there" he said so we went across the road to a pub called "The Elephants Head". This turned out to be a stroke of genius. There was an old guy in the corner with his wheels of steel giving it obscure reggae, ska, rockabilly and rock n roll. Until 2.30am. So more beer and more crisps. At one point the conversation turned to leaving the loo seat up. The Boy reckons this is a microcosm of all that is wrong with male/female relations.

In a truly democratic and equal relationship. Half the time the seat would be up and half the time it would be down so why worry? My view is that is a courtesy to keep the seat down and shows a tender and caring side. I said he should just let it go and not argue the toss as this only led to frustration and anger. He reckoned that by caving in I would appear weak. Not sure if that argument was resolved but it did carry on for several more pints and packets of crisps. Chucking out time and we stopped for a burger which at £2.50 seemed surprisingly good value for London and was pretty tasty. Walked the mile back to the flat and was in bed by 3am after another terrific evening. Woke up at 8am. Libidoboy had a headache. I left him to it. I had to get off to Hastings so went for my train whilst he wondered if his date in Guildford was still on. I left the seat down.


Things beginning to move again in the right direction of last weeks "stall " Lost another pound or so. It is difficult to know precisely how much as the read out on the scales is so small. However there appears to be a widening gap between 12 stone 7 and where the needle is at now. Not sure if the beer and the burger and the crisps are going to count against me on this Thursdays "Wacky Weigh in". One thing is certain. With all the crisps my blood pressure is probably several points higher than it was before the weekend.

Tuesday 16 September 2008


Aeeiii! I knew it would happen. After weeks of seemingly effortless weight loss, I have ground to a wobbling shuddering halt. Not an ounce was shifted last week. However you seem to think the way forward is to try and trick the body into thinking that I was going back to my old habits. A ‘Blow out’ was called for but not as long as a week as some of you suggested but maybe a day or so.

Well I’ve taken your advice. Last weekend was designated ‘48 hours of indulgence’. I can do this very easily and frankly, I like it a lot. Not sure if this meant it had to be all food and drink. Or would a lot of TV and no exercise help as well……I decided on the latter course for safety? I’ve also identified a sartorial goal….my leather trousers which are probably hideously discredited in the fashion stakes these days. I’ve not been able to fit into them for about 10 years so it would be interesting to see, if eventually, the weight loss means I will be able to pull them on and sashay into town all ‘biker chic’. Last time I wore them, I remember a couple of chavs in a Fiesta driving by and shouting "F!"%%@t at me. This wasn’t the effect I wanted to achieve.

First off, Friday evening down the pub for a few pints. Although to my disappointment there was no guest appearance by ‘Melody Layne’, a singer who along with her backing tracks, had the boozer enthralled the last time I was in. She certainly knew her audience, giving it her all with a load of country and pop favourites, and glad handing the old guys. Melody was so versatile that she was even able to text whilst singing - now that’s something you don't get at a Madonna gig!

After my liver waved the white flag it was up to ‘Wok U Like’ for a takeaway. Although I’d not been there for nearly two months, I was greeted like an old friend and, this time, they didn't snigger when I ordered my usual Special Foo Yung and Chips. However, I did hold back on the pancake roll this time. Then it was back home for food and ‘South Park’. That was a good way to while away a few hours.

Earlier in the day I’d attended another charity event. It has been quite a week for events. Janice Long had been a judge at the Mercury Music Awards where her faves - "Elbow" triumphed. The previous weekend I had drawn the raffle at St Michaels Hospice in St Leonards-On-Sea. Friday just gone it was another raffle draw, this time up at the Conquest Hospital, (It’s Hastings and it’s the law that everything has a 1066 theme to it) for Hospital Radio Hastings.

However, both Janice and myself were trumped by my old college friend Bill Shipton. On Saturday night he’d been giving an emotional and hilarious speech to the assembled masses at the ‘Erotic Awards 2008’ in London's Brixton, where he’d been given a lifetime achievement award. He not only got a rosette….presumably for ‘Best in Show’, but he also carried away, in triumph, h is trophy: This was a 10 inch high winged phallus in gold! Now that is a conversation starter. I suggested it was given pride of place on his windowsill so that passers by could see it and marvel. He said it was a bit difficult to pack and he had to carry it out of the venue in a bag as it would have looked a bit odd trying to hail a cab with it at 4 in the morning.

A further link to Bill came with a visit to the studio last week by Alice who is a student. She is doing a media course and wanted to see the programme. She’s nineteen and a total sweetie. She even feigned interest when I took her for orange juice and a croissant afterwards and bored her half to death with stories of my glittering career. I also pontificated away about the radio industry in general and the philosophy, such as there is one, behind the "Best time of the Day show".

She yawned a few times but apart from that seemed attentive. She was probably doing multiplication tables in her head in order to keep her mind active. How do I know Alice? I was also at college with her mother Lorna. Sometimes I feel so old!

Tuesday 9 September 2008


Had a very tedious couple of hours at home over the weekend doing my accounts. I have been interested to see how the move from Birmingham to London has altered things. My use of petrol has plummeted by 75%. However my public transport costs have risen by a similar amount. This is because I find it easier and more convenient to travel by train and tube and bus now that I am in London, whereas doing a commute from Hastings to Birmingham every week meant that I knew every bump in the M40 and was doing up to 35,000 miles per year.

Having admitted the above doesn't mean necessarily I am turning into an Eco Warrior. It is as it should be in terms of getting the public (i.e us) to do what is best and that is to use these services if they are a) Convenient and b) Cheap enough. I have found by judicious use of prebooked tickets I can get to Birmingham and back for less than the price of the petrol I would have used. This also enables me to be asleep on the train drooling and scratching myself which has a lot more to commend it than doing something similar behind the wheel of a car.

The weather was so vile over the weekend that apart fro going to draw the Tombola for the St Michaels Hospice summer Fayre in St Leonards, I stayed in and did a load of chores including the above paperwork. Also set to reorganising the CD's in the spare room. Space needed to be created as there were too many "A's" and "B's" to fit on the shelves so a lot of reorganisation was required. Having completed this I thought for the future it would be good to move some of the sub-genres so they would be co-sited on one set of shelves rather than being spread out on their own and interfering with the mainstream stuff that I have a lot more of. (Screams as inner Nerd bursts through his chest like the Alien did to poor old John Hurt).

Whilst I was placing the Country next to the Rap and R&B it did occur to me that I had the possibility of a whole "Heat of the Night" thing going here. If you have not seen the film or read the book: Black Detective Virgil Tibbs sent from Philadelphia to Mississippi to investigate a murder. Meets horrible racism. What sealed it as I was placing the CD's on the shelves was that these had been constructed by an excellent carpenter by the name of…..Mr Tibbs.
As I closed the door I could swear I had shouting and gunshots. Maybe it was an overactive imagination.

Weather so vile that the front door swelled so unable to open it. As it is a new door I am not going to get into the shaving a bit off here and there in case it ends up like the old one which had suffered mightily from "tweaking" over the years. It ended up being rather saggy and with the wind howling around the edges so that internal doors kept slamming and my hair would move whilst I sat watching the TV. This is a good reason why many houses are constructed with a back door.

Monday went off to the Midlands to see my Dad. Having prebooked the train ticket I had plenty of time for an early morning bagel. The branch of "ACMEBAGEL" had just opened so in I went expecting one of their delicious tuna delights. I particularly enjoy these as they are relatively healthy, taste nice and the smell of fish drives my Fathers cat wild. It actually growls sometimes. Particularly when we are playing his favourite game of "Stretchthecat" on the stairs. This is fairly simple but gives him hours of pleasure: He runs at my ankle then up the stairs digging his front claws in the stair carpet. I then grab him by the hindquarters and pull him gently backwards whilst he tugs on the carpet, er, growling. Then when I let go he decides to lie on his back on the stair daring me to stroke his stomach. At that point his little paws are a blur and he is in "look at me I am a tiger with these sharp teeth" mode. When this activity stops all you do is look at what remains of your hand and forearm and think to yourself "who needs to self harm when you have a pet?"

I have just read that last paragraph and realised I must be channelling the late Beverly Nichols!

However on this occasion I and the cat were thwarted. The Bagel Wrangler looked at me and said "we don't have any". "What no Bagels? You have just opened! Why open if you have nothing to sell??" I flounced out with the eyes of the Bagelbouncer boring into my back and got on the train. When I arrived at Snow Hill station in Birmingham and crossed over to the Tram, Pete Waterman was there being interviewed for TV about something. Knowing Pete Waterman I expect is was something to do with trains.

On the journey back I headed for the "Quiet Carriage". This is where allegedly people talk in whispers, don't listen to loud music and switch off their phones. On one occasion a couple arrived with their baby who was silent for a while and then started yelling. Wondered if they realised that this rendered the quiet carriage er unquiet? Perhaps there should have been a "No Mobiles. No Loud conversation. No music and No children" policy.

Either that or they could have played a sort of aural peek-a-boo and rushed from the quiet carriage back to the ordinary seats and then when composure had been restored rush back into the quiet zone again. Just as stereotyping and racial profiling is wrong, I noticed a youth across the aisle who was settled in for the journey with a copy of a car mag. Copy of "NUTS" and 8 cans of strong lager. "Uh oh" I thought. Hang your head in shame, Alex Lester. The only sound from him in two hours was the occasional "tscchh" as another can was opened. Back in London he put all his empties in the bin and got off. He was probably glad to leave due to the noise a middle aged woman had been making with her constant phone calls.

I notice the autumn more after the weekend as it is now obvious that the leaves are beginning to turn. It is getting darker earlier as well as still being twilight when I leave the BBC in the mornings after the show. I always take the same route through the park and am enjoying seeing the changes. Although it is always better when it is dry. However slight drizzle did enable me to see a rainbow which appeared to end at my flat. Yaaay possiblity of a crock of gold? Well not for me, just a reminder that the rent is due shortly. Dang!

As I intimated in last weeks blog, Blubberwatch has slowed again slightly so only lost a pound over the last seven days. Hopefully the momentum will increase, although I do have two things to go to at lunchtime this coming week. I will look for the "light choices" on the menu. On the whole I am pretty pleased with the way the diet is going. At least it is still heading in the right direction. Also by burdening you with every ounce you are keeping me on track, so thank you.

Thursday 4 September 2008


After last week’s disappointing "Blubberwatch" when I only last a pound, it seemed we were back on course after the Thursday morning, 10.30 wacky weigh in. Starkers and staring bug- eyed at the tiny readout on the scales, another 3lbs has vanished somewhere. I am now a stone and a half off my target weight of 11 stone.

We had been talking on the show about the possibility of there only being a finite world supply of fat. Which means that the weight I have lost has been added to the frame of someone elsewhere in the world. I can only hazard a guess but it may suddenly have appeared on the hips of a woman wearing sweat pants sitting at the counter in a branch of "Applebee's" in South Dakota and working her way through the card. If you think this is a crackpot theory, how about this for "proof": If the world population continues to rise at its current rate we will eventually run out of stuff to eat. This means more but slimmer people and so the global fat content remains the same. QED!

However exit polls (ugh!) for this week don't augur well for such a large reduction so the woman in the diner may still be able to fit in her car for another few weeks. Now over to John Snow with the swingometer or maybe he should have brought the sandbox instead.

Quiet week of medium rather than high jinks after all the excitement of the last fortnight. I had to get my TV fired up over the weekend as I had a lot of stuff recorded that needed watching. I tend to only find time to watch the box at the weekend so sometimes actually have to sit down and wade through stuff I have recorded speculatively. I don't want the electricity used in the recording process to go to waste if I don't watch the end result.

This meant 6 hours of "Star Trek Voyager" (I had not seen the first few episodes) So my inner nerd has been satiated now I know how they got catapulted into the Delta Quadrant.

I also had recorded several music documentaries. One on Jimi Hendrix - not a new doc by the look of it as there was a lot of footage of the late Noel Redding. However I never knew that Jimi was a big fan of the "Goon Show". Also two programmes in the series "The Blues" - the series compiled by Martin Scorsese.

That, with sundry other half- hour comedies etc, meant I didn't really shift out of the house on Friday and quite a bit of Saturday, come to think of it.

Also a lot of CD filing had to be done. I have still not managed to listen through to all the stuff that arrived when I was in the U.S. Plus there have been a few trips to the record shop. I shifted three crates of product from the car to the spare room and started to file....and file....and file. Until I had filed myself to a dead stop.

Also there before my eyes was concrete proof of my short termism: Because I am only 5ft 6" this means I can't reach the top two shelves without a stepladder. So for ages I have been starting the "A's" two shelves from the top. Now I have run out of space and need to rejig the shelves, moving a large proportion of the alphabet to the top and giving the rest of the alphabet more room to breathe.

This set off a chain of discussion on the programme this week about making our alphabet a bit more interesting and democratic. This could be done by running it backwards from Z to A so that "ZZZ Taxi's" would be first in the phone book. Maybe also adding an extra letter or two. You came up with the brilliant extra letter which was an upside down '?' to be placed in any word you couldn't remember how to spell properly so that it would assume the properties of the missing letter. This to me was the work of a genius, however the knock on effect would be that already discredited exams constantly accused of being easier would in fact definitely get easier.

On Tuesday I went out for a salad with Liza, my former producer from Birmingham. She was down to produce a couple of shows with Malcolm Laycock. We were both trying to keep it "lite", though why she needs to I don't know, as she is teeny thin. I was particularly impressed with the mint tea that I ordered, when it arrived looking rather like a village pond.

Walking back across the park later I realised sadly that autumn was nearly upon us. The leaves are beginning to turn. The evenings are getting shorter so soon I will be getting up and going to bed in the dark and also leaving the studio in darkness too. However I stooped to pick up a conker and wondered if it would not be a good idea to have a Radio 2 conker league, alleged Health and Safety issues aside. It would be a marvellous bonding experience for the station. Or then again it could lead to horrendous ego-driven rifts. I went to bed and dreamt of being clubbed to the ground by my colleagues. We are on a knife edge here the whole time.....you have seen Lord of the Flies! Mmmmmmmmm

Tuesday 26 August 2008


Blubberwatch had been going really well, losing on average about 3lbs per week. However, pride comes before a fall and so I was undone by a "showcase". This is where record companies get the chance to present artists on the BBC premises and provide a light buffet. Last week I went to see Eleanor McEvoy. I am a huge fan of hers and have been for years so I wasn't going to miss this. The point was I arrived early and hungry.

Just as the saying goes : "The fastest car on the road is the hire car", so it goes also: "The tastiest food is the free food". Eleanor was terrific and I stood there with my glass of sparkling mineral water leaning on the bar next to a huge plate of assorted sandwiches. When I next looked round, half of them had gone. So when it came to "Blubberwatch Weigh-in Day" which is a Thursday, instead of a further loss of 3lbs, I only managed a measly 1lb. A mite disappointing as I had hoped to be approaching the 12st 7lbs mark by now. Perhaps this coming Thursday.

On Friday, I got to do an extra show. "The Weekender", Radio 2's weekly arts show is normally presented by Claudia Winkleman. She was off doing the TV that night so the BBC, casting around for someone equally attractive asked me to do it. This is a fun show as it is totally different to what I do normally. Actor Bill Patterson was a guest and a top bloke talking about his early life in the Glasgow tenements. There was talk of film and books and the Edinburgh Festival. I made sure I wore my reading glasses for this as it made me look more intelligent.

When the show finished at midnight, Mark the producer and I were wondering what to do next as everything would be shut in London, wouldn't it???

Just then a text flooded in from a mate of ours who was in a bar just down the street. Did we fancy a quick drink before it shut at 1am? All this culture had made us thirsty so the answer had to be YESSSSS!!

It was a side street dive bar with two floors. The top floor had a bar and loud music. Downstairs had a dance floor and even louder music.

As you know, Alex Lester does not dance under any circumstances. So I drank my drink, bellowed conversation with my friends and tapped my foot approvingly. Come one o'clock it was chucking out time so we were out on the street when someone remembered a club a short walk away. Off we went and paid an extortionate charge and went down the stairs. It was effectively a long room with a raised stage at one end and the very important toilets at the other. A bar ran the length of the room. The DJ was playing a fairly eclectic mix of music. I sipped my drinks and tapped my foot approvingly. Then some strange force overpowered me.....

I hopped, I jumped. I pulled shapes. I moshed, I frugged, I twisted to the Beatles, I headbanged to Status Quo. All in all I was putting out some moves.

Next thing you know it was 3.30am. So what to do next? Mmmm, food was required so we trooped off down to Soho and shovelled plates of Chinese food down ourselves.

It was five o'clock when I finally got back to the flat and fell into a dreamless sleep, my ears ringing slightly from the battering they taken from the music. Five hours later I was awake and I spied something very odd on the floor. At some point during the evening I appear to have swapped shoes with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz or at least a close friend of hers. Not quite ruby slippers, but I had sparkly sandals. Closer examination showed them to be my shoes with the soles encrusted with bits of broken glass. I had danced my way through a floor covered in broken shot glasses. Also checking my trusty pedometer it looked like I had Watusied about 8 miles overnight.

Saturday evening and with some friends we went off to see an Australian comedian who has a character based on a genuine Oz gangster called "Chopper Read". There was even a film made about him. We had been alerted to his act by a friend who had seen a lot of his stuff on "YouTube". If you are easily offended don't go anywhere near him. Put it this way, the show was called; "Harden the F*** up! Make Deads**** history!. He was brilliant and had us weeping with laughter. We wisely sat halfway back, not wanting to be picked on in case of any audience involvement. Three hapless audience members were not quite so lucky. To see the four of them on stage acting out a TV script he had written which involved the two women having a fight and having to call each other every single rude word they could think of and then some more was worth the price of admission alone. It is odd how we find a selection of letters in some order shocking and crude yet when the letters are made into other words they cause no offence at all.

All in all a great, and for me – spontaneous - weekend. Look forward to more like it.

Tuesday 19 August 2008


It was time for another of our nerdy-night anorak DJ meetings on Friday last. I was ‘curator’ which is a posh way of being the bloke that books the restaurant. My reason for using this term, as I’ve mentioned on the show, was that Morrissey was described thus when he suggested the turns for the Meltdown Festival in London not so very long ago. This seemed a simple enough thing to do. Go into a modest street corner eaterie and say to the manager: "Can I book a table for between 20 and 30 people for Friday 15th August please?" I then emailed and phoned a load of blokes and women who work in radio and tv and sat back and waited for the day.

A few people replied saying they couldn't make it. However - and this I think is why I’ve never really done ‘parties’, is where the stress starts to build up. Closer to the day a trickle of people started to say they couldn't make it after all. Then by the day it was becoming a deluge. I had visions of sitting in a deserted restaurant having to choff my way through spaghetti for 30 as I had paid in advance.

Luckily however there were still enough to make a good turn out and some who weren't able to stay for the meal came and had a few drinks before the chow. We had DJ's from Hull, DJ's from Barnsley, DJ's from Blackpool, DJ's from Birmingham and even DJ's from London. There were women in the shape of DJ's girlfriends and women DJ's, there were self employed DJ's who ran their own companies that provided DJ's for the radio industry. There was even a TV announcer. We’d asked him along so he could do the closedown announcement.

"Well thank you for turning up and eating and drinking too much this evening. From all of us here a very good night....goodnight! However he’d forgotten to bring his recording of the national anthem to be played over slides of daffodils in the park.

We talked about… erm, DJ stuff and ate and drank and everyone was busy shouting to make themselves heard. In the morning I was hoarse as I expect everyone else was through trying to get to the punchline of your particular anecdote before another DJ butted in trying to top it with one of their own.

If this doesn't sound like much fun......it is. However you have to keep your wits about you to nip in quick with your tale. I think for the next one where we’re going to hit Manchester; it would be a good idea to run it like a panel game. We’d have fingers on the buzzers so we would have to wait our turn to speak. Failing that we could do it like a Presidential press conference and someone (The curator?), could point to the person so they could do their bit before the baying mob drowned out the last and most important part of the story.

Fell into bed at about "fifteen big minutes past the hour of 1 o'clock" - (this is the trouble with one of these events!) Luckily it was fairly well behaved without any of the blokes trying to "pull the trigger" on any of the lady broadcasters err "45's"

Saturday and my mate "Libidoboy" turned up. I had a couple of tickets for Van Morrison at Kenwood house in London's Hampstead. Now, as most of his waking moments are spent thinking of women, this means the man doesn't always listen to the directions. It was a warm afternoon so we decided to walk there which was only about three miles from my flat. I had said "It’s an outdoor picnic type event and we’ve been allocated seats in the deckchair area right up the front." When we got there he turned to me and said: "where is the auditorium?" then said, “If I’d known it was outside I would have brought my jacket!"

"What part of “it’s an outside picnic concert and we have deckchairs” gave you the idea it was going to be an ‘indoor gig?’ "I thought you were joking" he said. I left him searching for women whilst I went and got a couple of plastic cups of free cider. There was a special sponsorship thing going on with an upmarket cider manufacturer. We had a couple of free glasses of the stuff - one red and the other more normal. I’m not really a cider fan but the important word 'FREE' makes all the difference to a cheapskate like me. I had to pour it away as it was so sweet. My teeth are still protesting.

The weather forecast had said rain but it held off right to the very end of the concert. The only storm was a woman a few seats further up who took exception to something a bloke behind her was doing. She stood up and yelled at him so loudly that I thought I detected a tremor in Van's voice and maybe he took a pace or two back from the front of the stage. Libidoboy thought she was ‘passionate’.

Great band. He did all the songs we know and love and the whole thing was being filmed for a DVD. Security was quite heavy handed though with people being roundly ticked off for taking pictures or standing in the wrong place. Never seen him before and people had told me he could be somewhat variable and also irritable. He only spoke once as he strapped on his ukulele when he said: "George Formby's greatest hits.” This I think meant he was in a good mood. The signs said he would play until 9.30 and that is exactly what he did. He left the stage midway through a great rendition of ‘Gloria’ and then the rain started. You don't get between songs chat or thunderflashes and lasers with Van Morrison but you do get some great songs and an ace band.

It was now dark and we filed, bleating quietly like sheep, out of the park just following the others through the trees in the dark until after about 10 or 15 minutes walk we ended up somewhere or other which had a welcoming pub with huge screens showing a Police and Eric Clapton gig. Rain stopped so we carried on our way thinking we would find a Tube or a bus. At 2am after several pubs, packets of crisps, one sausage roll (shared) and several more pints, we were in Camden Town, a short bouncer throw from the flat. After being refused entry to the last venue - (They said it was because it was closing time. We think it might be because we looked too old and unfashionable), got back home at a quarter to three. Went to bed and as usual woke at 6am...doh!

Decided to walk to Primrose Hill and then back via Chalk Farm and Camden after a healthy juice related breakfast. The view from the hill of the landmarks of the capital was pretty impressive. However one nagging uncertainty. Had the the diet been ruined by the beer and the crisps and the fry up on Saturday morning. Or had the walking served to burn off the extra calories?

Week 3 of "Blubberwatch" and I am delighted to say I have lost another 3lbs. The 13st barrier has been cracked and now I am a mere 12st 11lbs. So ‘just’ 2 stone to go.