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 have seen Lord of the Flies! Mmmmmmmmm