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 CafĂ©’, 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?"