Thursday 8 January 2009


Well here we are back again with the first blog of 2009. Christmas was as enjoyable as it always was. The boot of my car even on this date till smells slightly of cheese. A pungent Camembert is like an embarrassing memory. You think that time will erase it but it still comes back to haunt you at the most unlikely moments.

Went up to the Midlands Xmas eve and spent the night as I often do in my still unsold house. Like so many people I have changed estate agents, dropped the price and still no joy. If one more helpful person suggests; "Have you thought of renting it?" I may have to thcweam and thcweam and thcweam!! The whole street is now awash with "For Sale" and "To Let" signs. Things are dead out there. I am sure you have noticed. If you haven't - a greeting : "Welcome to you, Alien being from another world. You wouldn't want to meet our leaders."

Christmas morning it was off to my sister and brother in law's house. My Dad was already there and we did the usual salty snacks, big proper lunch with all the trimmings and then some. The door fell off the oven at one point but luckily the turkey was ready by the time that happened.

Decided to go through the card which included a triple helping of sprouts and xmas pud, mince pie custard and cheese cake. There followed chocolates coffee and Wallace and Gromit. Plasticine really sticks in your teeth! (nyuk nyuk nyuk).

The cheese was so pungent that it had to be kept in the conservatory until it was allowed indoors. It was aged to perfection being only 3 days away from its consume by date. I suspect cold fusion was taking place as the middle had all but turned to liquid. After "The Curse of the Were Rabbit" it was time to head back south to London as I was due on the following morning.

Doing shows over the Christmas and New Year period always feels a little strange as the times often change. I was inhabiting the far more sensible 4-7.30 slot which felt very comfortable and there was a lot of fun feedback from you. A surprising amount when you consider that everyone was supposed to be on holiday.

Looking back on 2008 with mixed feelings.

Early in the year I left friends and colleagues behind after 13 years in Birmingham which was bittersweet as it was a shame to go but exciting to return to London and the hub of things after all that time.

Finding somewhere to live and realising just how cripplingly expensive London is. Got a nice flat to rent overlooking the park so I spent the summer walking to and fro from work.

Being back in the centre of things meant a lot of gigs to go to. Highlights included Willie Nelson, Al Green, Eleanor McEvoy and Southside Johnny. All totally different but wonderful in their own way. Also a variety of venues from the Royal Albert Hall to the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith. Already booking for 2009 so it promises to be a musical year.

American Adventure 2 (the blog is still there, as is 1) came and went. 6,300 miles in all weathers. Spectacular scenery and equally spectacular U.S paranoia. Seeing the beginnings of the slump that has washed over us in the last few weeks. I may have brought it back in my suitcase like a disease or a poisonous insect. For that I apologise.

I think American Adventure 3 is going to have to wait for a while for a number of reasons. Not least it is a lot more expensive now that the exchange rate has plummeted. New Radio 2 Controller in the offing who may not want me to have a month off (unless they fire me of course then I will have plenty of time but no money at all so won't be going). Thirdly not sure it is diplomatic or tasteful to go off on a huge foreign jaunt when so many people are losing their jobs and battening down the hatches. Not going to win many friends if they turn on the radio and hear me boasting about an exotic holiday.

Here at Radio 2 it’s been a fun year in the main. New team of Simon Tester and Andy Warrell who are great blokes who know how to have a good time and what makes for a fun show. So working with them is a pleasure as we sit around being foolish in the early hours. You have been well up to your usual standard and as the audience figures show, wonderfully supportive. For that I thank you, and keep spreading the word, S.C.O.F. and "Seek the dark" being our new slogans for the truck writing season, S.C.O.F standing for "Swirling Cesspool of Filth", a description applied to me by a listener when I stood in for Ken Bruce who I had obviously upset for some reason . I took it as a badge of honour and thought that it should not go to waste.

Did a few stand in shows in 2008 as well as Ken. Depped for Claudia Winkleman on what was known as "The Weekender" before it had a change of name. This was terrific fun to do and outside my usual comfort zone, although it was great to be doing some interviews again and a pleasure to meet actor Bill Paterson. The aftermath of that was a very drunken night out which involved me dancing for the first time for ever. Well, this century anyway.

Also got to sit in for Terry Wogan when he lost his voice one day last week. Not done that for a while either.

The weirdest gig was filling in the vacant Saturday slot for three weeks on a temporary basis vacated by Russell Brand when he resigned. It came with a totally different brief so was not meant as a replacement like for like.

This point was missed by half a dozen die hard Brand fans who emailed to say they hated me. Some even before the show had started. Also a number of journalists. Notably Miranda Sawyer in the Observer who described me as; "edgy as a beach ball in a Pringle tank top". It was an album track show, love, not a comedian replacing another comedian! It was rather wounding at the time. However, you develop a reasonably thick skin after a while.

What was interesting and heart-warming was - apart from the dogs abuse from a few people who seemed to think I had personally removed Russell from the airwaves - most people got in touch to say thank heavens they had got their Saturday nights back. You win some you lose some. Finally a chance to do "Friday Night is Music Night" with the great George Fenton and the wonderful BBC Concert Orchestra. George has written so much from "Bergerac" to "Gandhi" taking in "Cry Freedom" and "Groundhog Day" in the process and was a thoroughly nice bloke into the bargain.

"Nerd nights" have also been a feature of 2008 with DJ's from different stations meeting up for drinking and eating in a variety of locations from London to Hull to Birmingham to Manchester to Leeds. Budget hotels are always a feature of these events. Delighted to see that the horrible place we stayed in in Manchester turned up in a newspaper expose of budget hotels and their lack of hygiene the other day.

On the whole 2008 was a terrific year which I have enjoyed immensely. I hope that 2009 despite all the economic problems turns out to be a good one too.

I shall keep on "swirling" and I hope you will keep on listening and spreading the word!


Paul F said...

Happy New Year Dark Lord (and to your other listeners+blog readers).
Hope that 2009 is a good one for you and that the new controller is kind to you.

I'm still gutted that I missed your recent outing on FNIMN - I live not far from Watford and know the Colosseum well. My last visit was in November around the time you did FNIMN to see Jethro, since I'm a Cornish lad. A birthday present for my Mum and he was on his usual good but filthy form. Sadly he "doesn't sign anything" so I missed the chance to give him my autograph. Despite sitting in the front row he left us alone, perhaps because I was in my Cornwall rugby shirt?

All the best
Paul :)

PS - I think you should add another bad point to your summary of 2008 - the sudden disappearance of your page.

Micky B said...

I shall continue to listen to the programme in 2009. Will have to get up earlier, to listen to more of it.

All The Best for 2009.

Keep the blogs coming. They may not be regular but they are meaty and informative. Thanks

Mickey B

Micky B said...

Point of interest ...

I typed, then sent, my comment at 21:04. The time at the bottom of the (printed) comment says 13:03.

Paul - did you really send yours at 03:18 ?


Mickey B

Paul F said...

Hi Mickey B,

Completely agree with you on the blogs - always a good read. I also like the candid insight into the world of "Alex Lester Friend of the Stars".

I posted my comment at 11.18 (UK time) so blogger must be modifying that to be in Californian time (UK-8 hours). That would explain why your post at 21.03 was marked as 13.03.

Perhaps we have dropped the ball on "Dork watch" and without us realising the Dark Lord has set up his blog so that everything is worked on the time used by the Celeb central that is Hollywood :)


Twilight said...

Happy New Year Alex!

Love your blog communications - you write just like you talk - and that's always a plus for entertaining people (doesn't work for me as I'm generally fairly boring!)

I'll check in to your show on-line more often in future, from Oklahoma (ex-pat here). Sorry you won't be doing another US trip this year but understand why...if you did your suitcase would be overflowing with paranoia this time - they'd not let you back through customs! ;-D

The Wessex Reiver said...

The world is in need of a Dark Lord to spread the light... good to read this, but more worrying you write like I think. Is this an omen. Bring on the fun. All the best Andrew

Black Cat said...

I'm glad you thought 2008 was good on the whole dearest SCOF, coz while I relished all your broadcasts that I was awake/at home to enjoy, I kinda also thought that Auntie was extracting the kidney produce in scheduling you for so many covers that it seemed you hardly had any Christmas and New Year break at all! Yet you took it all in your usual, humourous, good-natured style!

I was going to chastise you for never visiting mine humble bloggie, but hadn't the heart!

Luvzya :) xxx

Unknown said...

I've seen scof written on the back of three lorries this week. Why? How about getting them to write something cheery or motivational instead? Nobody wants to see BS like that in the morning.